The walks have done me good. I feel much better after each one and even enjoy the process of making the hike. I keep to the turf as much as I can. I like walking on dirt and grass; it’s more like hiking. And I’m considering myself in training for the Santiago de Compostela Camino (smile). I’ll start, though, with some shorter trips (another smile), like the loop trail at the nearby state park.
My big motivation is to just challenge my comfort, get out, do something physical, deliberately take action. So every hike, every training walk, is a kind of pilgrimage for me. I’m putting myself out there, in God’s hands if you will, looking to learn something from the journey. And knowing that I have, and will always have, far to go.
I have long been inspired by tales of transforming journeys, and I've written about this. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were inspirational for me as much for the protags’ journey and the change it wrought in them, as for the action-fantasy parts. Regarding real-life journeys, I learned about the Camino from Shirley MacLaine’s book, The Camino. It recounts the spiritual journey she made along that ancient way when she was 65 years old. Then I read Paulo Coelho’s fantastical account of making the same trek (The Pilgrimage), and then was moved by Martin’s Sheen’s truth-in-fiction telling of a grieved father’s walk along The Way.
And then I was greatly moved by Cherl Strayed’s story of hiking her way through grief and self-doubt that she tells in Wild. Now I want to read about Robyn Davidson’s telling of a similar journey in her book, Tracks.
Yes, I can imagine myself doing something like these authors, pushing myself to find myself, and realizing that the enlightenment found is a recurring thing.
So with these inspirations, I again made the circuit around my neighborhood this week. It was more difficult this time, though; difficult because it was colder, and there was something in the air. It was a “clear” evening, at least as clear as it gets anymore. The sky was a pale blue behind a milky white haze. For the jets were flying and spraying whatever they spray to make it cold. They were flying at their maximum altitudes and their trails were not as persistant as usual. That seems to be the case when they want to make it cold.
The effect on the ground was one of a chill in the air, as from a cold mist, while the sun shining through was hot, like the coils of a hot electric stove in a cold kitchen. It was an unpleasant extreme. And when I walked through a shaded stretch beside a stand of trees, I could see the very fine mist in the air. Or maybe the motion of it rather than the mist itself, I don’t know. But I felt it was the source of the cold; I could feel it on my skin, but not like a rainy mist. It was more like when you spray an aerosol, like a can of Lysol, in a small room enough to saturate the air. It felt that way. And the air had a chemical smell to it. I coughed and my sinuses ran.
It was so uncomfortable, that I had to cut my walk short.
Observing this horror overhead and feeling its effects is what gives me pause about most everything, and I sink into a “What’s the use?” attitude. It casts a shadow over all my ambitions and hopes. But then I consider the lessons of Viktor Frankl’s work, and I push ahead anyway.
The Next Day
The evening was mostly overcast, that is, the jets had laid down patterns of X’s and parallel trails during the day that resulted in an evening haze. They weren't spraying for cold anymore (I guess) and their trails were persistent. At least the walking was more pleasant with much less “mist” in the air, and I completed my mile-and-a-half.
I felt good afterwards—stronger, and able to walk and recover faster. I’ll keep pushing and make the 1.5 my new minimum (unless heavy spraying forces me in).
Since I’m being serious, at this point, about easing into backpacking, I bought a beginner’s book on the subject: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Backpacking and Hiking by Jason Stevenson. It seems to have all the beginner info I need and suggests an “ease in” program such as I had envisioned—training walks followed by day-hikes, followed by an overnight. Maybe some gym-work. I’ll see.
The book includes equipment lists for both day-hikes and backpacking. I've copied the day-hike list to guide my outfitting at the local Mast General store. Mostly, I need light hiking boots, and maybe a day pack. More beyond that will depend on how much I want to spend and how serious I feel about all this.
The day was sunny with ragged, “pulled cotton” clouds racing overhead. Between them, very high-flying jets sprayed more of their coolant and the persistent winds were quite chilly. The jets were fewer than on Tuesday, however, and the “mist” in the air was much lighter. Regardless, I was determined to make another training walk.
I did my 1.5 around the neighborhood, wearing synthetic workout pants and a thick T-shirt. I kept a good pace and it was not an unpleasant walk, other than the usual dreadful sight of the sprayers. I kept to the turf, as much as I could, and saw few other people about. I passed one old guy walking his dog, and saw two or three people get out just long enough to get into, or out of, their cars. Some days, I don’t see even that much activity.
As I neared the end of my fifth lap, I decided to make a little extra excursion and followed a trail around the end of a house at the neighborhood perimeter. It took me over raised ground that formed a kind of “bridge” over a shallow ditch and skirted a road and passed through a sparse treeline. I took it as my first “trail” and it added maybe an extra tenth of a mile to my walk.
Tomorrow, I want to get some light hiker boots for sure, and maybe another bit of equipment or so. The weather is scheduled to be sunny through the weekend, so I may try to tackle the Sandhills Hiking trail on Sunday at the Sesquicentenniel state park. Maybe include the Jackson Creek Nature Trail as well. They make about 2.5 miles all together. I could even walk them twice, if I’m feeling enthused.
About mid-morning I drove downtown to check out the hiking boots at the Mast General store. I remembered them having a good outdoor section in the basement and even on previous visits I had felt a desire to outfit myself for some sort of outdoor adventure.
Downtown had its regular weekend flea market and farmer’s mart going on closed off sections of Main Street, so I checked that out first. The morning was “clear,” with the usual high-flying spraying going on, and it sickened me once again to see a day full of promise be so marred.
Anyway, I stood in line for a breakfast of arepa at one of the food stands. At times, the wind gusts were so high that two of cook’s children had to hold their tent-booth on the ground while she cooked. Some others had their tents blown right from over them. Such strong winds are a common occurrence with some of the spraying modes. At least I often make that connection from observing such winds when the jets are flying high and in such numbers that there’s no patch of sky without their obscene trails. And today they were leaving those trails horizon-to-horizon (in big X’s and such).
I got my arepa and ate it as I walked towards Mast, ignoring the spraying like everyone else.
At Mast, I headed straight for the basement and found the section of wall covered with racks of men’s shoes. The hikers’ boots covered the wall space around a storage room door. I spotted some Oboz light boots and looked them over. Backpacker Magazine had good things to say about Oboz, so I asked a clerk to show me a pair. He recommended the Sawtooth Low BDry light hiker. He said it was sturdy and comfortable and would last through many hikes. It’s low-cut style was popular with hikers and it was also water-proof.
I was instantly pleased with the fit. I walked around the store in them and was very pleased with the fit. At the clerk’s suggestion, I stood on a wooden incline and shuffled up and down it to make sure the boots didn't slip on my heels or jam my toes on the down-slope. They did neither. They were perfect.
So I went with the Sawtooths. I also picked up a pair of Northface hiking pants that had the zip-off legs to convert them to shorts. As my Idiot’s guidebook had said, they were synthetic and porous so as to not collect sweat. If worn on a cold day, they should be layered with synthetic underwear to collect body heat. For today, I just went with the pants. And a pair of hiking socks.
I didn't get a pack, though I had considered a daypack. Nothing they had spoke to me, and I thought I should see how things go with my day-hike forays before I make such an investment. In the meantime, I have a large, canvas, fanny-pack with a strap that should do for my “practice” hikes on the Sandhills Trail in Sesquicentennial.
So with boots, socks, and pants, plus my old fanny-pack, I can improvise the rest and feel outfitted for a little expedition tomorrow.
I have not done such a thing in very many years. While this will be, literally, just a Sunday walk in the park, still, it’s a park with a legitimate hiking trail, with a trail head, map, and signage. It will be an icebreaker, and practice.
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NOTE: When I refer to the weather as “sunny” or “clear,” it is always relative. I have not seen brilliantly blue skies since 2013, and it was rare event then. And since then, the spraying has greatly intensified and the skies now are, at best, ever only a pale blue behind a hazy, milky, toxic, mist. It is the shame, and the horror, of our times. You can face the truth here.