life on a ledge…life after thru hike and gratitude for all that it has been
white mountain lodge, 28 september 2013
Well, I am still getting care packages and that’s just fantastic. In fact, I want to talk about this interesting trail package I received only moments ago–as I was titling this entry, the mail came to the door.
It is from someone I met on the trail. I was suppose to receive this package in Rangely, Maine, because this individual was under the impression that I may spend an extra day or two at that quaint little town. The weather was fair and fouler clime was approaching so I lit out early but not before calling the post office atop one of the mountains to ensure that the mail was forwarded to Monsoon, my last stop before the legendary 100 mile wilderness.
The lady at the post office assured me that this mail was on it’s way. I had no real reasons to suspect otherwise. The package wasn’t at the post office, however, when I got to Monson. After repeated inquiries at both post offices I had no choice but to leave a note at Monson to send the package back to the White Mountain Lodge where I had planned to return after the hike.
Meanwhile, when I conveyed this information to my friend he was disappointed, naturally, but urged me to track the envelope down. Having been a thru hiker, my friend Ambassador knew that sending an actual care package with the typical thruhiker fare were moot and what I really needed at this point was the means to procure what I needed, whether that was food or a night at the hostel, some pre-summit debauchery at a bar or some liquid morale boosters to keep warm in the wilderness. Ambassador had sent me $100.
Now, I had already been a beneficiary of number of similar trail magic/care packages from many of my friends who thought that money was the most practical item I could have at that point in my hike. They genorocity went a long way to sustain my stays in hostels during some of the crappiest weather in Maine. I want to take a moment here to acknowledge them all by name. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the care many of my other friends had put in toward assembling care packages for me. You guys saved my thru-hiker behind on many a starving occasion….
So first of all, thank you Theva for your support for this hike from day one, even though you were one of the last one’s to know about it. I really don’t know how I can repay the material and spiritual support you had given me as I prepared for the hike, while I hiked. Your enthusiasm and concern for my successful completion of this thru hike was a balm to me in more ways than you may realize. It was a difficult venture to undertake not just because of the logistics of it nor for it’s physical demands. The mental aspects were much more daunting: saying goodbye to friends and family; not knowing whither my life would head once I took my first steps…
Thank you, Theva, for everything. I hope I did my best to promote Techgir [www.techgir.com] on the trail as best I could. It had come to my rescue many times, including a few times in pensylvania and Vermont when I didn’t have my headlamp. The little led was my only light source besides the star light, which was, at best, faint through dense trees as who knows how many copperheads and rattlesnakes and ankle breakers of Pennsylvania awaited me to take a bad step. My hike would have ended horribly in the dark night. “it was a light through some dark passages,” haha. Not to mention the number of times it came handy not just for me but for several other hikers when they ran out of cell-phone juice.
My dear sister Icewarya, (and you too Luxshanna, though you weren’t in our lives for quite some time): I really don’t think I’ve been fair to you and Lux and Aamma and appa with my vagabond ways. I don’t really know what it is but something had gotten into me quite early Ice. I think it was all those times when I would walk home from town, through the ‘bustling urban sprawl’ of batticaloa, through bar-road, and army check points and the kallady bridge, across the countryside and temple lawns, pausing here and there to take a drink of water from the Ramakrishna mission tap…I think I fell in love with the idea of being a nomad before I even realized what that would really entail. Even as a child I would intentionally miss the school bus, much to amma’s dismay, so that I can walk home through the countryside, lost in my own little world, dreaming of chasing an adventure somewhere beyond the army camps. You know, I actually faked appa’s signature so that I could join boy scouts and be part of a jamboree. That was my first exposure to camp life;where i witnessed boys only years older than me cook for themselves, build shelters, be part of a community…anywho…I’ve been in my own little world for far too long to have been and perhaps have neglected my traditional brotherly duties and such, not that I’d really know anything about those. But I want the two of you to know that I very much love you, no matter where I end up or what I do. I may not always show it the way other people expect me, but the two of you are my family and nothing or no one will take that away. Thanks for the very kind gesture, Ice, even though you may not have the slightest idea what I am doing out here. [if it makes you feel better, neither do i, really]. I hope one day I grow up to be the brother the two of you deserve. in the mean time, ill do my best to be available for the two for you when you need it. count on that.
I knew you thought I was a bit eccentric when you found out I was going to walk across America, Amarnath but thank you all the same for the timely donation. The gesture was touching but the money really did go far. Thanks for saving my sorry ass from some cold, wet nights and getting me into a hot bath and to a delicious hot meal. It was surely preferable to my much loved hiker-slop and sleeping bag snuggle.
Koop, you are absolutely correct about one thing even if we don’t always agree on some things. Something happened over that summer when it was just you, pip and I at the docks. That was one of the very first times I really knew what it was like being part of an effective team. I learned a lot about myself, about sharing, about responsibility for myself but also for my team. The drinking helped, of course. I came into my own among the two of you. There is a bond between the three of us that will always be there no matter how much we drift along time and space. I’m sure of it, my friend. Thanks for the whiskey fund on a rainy day.
Thursica: With all your jesting and ridiculing of my way I knew very early on you are one of the most earnest people in my life. I can count on your for honesty day in day out, even if it was brusque at times. You were always direct with me when I was ridiculous and engaging when I was serious and supportive when I was daring. Your’s is one of the most natural friendships I have been having the pleasure of cultivating. and I really cherish it. The discreetness with which you donated to my crazy cause was so telling of our friendship: understated but timely. Thanks for always being there for me whenever I had asked. I enjoy our little banter and I hope it continues.
Ambassador: bro, I really wasn’t expecting the money. To be honest, I didn’t want you to exert yourself on my behalf because, well, you are a thru hiker like me and finances were a difficult thing for us trail bums on the move. Meeting you so early on in the trail ( i remember it very clearly) was a fortuitous occasion, i think. It made my hike. I remember walking into a shelter on a cold night in Georgia and there was you, billyjack, soway, noodles and a few others, hunched over around a fire. I was a bit brusque and pretty trail-green at the time. I cooked my own meals and then decided to join the lot of you hikertrash at the fire, unsure what to make of the colourful personality of that motely bunch of hikertrash. You offered me a fairly sizable portion of pepperoni from your food canister to roast over the fire. I was touched, man, even though it was a simple gesture. It was very kind, especially when all i heard prior to that experience was how covetous hikers are when it came to their food. From the get go, you introduced me to a very cherished part of this trail experience: the unabashed giving and taking that makes life so rich. I was only too happy to lend you my sleepingbag liner on that cold night. It was my way of reciprocating the favour. And then, of course, the two glorious zero days we had at Fontana Hilton, were i learned more about trail life, it’s culture of sharing and camaraderie. Thanks for that; it was quite influential. I just got your generous and totally unexpected $100 bill in the mail. Thanks for teaching me that we may all be hikertrash but we are all definitely good peoples and there are so many of us out there.
I sat here thinking that i’d write an entry about my scary, near death (or horrible physical mangling) experience while I climbed the Huntington Ravine trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. Little did i know that it was a class 4 climb and a bunch of us trail friends had decided to hike it for Vitamin C’s birthday. I thought I had excised my fear of heights scrambling atop, under and alongside so many mountains, steep, slick climbs. But climbing up slab of granite with very little foothold proved otherwise. There was a moment as I clung onto the that granite cliff, barely more than three fingers grasping at very, very tiny crack on the mountain face, one foot nearly parallel to my shoulders while the other trying to find purchase somewhere, I thought if I let go, I was done for. for a moment, it seemed as I didn’t have a choice on letting go as I started to slip and there was NOTHING to stop my fall. Somehow I managed to get over that granite wall, plastered on the cliff and barely making it up to the ledge above by stepping onto a patch of tennous vegetation ( it was just a bunch of grass on loose gravel, and it was moving as I clung there for a full minute, trying not to let go, trying not to panic). Only way was the way up…and after ten terrifying minutes I stared at the potential tragedy, gave it two full minutes to numb me and decided that I’ll get up there, or try falling. Later, when I reached the top, two experienced free climbers told me that they it was terrifying for them to watch me trying to pull off spiderman. They didn’t think i was going to make it. I didn’t either at one point. Thanks Sam for the moral support even though you probably weren’t able to do anything other than call search and rescue and hope that the sheer drop into the ravine just broke my bones and not snuffed out my life.
In retrospect this is all seem more dramatic what those ten minutes were. There wasn’t any of these thoughts going through my mind. My life didn’t flash in front of me. It endured longer than ten minutes but for those ten minutes, I think i was really in my own being. I wanted to be alive. It was as simple as that.
but this entry has now turned into something a bit more involved than the one I had planned. I am grateful for the people in my life far and close. I am grateful for the hikers at this house, for marni for opening up this opportunity, buying this beautiful lodge. I know many hikers suffering from post hike depression. Some try to mask it by keeping themselves utterly busy, others indulge in their former habits–don’t we all. But the other night I made a large pot of chicken curry and vegetable korma, drank copius amounts of beer, danced silly to kitchy pop music and old classics, sat around a bonfire and ate with our fingers in the dark, savouring the pleasures of the food, the utterly tactile and sensory experiences heightened by darkness surrounding us, the food, the scents, the woodsmoke and wonderful company.
we had all done something truly remarkable in our lives and it wasn’t climbing Katahdin. We simply went for a walk, and for a time, lived our lives the way we had wanted