Cuba to Ghost Ranch and Nearly Six Hundred Miles of Lessons for life.
In many ways thru-hiking is an exercise in learning to live simply. Keeping the pack light and free from clutter goes a long way towards a feeling of freedom and easy miles. Every item, no matter how light, you add to your pack is as much a burden as it is a comfort.
I was so proud of my packing when we left to begin this journey at Cooke’s Monument. My pack was so light. I was a little cold at night, but I quickly learned to wear my rain chaps to bed to stay warm. I’d packed all my gear at a minimum, but was carrying about twice as much food as I needed and too much water, which was taking its toll on my bad knee.
By the time we made it to Lordsburg I had decided to mail a few miscellaneous items home and vowed to go easy on the food for the next stretch, which made for a much more reasonable pack. The temperatures dropped considerably after Silver City and I was eager to get to Doc Campbell’s, where along with my resupply I had sent myself a set of warmer thermals. But on the way into Pie Town the night lows had dropped even more. The last morning before Pie Town we woke to 23 deg F. When we got to Pie Town we decided to open our box of cold weather gear we had sent there instead of forwarding it to Chama where most folks send their heavy winter gear.
Somehow it all comes down to a struggle between fear and comfort. How much of something is too much? I am much more comfortable when I sleep warm, much more comfortable when I eat closer to the calories I am actually burning, but the miles are much less comfortable with a heavier pack. For each item I add to my pack I must endure its added burden of gravity. Every mile I walk with these items weighs heavy on the soles of my feet. Even a few extra grams can be a deal breaker for the feet. And you really do pay the price for every mile of what your feet endure–it causes long term damage.
I think about these things in relation to my daily life away from hiking–the things we hold onto and carry with us through life–the burden of memories and the stuff that takes up space in our homes and minds. Even dear, sweet, good memories held too close to the heart can be a burden and keep us from moving forward. There is a balance that is in constant struggle for me when it comes to carrying the burden of gravity, the weight of “stuff” on the “sole”.
Heading out of Cuba the weather was sunny with a gentle breeze. As we walked along Los Pinos Road a friendly dog came out to greet us and walked cheerfully by our side for the next mile. When we got into the forest the trees greeted us with the sound of off key violin notes as they rubbed against each other in the wind. Warm days and warm nights into Ghost Ranch had me thinking again about what I might let go of to lighten the load I carry with me.