Friday, April 11, 2014
perhaps you will discover
~ R.M. Rilke
As I wrap up my graduate school efforts I am beginning to turn my attention towards my next big endeavor: walking 1000-ish miles on the PCT. The photo above is from the Sierras, taken during prime summer time hiking on the PCT last year. It is a small taste of what continues to tug at my soul every day as I struggle to maintain my sanity while living in the concrete jungle.
These last few days (or more, or less? it's a blur) I've been typing away on my thesis, molding and shaping this thing that will be read for the sake of tradition and academic anointment, but a thing that is ultimately of no consequence to anyone. Meanwhile, the dog hair and sand blows around on the floors; my laundry pile gets higher and higher; weeds have taken over my garden; my self-esteem drags behind me like a wet burlap sack; I eat things like tortillas with mustard because my fridge is empty, I am broke, and also shopping is a pain in the ass; I am ready to be alive again... I am a ghost of myself...
BUT the trail walking, just the idea of walking for days on end, keeps me moving in the right direction. I dream of my escape from San Francisco. I dream of the time, so soon, when I won't have to grit my teeth at rudeness and egos and insanity and speed, danger and compunction and microscopic examination of some lives, grit my teeth at lives unexamined, at the hamster wheel of life in a place where stopping to breath takes too long for most people. Yes, I dream of the trail, and in the rare spare moments, I have been planning my food stops and packing strategies.
One of the fun things I did last night was pack 2 of my drop boxes. I estimate that I will need about 3000-4000 calories per day if I am walking 18-20 miles per day, every day. Food is heavy, so one must try to choose foods that contain no fewer than 100 calories per ounce. This ends up being about 2-3 lbs of food per day. I should be able to stop for food or get to a post office to get my drop boxes about once every 5-7 days. You can see, by doing the math, that I may be carrying over 20 lbs. of food at various times, depending on where I am at on the trail.
So, last night with a calculator and pen and paper, I packed one of my boxes that I had "practiced" for, which is to say, estimated the amount of food I would need based on previous backpacking trips, then added some more, to be safe. I started adding up the calories: 6 boxes of macaroni and cheese @780 calories each: 4,680. 1 bag of rice cakes: 1,040 calories. 2 boxes of Wheat Thins @ 1,080 each: 2,160 calories. 20 packets of instant oatmeal at 140 calories each: 2,800. Instant rice, granola bars, jars of all-natural peanut butter, dried prunes... it seemed like so much food! It was actually only about 16,000 calories. I never thought I'd say "only 16,000 calories" but it felt like enough food for a week. In fact, when I shopped for the food on this "practice" list, it was intended for about 6 days. Oh boy!
So I went back to the store and got into the really calorie-dense foods: Pop-tarts, Ramen noodles, more peanut butter, olive oil-- all of those things that we are supposed to avoid-- those are the things that I will be reaching for as I pack my re-supply boxes over the next couple of months. Right now I feel fat and gross. The marathon is behind me and I'm nursing a sick tendon back to health, thus my mileage is at an all-time low. Plus, the stress of school has me eating things like, well, see above... and it doesn't make for a lean machine, lets just put it that way. So its counter intuitive to be shopping for the worlds most sugary, fat-laden, carbohydrate laden foods at a time when I should be eating plain lettuce every day for all of my meals. But its fun, too. Planning on ways to fit 20,000 calories into a backpack along with a sleep system, kitchen and basic comforts (old paperback books, Tiger Balm, mini-watercolor paint set,) sets me free from the banal. I look forward to a time when I can eat like a high school football player (without regard for my spare tire or ability to fit into a bikini). Happy times are just around the corner!