On our way back we stopped in Sand Point, ID to visit friends of mine No Where Man and Walking carrot who I first met on the Appalachian Trail in 1997 when I was a Ridge Runner working for the ATC. It’s great to have friends who know what you are going through, they took us for beer and dinner and I slept on the back porch with Snorkel where we chatted like little kids at a slumber party until it was well past bedtime. The next day we loaded up the 5 of us in the Suby Wagon and drove the remaining 8 hours to Portland. The drive took us along the Columbia River, I was so glad to see my old friend the gorge and I felt like Lewis and Clark as I neared the end of my long journey by following the very river they took to the Pacific.
When I got home I didn’t recognize the neighborhood the crack house I have lived across from for 13 years was remodeled and new neighbors had moved in already. In just five months my blue-collar neighborhood has become Portland’s latest hot spot with condos going up where old dilapidated buildings once stood, and there is even a bike am yoga in our hood and Starbucks being built, man they sure move fast here.
Suzy and I hugged for a long time and after 5 months it was so nice to be back in her arms. Karluk was over the moon to see me, he sprinted back and forth not sure how to contain his excitement. I loved on him and schlepped my pack into the house.
As the next few days progressed I felt lost and without direction. Being back in the city is tough, the sounds of cars, police sirens and trains made me jump. Driving was a new experience too and I fear my lack of awareness will cause a wreck, so I take my time driving, don’t speed and try to stay as aware as possible.
As the days have progressed each day I feel a little bit more grounded and focused, but without a daily goal of where to walk to, I often get lost and sidetracked, I swear I have a case of PTADD, Post Trail Attention Deficiency Disorder, and it’s a real problem. One minute I am working on stuff for the ALDHA-West Gathering and the next I’m off in the yard wondering what the hell I was supposed to do out here. My lack of efficiency surprises me and my loss of direction is something I have never experienced in my life.
Suzy and I are trying to get re-acquainted, after 16 years together my return is like starting all over again in our relationship. We both grew and changed while I was away, she is much more self-reliant and capable than she ever realized she was, I’m much more mellow and easy going than I have ever been. The process is a bit slow but we are doing well and we know our love for each other will guide us through this time.
After a few days of being in a funk, I decided part of it was my lack of exercise. You see when you walk all day for 12-14 hours your body and brain get used to the endorphin and if you are not getting that daily fix you go nuts. So I did something I had not done in years, I started running every day for 40 minutes in the morning, I mixed in some push-up, sit-ups, and upper body stuff so my alligator arms from being on the trail can be strong again.
I miss my trail pals and all of us are dealing with similar emotions and re-entry issues. Cheesy and Johnny stopped in Portland for a few days before going back to Germany, we talked about what she might experience but she shrugged it off. Two days later I get a text via What’s App it was cheesy and her own re-entry had hit her, we chatted back and forth and I reminded her that she is a bad ass who just walked from Mexico to Canada and every hard day we had only better prepared her for life back at home. We helped each other through our struggles just like we had over 1000 miles together out on the CDT. I miss my trail sister and I know over time she will be OK just like I will.
As hard as the transition has been, I know next week will help get things back on track. the annual ALDHA-West gathering is in Nevada City, CA and I’ll be surrounded by my trail friends and they can give me the support and perspective I need. With inspirational speakers, plans for future trips will be hatched, or friends hugged, laughs at the fun and few beers to calm the old nerves. As a bonus Buttercup, Maverick, 2-Ply and His wife, Popeye, Karate Kid and Tatu-Jo will all be there to represent the CDT class of 2016.
For now, I’ll keep on the two daily task Suzy gives me to get back on home life, wash my stinky gear, write some gear reviews and give plenty of love to Karluk. The hike might be over but my journey is far from complete. The re-entry is the hardest part, I’m not depressed but I’m slowly easing my way back into Portland life. To my friends, I will see you all in good time but please respect my need for some space, peace, and quiet as I readjust to not sleeping outside, only thinking of my next water source, the next climb and what I can eat.
Now if I could just make money from walking life would be grand.
I miss you, too!
Everyday sister I think of our times walking long ridges and out running storms, taking lazy breaks in the warm sun and looking forward to town food. Hope things are going well
Whitney, thanks for this summation of your trip’s end. I think a lot of folks can relate. I was pretty lucky to have my Master’s Degree work to return to at the university and a full time job (harvesting christmas trees) waiting to tide me over the intervening 2 months. The hardest part of the transition was having conversations with more than one person at a time or being in a group setting – with a lot of people…way too much noise/stimulus to filter out! Happy coming months to you and Suzie and may the Bluebird of Opportunity be flying your way.
Thank you for sharing your journey! I enjoyed following your hike, through your photos and tales.