I bet there are a million puns you could make with Bend, Oregon, but that was the first that came to mind. Yes, you guessed it-- we're in Bend, Oregon! And it is an amazing vacation from our hiking vacation on the trail, filled with our wonderful friends, Jim and Mindy, and all the creature comforts of home away from home (Thanks Jim and Mindy!!!). We are eating food that tastes like real food-- and actually is real food-- not something made in a factory and then shipped to a warehouse and then re-hydrated by our little camp stove on the trail. What a luxury!
The trail has been flying by in Oregon. With only 650 miles to go to the Canadian border, we've made our plans for getting back to Vermont in September and the end seems near... in a way. At the same time, we still have 650 miles to go! And that means about one more month of hiking, which is still a lot of miles and a lot of time on the trail! The trail terrain is quite a bit easier through Oregon, winding around the mountains, rather than heading up and over like in the Sierras. It is a welcome break, but its also easier to lose focus without the goal of a big climb, or a mountain pass to get over each day or two. Perhaps as a result, we've been scheming about hiking a 40 miles day. Many of our PCT hiking peers have hiked 40 mile and even 50 mile days, but most of them hike at a faster clip than us. So we've been strategically trying to find just the right section of the trail that doesn't have too many big climbs, or lava rock scrambles, so that we can hike 40 miles while we have these trail legs that we might never, ever have again. Hopefully, the day will be three days out of Bend, en route to the Timberline Lodge where we can feast on their legendary all you can eat breakfast the following morning. I'll let you know how it goes...
While each day on the trail is unique, crossing different terrain, seeing new landscapes and scenery, there is a certain routine and similarity that has set in by this point in the journey. For myself and Patrick this includes a nightly ritual of meditating and reading aloud each evening before falling asleep. Lately, we've been alternating between Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, and Jim Gaffigan, a stand-up comedian. Its a funny contrast, but also a refreshing mix of deeper life philosophy and lighter life philosophy. They both cover similar themes of birth and death and often get us talking through the hiking day about 'what it all means.' On a recent day of hiking, spurred by the last night's reading aloud I started talking about blame, and of the ways that I hold onto to blame in my own mind and heart (Chodron says that if you're blaming anyone, you're still hooked), and came to a visceral and sad realization of not wanting to blame anyone (myself included!). Visceral- because I felt it deeply in my body, and sad- because I felt the sadness of having been and still being caught in the pattern of blame. Blame is a way that we hold ourselves and others at arms length; rather than accepting what happens and whatever has happened and is going to happen, we say "No" to what is. The thing is, blaming can be so seductive. Feeling right can feel so good. On the trail, there aren't too many opportunities to blame, but they're there. This crummy food is too expensive-- why wouldn't a small store on the trail cater to hikers? The trail switchbacks too many times here, why would they make the trail like this? My pack is too heavy, I'm carrying too much of the weight, etc., etc., etc. But its illusive and fleeting. And in the end, I'd rather feel connected than right. Meditating each night and as I can during the day helps me to stay aware of those blaming thought patterns when they come up. The trick is not to blame myself all over again for having those thoughts-- but just to see them-- again and again-- and try to practice not blaming. Having those bodily feelings of knowing intensely that this pattern doesn't help me is helpful and relieving. It doesn't give me an instantaneous escape from the pattern but it does help motivate me to keep practicing unlearning those patterns that separate me and reinforcing an open mind that connects me.
Recording moments from our journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. (All pre-2015 entries are Patrick's words on work and life at the homestead).