I was drunk a lot the few weeks after I came back. My then alcoholic boyfriend didn't help me much. The more time I spent with him, the less I felt like I knew him and I was ignoring all that had happened while I was on trail. I was blocking and numbing out the transformation that was supposed to take place upon my return. Or at least some kinda amalgamation of my experience was supposed to happen I think. And something sat stuck and jammed.
My home was a mess. He left a pile of cigarette butts and Old English caps on my back stoop.
Fundamentally, I knew we were drastically different people, whose life path was nearing a split.
I was texting and talking regularly with Rider during all of this, the guy who gave me a ride from a state park to a beach access. I suppose a mild form of emotional cheating, as I was attracted to him from the start. He was cautiously flirty with me. Between that and his curiosity, I got to listen to him rant about plants, reptiles, habitat destruction and his own passion for wild spaces that not only matched my own, but seemed to surpass it. I hadn't ever met someone else who cared the way I did. Or saw nature the way I did.
I told Daniel about him and our talking. He didn't seem to care.
"Just tell me if you want to fuck him," he said.
One night, I went to a reading my friend Carrot Quinn was doing. That same night, my other friend JohnZ was flying into town and I had opened my home to them both. I had to pick him up from the airport. Literally the stars aligned for my noob thruhiker self. Both the hikers I admired the most were going to be in town the same night. I told Daniel I was thinking about quitting drinking and micro dosing with medical marijuana while we sat at the bar, waiting for the reading to begin. I had also decided to not drink that night.
"Noo, don't do that. Don't become a stoner," he tells me.
I explain to him that drinking exacerbates my anxiety, it isn't good for me. My father is an alcoholic. That doesn't matter to him though, because it causes him to realize and question his own addiction.
We leave the bar and I can smell the alcohol on his breath. He's mad about me prioritizing my hiker friends over him - even though we just spent a week together after I got back. He argues with me over the most seemingly pedantic things when it came time for me to pick up John. He's mad about not knowing if his bike will fit in the back of my trunk, with another person. I remain very calm and explain everything to him.
"I just don't like not knowing what's going on. I need to know the details of things before they happen! What if he has luggage, I don't know!" He tells me, aggressively and drunkenly.
An ultralight thruhiker, who just came down off the mountains carry luggage? Does he not even listen to the things I tell him?
"Look, I'm giving you the details as they happen. I'm not holding anything back from you... are you drunk?" I ask.
"NO. I'm buzzed," He stammers.
He accidentally breaks the back windshield wiper from my car off while he loads in his bike. He continues to escalate while I try in vain to deescalate the needless argument. His speech begins to turn bitter, hostile as we drive to the airport. He becomes condescending and mean. My fuse blows and I light into him with the pent-up fury of a bull. I pull over sharply to the side of the road and kick him out. He slams the door, grabs his bike and curses at me. I receive a flurry of angry texts shortly after.
Later I find John on the side of the road, looking like a homeless person as he reaches into a bag of cereal. He's just as serene and calm as he is in his videos while he gets into the passenger side of my car. I sadly bombard him within the first few minutes of our meeting about what just happened between Daniel and I.
We talk trail while he eats candy we picked up at the store. I sip a singular beer because, well, fuck it. I was shook up from the argument with Daniel.
As John lies on the floor of my spare room we talk until midnight.
"Don't you think your trail writing is unsustainable?" He asks from the other room.
"Yes, yes it is." I realize.
The next night John, a friend of Carrots and herself stay over at my house. Carrot cooks us roast chicken, green beans and potatos. We watch funny dog videos and laugh till we're crying and then another hiker friend of Carrots shows up. Who are all these wonderful laughing people in my house?
During the next few weeks, I pull away from Daniel. My independent streak grows more potent. I wander in and around the local forests and dip into waterfalls. One night, I find myself wrapped in my sleeping bag at 7000ft on the north eastern slope of Mt. Hood to watch a metor shower. I meet Timberline hikers and like most hiker people we instantly bond over food and sips of whiskey, bad jokes and poop talk.
The night is literally perfect and I am seeing for the first time in my life, the Milky Way reaching across the sky. The moon sets behind Mt. Hood. I can hear the wind whipping through the sky about 20 feet above my head. I am camped without my tent in a cove of stubby subalpine firs. I feel very safe and very happy. I wake to the sun rising over the plains of eastern Oregon, bleeding into my eyes and setting the sky on fire.
I breakup with Daniel a week later.
A month and a half later Rider is at my door, after driving four hours to see me. Over the course of a few months, we hike and poke at plants, find mushrooms and camp. We come to really like each other.
I decide to quit my business that I've owned for 8 years and I start up a secondary business that will support me post trail and into my desired work as, well, essentially... a witch. Working with wild plants, herbs and helping heal folk. The plan is set and things are in motion, I just hope that it all goes according to plan. I mean, a rough plan. The PCT plan I make I know will fly right out the window the second I step foot on a plane to San Diego.
Now, sitting here in a snowlocked Portland, OR. with a touch of cabin fever in my cold little apartment, PCT permits for 2017 go live in about two weeks. Just announced today.
It's really real now to me. I got like, 3.5 months to prepare and whittle my life down to less than what I have now. Two years almost to the day I decided that I wanted to do this and now it's knocking at my door.