An entry from my Pacific Crest Trail Journal, on one of the last days of my hike:
September 20, 2011
Spectacle Lake Falls – Deep Lake Creek (24 miles)
Waking up this morning was absolutely magical. A few hours before the alarm I saw the half moon peeking over the horizon. By the time we woke up, the moon was high, half the sky was still filled with stars and the eastern half was starting to glow with the first morning light. Eating breakfast in my sleeping bag I watched the remaining stars slowly fade away and the sun finally peek up over the horizon. The sun rises every single day, yet how many times in our life do we actually get to watch it happen?
For the past 5 months I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I’m seeking on this journey. Watching the sun rise this morning, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that the point of this trip is to simply be alive and feel alive. I think the fact that there is no easily identifiable purpose IS the purpose.
I have never felt more alive than out here. When I think of the most powerful moments on this trip, I think of the blistering heat of the San Felipe Hills, the overwhelming array of shapes and patterns of cactuses in the Anza-Borrego desert, the smell of ceanothus on a hot Southern California day, the wind on Apache peak that almost blew me off the trail and literally took my breath away, clinging for dear life to the slippery cables on Half Dome, fording chest-deep across icy Piute Creek, flying down the “lethal” snowfields of Sonora Pass on my butt, munching on sweet trail-ripe thimbleberries and strawberries, the way Jeffrey Pines smell like cream soda, watching 50 miles of trail between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood fly by in a single day, scarfing down three plates of buffet lunch at Timberline, the panpipe whistle of elk, or, today, breathing hard while powering up several thousand feet of switchbacks. In each of these, the sensory experience was so intense that I completely lost myself in the moment. There is something really special about being fully engaged in the present, not thinking about anything else at all. Breathing hard, working up a sweat, sleeping deeply, and experiencing the world so fully is like a drug; I have been so unbelievably happy lately and I think this is why.
Back at home in the “real” world, life happens in climate-controlled buildings with artificial light. Inside there are few smells or sounds, it’s never too hot or too cold, the sun doesn’t rise or set, the moon doesn’t cycle, there are no seasons and no senses. Inside is always constant. I wonder: if you can’t feel anything, how do you know you’re alive?