For weeks, if not months, I’d been dreaming about what I was going to do when I got off of the trail… Most of those dreams involved food… My mouth watered as I imagined the amazing cuisine that awaited me in civilization… milkshakes, hamburgers, fries, filet mignon, eggs benedict, salmon, creme brulee, cupcakes, cookies, pies… Mmmm… pies.
It’s funny, we still have 500+ miles of trail left, but crossing the Bridge of the Gods and entering the state of Washington… it feels like the beginning of the end… People are starting to make plans for what comes next, people are scheduling flights home… The nebulous finish time is starting to coalesce into a fixed date when people are going to meet us at the border.
Though part of me looks forward to the end, looks forward to the soft beds, the running water, the smiling faces of loved ones… Part of me rebels against it all. I love this life, the freedom of it, the adventure of it… I’m spending everyday out in the woods, on the trail, on an amazing journey of beauty and discovery… I’m not ready for this dream to end… I’m not ready to seek new dreams yet… I’m still in love with this one.
I took a zero day (hiking zero miles) in Cascade Locks to eat, to rest, to recover, and to delay the inevitable… Entering Washington was the beginning of the end of this journey, and I knew it.
I watched a bunch of Disney movies as I lounged around in the oh so soft bed. They all seemed to have the same theme… Leave home, go explore the world and have grand adventures (growing up in the process), find your Prince Charming, marry your Prince Charming, and live happily ever after (ie create a new home and have kids so that your kids can repeat the cycle).
As I watched Tangled one scene seemed particularly apropos: “What if it’s not everything I dreamed about,” Rapunzel asks. “It will be,” replies the ever suave Flynn. “And what if it is? What do I do then?” asks Rapunzel. “Well, I guess you go and find a new dream,” replies Flynn.
Right after their dialog there is an amazing display of floating lights, which is, in fact, everything that Rapunzel dreamed it would be… Just like my thru-hike has been everything that I dreamed it would be, and more.
I wish that the movie had ended at that moment… The moment where Rapunzel was filled with happiness and amazement, at the culmination of her journey, and where *her* dream had led her. Instead, the movie had to move beyond that to the societally prescribed dream… Apparently a Prince Charming is still required in order to have a happily ever after…
They were so close to being on the mark… If they’d let the happily ever after be her discovery of her new dream, or the beginning of her journey to find her new dream, that would have been amazing! Telling young women that they can be amazing, and have amazing journeys, and amazing lives regardless of whether or not they find an awesome partner to join them on their adventures… That would be truly revolutionary!!!
Hiking both the AT and PCT solo has been incredibly empowering. I am a woman, and I can have incredible journeys, adventures, and dreams on my own. Would I like to find someone to share my dreams and adventures with someday? Yes, that would be awesome. Am I going to put my life and my dreams on hold waiting for Prince Charming to come charging into my life? No!
I’m going to keep living and keep dreaming… I don’t know which dreams await me, but when this dream is done, I’ll find another dream to chase after… The happily ever after is in embracing the journey, finding your dreams, chasing them, and recognizing and cherishing all the beautiful moments that you find along the way… And that’s something that you can do alone, or with other people by your side.
I crossed the Bridge of the Gods and left Oregon behind. I was in Washington and it was the beginning of the end, and it was hard, both emotionally and physically… Just 550 miles to go… Then what? Then it will be time to celebrate and to find a new dream. Until then, I will try to cherish and enjoy all of the beautiful moments I have left on this amazing adventure!