A Beautiful Addiction

Over a month now, we have been home after completing our CDT hike and the longing for the trail will not leave us alone. From past experiences, we know those thoughts will not end until we are hiking again. A short week hike will not do, but a trail of great distance that will allow us to luxuriate in all the goods things of thru-hiking. To walk in nature’s grace for weeks at a time and to sooth the heart and soul in its peace and beauty is a journey worth taking. We, humans, have designed a very complicated and stressful way of life for ourselves. With our hectic lives, humans have simply forgotten how to be human. We are all hurrying to do this or that. For the most part, it is meaningless. We are too busy working and making money, too busy tuned into our media devices, too busy trying to fit 40 hours of activities in a 24 hour period. The goal has become to accomplish tasks the cheapest and fastest way possible. We are quick to judge others without any thought of the individual. Whatever happened to the golden rule that you treat others the way you would want to be treated? Constantly, we are trying to live up to the expectations of society. Brilliantly, we beat ourselves up: not smart enough, not talented enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not a good enough parent or spouse, the list can go on and on. Amongst the wild places, it is the one place I have found where my individual self is good enough. This is why I hike. I need to go home to the trees, rivers, and mountains to remind myself that this hectic life is not normal or healthy. It is where all the unimportant elements of our daily lives that drown me simply disappear and what is left are the few essentials necessaries to sustain life. It is then I discover true happiness. Long distance hiking is something I want to experience over and over again to revel in the joy of being alive. Thru-hiking is a beautiful addiction!
I do not presume to be wise and an expert on matters of life and the universe. However, hiking for hours, day after day, week after week, many thoughts and ideas enter the mind. The following are a few thoughts that I pondered as I meandered along: There is a strong and loving connection between us and the natural world. There are reasons for its loving title of “Mother Nature.” If we listen closely, nature has much to teach us. The Hopi Indians, Aborigines, and other indigenous people know of the bound. Thru-hikers and anybody else that spends time in nature know too of this relationship. For those who are willing to listen, nature has much to tell us. As we walk along, the loving and compassionate ways of nature comes right up through the soil and flows up the legs and travels straight to the heart. Blowing gently, the wind rustles the leaves of the trees, that speak of kindness. Reminding how important and powerful the smallest details are, the tiniest flowers break through the hardened soil to show the world that they are important. Pouring down rain with thunder and lightning all around, nature shows how to have grace and elegance even under the worst circumstance. The majesty of mountain peaks can bring tears to the eyes of the toughest souls. There is perfect reciprocity taking place with each branch of nature mingling with one another. When will the physicists of the world see the grandness and potential of the laws of love and beauty? Hopefully, when the hiker goes home, they too can live their lives with the same beauty, grace, and most important, compassion that Mother Nature has so lovingly demonstrated.
Nonetheless, we are home and doing our best to re-adjust back into this normal life, if such a thing is possible. Upon returning to our residence, there was much anxiety. Our little bit of heaven on earth is over and we have rudely been tossed back into the stressful world. Although, hopefully, we can handle all, the hurdles that come our way with grace and elegance that nature showed us so many times on our adventure. Each Raven misses something different. Bling misses the lack of deadlines. Whisper misses the horses and the cold crisp mornings. For Mama and Papa Raven, the list is a mile long of all the items we miss. That will have to wait for another time.
Whisper is adjusting to home life the best. She has always been a homebody and in Whisper’s world, there is no place like home. What she missed the most was our two cats, Ollie and Oggie. In fact, after arriving home and seeing her beloved two cats for the first time in six months, she was overcome with emotion. The two cats were equally happy to see her. We were uncertain of their reaction to us after being away so long. Forgotten us, they did not! All they wanted was to be held and petted, constantly, for weeks after our return. Genuinely happy they were to have their people back. Even Oggie, who is known for his very soft and low volume motor, purred loudly. Finally, Whisper got what she so badly missed, to hold and love her cats.
After arriving home, the kids immediately returned to school. It seemed like a cruel act to inflict upon them after the past six months of living a carefree life of the trail. Each week they missed, made school harder and harder to return. Yes, we homeschool, but we go through Biola University that still has requirements to be met. It is a rigorous program, especially the high school level that Bling is at. He is a sophomore. For World Literature, he has been learning about Plato, Socrates, Homer, and Shakespeare. Physical science has been an introduction to physics and chemistry, which he will take next year. He also is taking geometry, world history, and swimming. Bling is longing for the life of the trail that has no deadlines. Whisper’s schooling is thankfully simpler. They are both back to swimming on the FAST swim team.
The following information is awkward to write about. I simply do not feel comfortable talking about such personal health issues for various reason’s. Because people have asked for information about the issues that I experienced along the way, I will give a brief update. There are hikers out there with far worse hurdles to overcome than I did. Nonetheless, the last month of the CDT were very hard on me. In fact, it seemed during the entire hike, everything possible was thrown at me to see how much I could take before I quit. There were many severe aches and pains I had to contend with. As much as I did not want to go home at the end of the hike, I also said I needed to go home and heal my body or find out what is wrong with the parts that won’t heal. So that is what I have been doing. For my right foot, a cortisone shot was administered to relieve the severe case of planters fasciitis, which throbbed even when I did not walk on it. On the same foot, I was diagnosed with a Morton neuroma. This explains why the pad of the foot hurt also. A cat scan of my sinuses will be performed soon to hopefully find out once and for all what is going on with that situation. Immediately, after returning home, I started seeing a chiropractor for my neck, back, and jaw. The TMJ has reached a level that the simple act of smiling has become painful. Chewing food is now quite an ordeal. We are seeing small improvements with the jaw, however eating is still a painful process. Thus, we are looking into a specialists in the area of TMJ. Three years ago, my neck from disc 4-7 were fused together. Several years prior to the surgery, we were hiking in Oregon and a tree fell down and hit me on the back of my head, causing much problems for my neck. After several years of treatment and pain management, the only solution was cervical fusion. The neck was better after the procedure, however, it still has issues, especially when I hike up hills with a pack on. The neck is held at an unnatural forward position, which results in pain. This will always be an issue as long as I hike. Consequently, the pain doctor I use to see, told me I would have to give up backpacking. As long as I can still walk, that will never happen! I have two successful long thru-hikes on the same neck that is plated and screwed together. I am counting on more hiking adventures for the future. Since the surgery, I have been scared to have my neck manipulated by the chiropractor, however hoping to find some relief from the pain that has been accumulating in the neck, I agreed to have adjustments. Surprisingly, I am having great results! After lower back ex-rays, I have learned that between the last two vertebrates, the discs are worn away. Without their shock absorbers, the vertebrae sit on top of the other and the nerve running through them is not happy about the situation. Seeing the chiropractor three times a week has brought some relief to the lower back, but still it is terribly sore. The writing is on the wall as to what I must do to fix this, however, I do not want another spine surgery. Hoping stem cell surgery advances come soon, I keep pushing aside the idea of surgery, although if I want to feel better now, there is a solution. Oh yes, there is one more issue that I kept silent about on the trip, I am officially lactose intolerant!
In addition to homeschooling and doctor appointments, I have finally begun the daunting task of reviewing and editing the 28,000 images that I took of our CDT hike. It will be several months to complete the task. After that job is done, I will put together a slideshow with music like I did for the PCT. Hopefully, that will be accomplished faster than the PCT slide show. There was a big learning curve for that one. Meanwhile, we will keep plugging along in our day to day life, shoving away as much of the chaos and craziness we can. We will be praying for our friends that have been diagnosed with cancer while we were gone, and we will be dreaming about our beautiful addiction of thru-hiking.

Mama Raven
November 26, 2017