I meant to tell you

About December and January, but then I didn’t, and now January is practically over. It went like this: I got systemic poison oak, my face swelled up, I didn’t want to get steroids. I stopped kissing my dogs, I washed everything I owned, I acknowledged the existence of poison oak everywhere in the forest here. My face continued to swell, and my arm, and my hip, and my leg, and I felt so awful. I gave Potato to a friend. I moved to a little cabin without electricity on a defunct land project in a beautiful valley full of post-punk hippies who build their homes from mud. I got steroids from the ER for my poison oak and they made me feel crazy. I wrote in manic bursts. I took care of the goats and chickens and ducks. I wrote. The systemic poison oak went away and I only had the oak in patches, a little bit here and there, all the time. It snowed and the snow melted. At night everything turned to ice crystals and in the afternoons the land baked in the sun. My heart broke over, and over, and over. I hiked in the hills behind my cabin, I went running, I felt so lonely I thought I would die. Then!




Also, anything is possible, did you know? Like, absolutely anything. I’m attempting to grapple with this wonderful fact right now as I try and plan the rest of my year. For example, I kind of want to buy a camper van. I lived in a camper van in Alaska in 2009 and it was almost as awesome as I thought it would be, and I’m thinking of giving it another go. I’d really like to be able to travel to see dear friends who are far away and I’d really like to have a tiny house in which to keep my things. But! Gas is expensive and cars are awful money pits and driving is not my favorite way to travel, so there is that. Also! I have been working hard on my manuscript, which is exciting. Trying to turn a large, spilling-over thing into a neatly formed and nicely braided thing. When will I be finished, and what will happen then? It’s exciting and I have elaborate, indulgent fantasies about it when I’m running. I know it will not be at all anything like I imagine it will be, but I don’t care. Onward, to whatever comes next!

Here is my biggest secret, though- I want to hike the PCT again. This year. I want to hike it so bad it hurts. I can’t tell if this is a reasonable idea or an absolutely insane idea. I can’t tell if I want to hike again because I love hiking or because I want to run away from everything else. I’m planning to hike the CDT in 2015 with Spark and Instigate and I don’t know if it would be a bad idea to thru-hike this year too- would it be too much to ask of my body, to walk half the year for three years in a row, to live off almonds for fifteen months out of 36? Would it stunt my growth as a human being? Would it damage my already limited ability to stay in one place, to commit to things, to put down roots? And how the FUCK would I pay for it?

Of course there is a giant bucket of variables here. I don’t know what’s going to happen or in which direction I should go, and so for now I will keep doing what I’m doing, and dreaming, and dreaming, and dreaming.

I’ll quote Keats here- I am certain of nothing but the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.


11 thoughts on “I meant to tell you

  1. Hey Carrot,

    I live in a camper in the New Mexico state park system. Annual fee is only $220 and you can stay at any of the incredible state parks for 2 weeks at a time, then you need to move for at least 6 days, so you go to another park 20 miles away. If you need water and electricity (as I do), it’s another $4/day. It’s a very inexpensive way to live and the 360 deg views of mountains and prairies never get old. I can’t think of a more peaceful and inspirational place to write a book. Hiking is good also. Just an idea.

    I’m planning to do the PCT in 2014. Your blog has been most useful and the most interesting of those I’ve read. Thanks for that. If I were you, I would do the AT before doing a second PCT. Add a little variety to your hiking.


  2. Carrot Quinn, I loved reading your journal!
    I can’t answer financial questions about where money to hike the PCT again would come from. I can tell you that my body was strong enough to hike the CDT and AT back to back in 2002 and 2003. And I can also tell you that hiking 4,922 miles on the ADT in one go in 2005 was easily doable in 231 days with only 4 zero days. Your body can easily rehike the PCT.
    If I were to make suggestions, and I am taking the liberty, I would say pack a more varied diet, making it as nutritious a possible.
    I am rethinking the PCT this year, woo hoo!! It would make my hike to see you on the trail.
    Marcia Powers

  3. Dearest Carrot,

    I find that the universe laughs at me hardest when I try to make plans for some grand, overarching future. A dear friend, and an 82 year- old female Radiologist, told me that your career (and your life) unfold behind you – not in front of you. I feel that if you just keep walking, you’ll find your path. Wow, that was awful. I’ve seen better sayings on a box of Yogi tea .

    These thoughts helped me quite a bit last year as I applied and was hired for 3 different jobs. After all the applying and working, I’m happy to say I found a great place. Very stressful, though, not knowing where I’d wind up or what I’d be doing.

    Have faith, my friend, that your life has meaning and a purpose.

    With love,

  4. A positive outcome regarding your poison oak trauma. First, you may now be immune. Second, your children may be immune.

    My mom had a traumatic incident as a young child, picking the beautiful fall foliage as a bouquet to her mother, full of the most deadly oils. I’m around poison oak all the time and have never had an outbreak (knock on wood as I hear I can lose immunity), nor have my 3 siblings.

    Here’s hoping that ole poison oak lemon turns into immunity lemonade!

  5. I have the wonder lust myself and find myself glued to blogs of AT trail junkies! I would like nothing more than to mash some miles and linger in wild places and. Escape divorce lawyers, mortgages, difficult relationships, work, etc etc etc. if life were only that simple !

  6. Hi Carrot,
    Thank you for such inspirational writing. I am actually reading you PCT blog a second time. I live 3 miles from that little Paradise Cafe where you saw the accident and see through hikers every year. I will try to help any I can in the coming years. Most of the trail after the cafe to Idyllwild is closed because of the big fire last July. I guess hikers will have to take the highway, how awful.
    As a thought for a long hike this summer have you looked into the Colorado Trail? It goes between Denver and Durango, approximately 500 miles. There would be not water problems. It is one of the most beautiful trails for 500 miles I know about. It is also quite popular. Just a thought.
    So glad you are feeling better in all ways and can’t wait for your book.
    I hike vicariously through you.

  7. Hi Carrot…I first discovered your blog when I was searching for freight train riding stories and have been following you since. You really excelled this past year and so brutally honest too.. I understand your dilemma concerning purchasing a van to live in while travelling, as I too lived in a van while travelling the west back in the nineties but even back then when the price of gas and maintenance was much lower it was a struggle financially. I barely got by doing mostly farm and harvest work which still pays the same crap wages twenty years later!!! Plus in todays economy unless one is a professional or tradesman you are lucky to save a few thousand in the bank after giving up a year of your life working for the man if you are fortunate enough to be employed that long!!! The past several years I have just said to hell with it and spend my summers cycle touring or hitchhiking and backpacking as life is too short to waste.

  8. Hi Carrot,

    I’m so glad you’re back, I miss you when you’re not blogging! Besides, I need to read your blog because I live vicariously thru your adventures.

    Carry on!

  9. Hi Carrot,

    There’s a lot of myths about poison oak out there, so be careful. I recommend you continue to keep your distance. Especially the roots. The worst case I ever got was helping someone buck a log out of the road during a winter storm. It was only later I realized it had oak in the crown and the rounds I was handling had freshly cut roots along their sides. My hand swelled up like a football. Everyday I thought it was the worst and then the next day would be worse still, for over two weeks. I treat poison oak with respect.

Comments are closed.