348 miles hiked
I wake in the middle of the night, shivering and burning and aching with fever. The stormclouds have blown away and I can see the stars, twinkling companionably in the sky. I start to cry.
“What’s wrong?” Says Dan, rolling over.
“I’m really sick,” I say. In my fever delerium, crying seems like the obvious way to deal with this. Dan hugs me. I feel so cold and so hot at the same time, and my body hurts so, so much. I cry some more. Eventually Dan falls back asleep and I lie awake, looking at the stars. I let the thoughts get strange inside my too-hot brain, space and time and the universe and all the other worlds, way up there. I’m dying. I’m obviously dying. Very soon I’ll be dead. I wish I could fall back asleep, but this certain knowledge of my impending death is too terrifying and large, and it makes me very, very awake. I decide that if I’m going to die, I might as well pick what I’m going to be in my next life. I’ll be a coyote, I think, and I’ll live in the desert here. I’ve always wanted to live at least one life as a dog, but being a domestic dog would be too depressing. Having to eat kibble, always being left home alone all day. But to be a wild dog, out in the nature! How amazing would it be to spend an entire lifetime in this enchanted land of canyons, as an animal who is adapted to the terrain! Padding across my territory, smelling the wind, hunting rodents. Raising pups. Watching storms. Having a den under a rock outcropping somewhere. No water filter, no sleeping bag, no tent. No space gear. Just home.
I wouldn’t be a lonely sort of coyote; I’d have lots of coyote friends and family. I just hope I’ve transcended enough shit in this life, at the young age of 33, that I don’t have to repeat all of my mistakes.
These thoughts console me greatly, and I drift off to sleep. It’s ok if I die. I get to be a coyote.
In the morning I am still alive, and I am still very feverish. My body aches so much that I can barely roll over, and the thought of food and water fills me with nausea. Obviously, this is not good. I can’t eat or drink or hike. I need to rest. I could take a day off on trail, but we have limited water, and limited food to get to our cache. And what if I get even sicker? And wtf is wrong with me, anyway?
It takes me until 9 a.m. to pack up, and what feels like eons to walk the gentle three miles down the wash, back the way we came to the dirt road. I keep having to stop and sit in the shade. Oh, my body hurts so much. Dan is a freakin saint- he carries all of my water for me, so that my pack is lighter. We reach the road, and walk up it until we find a rock overhang with shade underneath. I take out my sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and crawl inside of my nest to have more feverdreams. I am so, so hotcold.
And so we wait. This BLM road is pretty remote- we’re 28 miles from the highway, and 48 miles from the town of Page, Arizona. We didn’t see a single car when we walked on this road yesterday from the dried-up spring. We are, however, in the vicinity of Lake Powell, or at least one of its glittering tentacles. Maybe we’ll get lucky?
And of course, we do. Someone in the universe likes thru-hikers, because after two hours a pickup comes winding up the long road. The driver sees our sad state, Dan with his thumb out, and stops. Of course he has room for us. Of course he’ll give us a ride to Page. Kind generous souls of the world!
By afternoon we’re at a cheap motel across from the safeway in Page, and I’m in bed with all the covers, my sleeping bag, and my warm hat, while the hot sun blazes through the window, having my feverdreams in peace. Dan picks up grapefruit juice and thai food, and eventually I get myself to eat and drink a little. In the evening I even make it across the street to the safeway, where I am finally able to buy some menstrual pads. I’m a little dissapointed that I won’t have to mcgyver pads from an old wool sock, but whatevs. Then back to the motel for more bed-laying. I’m hoping this is one of those 24 hr bugs, and by morning I feel better. I guess we’ll see.
I wake up at 3 a.m. with my period. Fever’s gone and I can’t fall back asleep. So I order a new pack on my phone. I love my pack but it’s being torn to shreds by the Hayduke and the maker, Jeppaks, is no longer producing packs (sobbing emoji) so I have to try another. I’ve been entranced by the waterproofish toughness of the “heavweight” (seemingly contradictory) cuben fiber (now dyneema composite) fabric of Dan’s hyperlite mountain gear pack, so I order one of those. At 28 ounces, it’ll be the heaviest pack I’ve ever carried on a long trail but if it doesn’t tear to shreds in the boulderfields and tamarisk clumps and pricklypear-tumbleweed gardens of these glorious cracks in the Colorado Plateau then I’ll be content. I also like buying gear, it makes me feel good. Now I own five packs. Behold my consumerist gluttony. Am I poor or am I rich. I don’t even know what I’m romanticizing anymore.
I’m rich! My white privilege makes it so. I’m a white person frolicking, performing for other white people who chose to lead more indoor-centered lives. What will I do with this massive privilege? Not sure yet, trying to figure that out.
Dan’t can’t sleep past 3 a.m. this morning either. I think we’ve become synced, two halves of the same Hayduke-maneuvering creature. It actually feels really good. I’ve never been part of a “team” on a trail in this way. I’ve also never been so intimate with a partner in so many small gross ways- we fart, pee, cut our toenails, apply sunscreen, and poke at our chafe in front of each other. When we kiss, there’s snot coming out of our noses. Dan often has chips in his beard. We talk about our bowel movements. A lot. (It’s what hikers do.) We are dirty, tired, lazy, overly hungry, boring, bored, right, wrong, and grumpy in front of each other. (Except I am the only one who is ever grumpy b/c Dan is a saint in this regard, a fountain of kindness and patience.) We make both bad and good decisions together. We talk both “to” and “at” each other. We suffer together, rejoice together, nap together. In the house of this relationship there are many companionable silences and many inside jokes. And cuddling.
The sun comes up via our motel room window and even though I don’t have a fever, I realize I still don’t feel 100%- I don’t have an appetite and my gut hurts super bad. And I’m peeing out my butt. Oh and I’m tired. Like totally wiped the fuck out. So we decide to stay another night. Not sure what’s wrong with me. I feel pretty weak so I spend most of the day in bed, minus the times we go out to run errands/talk to every stranger we see to ask if they know someone we could hire to drive us 48 miles back to the super remote spot where we got off trail. In the afternoon we finally have success- a woman at a rafting company has a friend and this friend can take us, as long as the price is right. Thus relieved/commited, I buy a copy of Elle magazine and retire to the motel room, exhausted. I love fashion secretly because it is beautiful art and also an inherent historical part of women’s culture, and reading fashion magazines on trail provides glorious contrast that makes me feel whole, aside from the fatphobia, but this magazine is mostly ads and I am dissapointed. There is however an article about a woman poet who started a brilliant anonymous twitter account only to vent her anxieties and feel less alone (@sosadtoday) and of course it blew up b/c everyone could relate. Her stupid trolls say shit like “just another self obsessed blah blah blah” and it makes me think about women and memoir and obviously I have a lot to say about this. Here is what I have to say: throughout history, it has been other people (men) who have decided how women are portrayed in books/films/photographs/media/art, and there has been a trend- male characters have been allowed to be complex (a messy beautiful mix of good and evil, aka human) and female characters have generally been either pure good or pure evil, aka non-human, aka “other”. The recent trend in memoir is for women to take control over how they are portrayed as characters in their own lives and to cast themselves as ACTUAL FUCKING HUMANS, you know FUCKING UP just like humans do, not being pure evil OR pure good, and not being fucking ASHAMED of it. (Wild, Eat Pray Love, Cat Marnell’s book that hasn’t come out yet, I dunno, lots of stuff.) And since women being complex humans without shame around this fact flies in the face of the status quo, some people just cannot fucking handle it. Lol.
I love being a woman. Did you guys know. Being a woman is better than being a man, no offense. I also love being a human, and I am not ashamed. Goodnight.