Thruhiker: Day 4

March 23 (8:30 – 16:05)
Lakeside View – Riverside Park (18 mi)
Total C2C miles: 63.5
Weather: Still cold and cloudy, but above freezing by mid-morning!

I wake feeling cozy: the warmth of the buzzing electric heater; the thick blankets covering me, the slow spread of the morning sun through the window.

My dreams of Jack Clubs and the mouse family, floating on the house-barge over the flooded meadows, fill me with a weird sense of hope.

I shower, pack quickly, pay my bill, and head across the street for a breakfast of steel-cut oats with bananas, pecans, and almond milk. Plus two cups of coffee.

It’s a late start. I’m back on the trail at 8:30.

The trail, winding along the canal through city neighborhoods, is oddly empty. Must be the cold. It’s still below freezing.

But the sun shines through the clouds, and my weather app predicts it will get into the low 40’s today and won’t dip below freezing tonight.

I will get to camp again.

I think of Greta Thunberg’s words as I walk along, that slant of her mouth, her sharp gaze. I feel hope.

I know I feel hope because I’m young, and hope is the lifeblood of youth.

And it’s morning.

It’s hard to despair when the sun shines and the edifices of our unsustainable civilization lie in architectural splendor along the not-yet-flooding canal.

This is a beautiful planet.

I walk for a few hours with no thoughts, simply taking it all in, the bends of the trees, the arcs of branches, the fractal patterns that curve through all forms.

My thoughts return as I enter the next town, Waterford.

I’m young. I can do something.

I realize that I have no plans for my life. We were going to get married. We didn’t. And when I sold everything and took to the trail, that was my plan. But after that?

After that, I have no plans.

I don’t know where I will live.

What I will do.

I don’t know that I’ll return here.

I suppose my idea in hitting the trail was simply to head away–away from everything that was and that was going to be and that didn’t happen.

And that leaves me with a new start.

The streets of Waterford are lined with businesses, apartment buildings, and homes, filled with those who lead regular lives. Work. Home. School. Shopping. All the parts and pieces of the fabric of this society.

I don’t want that.

It feels false to me, to live in a house that relies on electricity that’s produced in an unsustainable manner.

I am part of this society, a contributor to this current crises.

I don’t want my life to be just that.

I want to make a difference.

At the end of my life, no matter what has happened with the climate catastrophe, I want to be able to say that I did what I could. I lived my life in a way that made a difference.

I eat lunch in a cafe. Sure, I’m not blind to the irony that I’m eating food that’s been cooked on a stove that’s fueled by electricity generated in a plant the burns coal and fossil fuels, in addition to a few wind farms and solar installations, food that was trucked in by a gas-burning vehicle. At least the food is plant-based. It’s a vegan restaurant. At least it’s organic.

But I don’t know the conditions of the laborers who grew the tomatoes and soybeans–were they migrants with sub-standard living conditions? Do they have healthcare? Reasonable hours? Living wages?

I think about asking the waiter, but she is rushing from table to table.

It’s messy, I realize. We need to live. We need to eat. Whether we agree with it or not, we’re part of this society, simply by being alive at this time, by living here.

We can make some choices.

After lunch, I head to resupply at the natural foods store. The trail leaves town, and I’ll be travelling through the countryside for the next seven miles, to Riverside Park.

As I hit the trail again, I realize I don’t have answers, at least not many. All the questions I asked this morning, all the discomforts of the incongruence between ideals, values, and the practicalities of living still exist.

I know two things: I want to make a difference, and I can make choices.

The trail pulls me back into a peaceful rhythm. Step after step. The subtle changes of temperature. The shifts of light and shade. The scent of shore-ice thawing in the early spring sun.

I make camp while it’s still light. I could’ve walked a few more miles, but though it’s been a light day–only 18 miles–I’m tired, and I want to settle into my tent before night falls.

I feel, somehow, I’ve left my old life behind.

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