Friday, January 16, 2009

Tarp livin' my life's purpose

The reason I did not want to go further than Ashland, OR on the PCT was because I didn't want to have to buy more gear to deal with rain. I asked the PCT email discussion list what they recommended as far as the driest shelters for Oregon and Washington rain. Someone on the discussion list suggested using a tarp.

I started looking at tarps. Gossamer Gear makes a nice one. They are quite costly for what is basically just a big piece of fabric. So I went to look at buying the fabric and making my own. I looked at cuben fiber. It was $30 a yard. A tarp is about 10 yards!

Then I remembered that Tony had bought me a tarp a few years ago. I could not figure out what to do with it at the time and forgot I had it. I searched in the garage and found it and looked on the Internet for similar tarps. It's a silnylon Campmor/Equinox tarp. Wow, I didn't realize I already had what I needed.

So I went online to research setting up tarps. I found this site that describes setting up tarps. I bought some cord and figured out how to do the knot to tied the lines to my trekking poles. Voila! I have a real tarp tent.

Best of all, it's hugely spacious. Tony and I can both sleep under it and still have room for our gear. That means that I just relieved Tony of the 6 pounds he always has to carry to provide shelter for the two of us when we go backpacking together. I can't wait for us to go backpacking so we can use it.

With the tarp issue solved, I think I shifted a little bit inside.

It has been difficult being home after my big hike. I have endured the reentry process: getting used to civilization again. And I have endured the recovery process: healing my body, gaining back all the weight and getting out of shape again (or rather, back in cubicle shape). I've endured career confusion and a back-breaking, disappointing job I dread more and more, plus an easy, yet boring computer job that I really like. I had hoped to be able to forge a new direction once I returned home, but I have not been able to. Instead, all signs keep pointing back to the trail.

There was a synchronicity when I went to my neighbor's Christmas party and before I could even get far enough inside the house to get a bit of dinner, my neighbor started talking to me about my adventure, eerily being the first person to truly understand it. She somehow knew that returning to the PCT was necessary. She had had to attend a silent retreat twice and she somehow knew I needed to hike the PCT twice. It was as if she came to the party just to find me and tell me this.

I think my boring job is also a synchronicity. It is just quiet enough that my mind can wander and think about anything it wants. It always wanders back to the PCT.

The tarp is a synchronicity, too.

Yesterday I decided to splurge and buy myself a book. I saw a description of a book online and really wanted to read it. It was a book by someone who had spent a year living on Cape Cod. The book was about the "after the year" part. I was hoping it would tell me how to get over something like the PCT. I can never find any good "after the hike" stories.

I searched the library but it was only available at another branch. I wanted to see if it was worth checking out, if it would give me some answers. I finally found it at the bookstore, but I did not resonate with it at all. The woman lived in nature on Cape Cod (well, not quite as in nature as I was, but pretty close) and then returned to her normal life. But she returned to a high-achieving lifestyle. That did not resonate with me, being the low-achiever that I've become.

Another book caught my eye and before I knew it I had read the entire Introduction, the life story of the author. Her life was a lot like mine. Somewhat aimless, always with a tug of war between needing to be responsible and get good jobs and being true to her gifts, which were all things that don't really make money for most people. She finally gives up and declares to the universe that if doing what she loves is so important to her happiness the universe had better show her how to make a living at it. And soon she does.

I don't hold out much hope for that happening for me, but I did like how she said that you should just take a small step in a direction and see if it feels right. If not, take another small step toward something else.

I have signed up for classes at City College. I feel depressed that people I know that I'm linked to on LinkedIn are so much more successful in my field than I am. I really ought to get myself together better. I signed up for some classes to expand my skills in my career. My career that I no longer really work in anymore. Taking that step feels boring to me, yet practical and responsible. I intend to do my best with the classes, yet part of me feels more resignation than happiness.

Back to the shift inside, I think with the tarp issue, I took a step toward committing to returning to the PCT this year. I feel great thinking about that. Purposeful. Excited. Like I'm doing the right thing. I think back to my memories of the trail and feel excited about revisiting some of the places I've been. My heart soars thinking of the mule ear flowers. It thrills me to hike Hat Creek Rim again. I even feel steely determination to this time not let the snow in the Sierras get to me. I will make it all the way through.

I still feel a little worried. I'll eat through my cash faster returning to the PCT than staying home and muddling through. But I have to trust, with the synchronicities, and with my excitement, that it's the right thing, that maybe my answer will come after I finally finish trail. I will just start walking and everything will work out. Or maybe it won't, but who cares? It feels like the right thing to do now. I feel like I have a direction and purpose again. Piper's back.


  1. Yeah. I am glad for you that you decided to return home to the PCT.

    I think you will need one more piece of equipment to work with the tarp - a bivy. Mountain Laurel Designs has some good ones. A tarp alone will not keep your sleeping bag dry in a downpour.

  2. My tarp is huge. It's 8ft. x 10ft. I cannot imagine needing a bivy to stay dry underneath it. I think a couple of document clips and some plastic bags would do the trick if rain came in too far.