I can’t say exactly how it started, because it started with Eric. It was more than a year ago. We were living in our first (very crappy) apartment in Corvallis. I wasn’t paying that much attention. I remember Eric talking about how cool it would be to hike long trails. I remember telling him, “You don’t want me to do that with you. You would hate me by the end.”
I can’t say how it started in me, really, either. It might have been the dog. I go through phases of passionate desire for a dog. During one of them, Eric joked that if I did a long trail with him, we could get a dog after. I didn’t take him seriously. But I took him seriously enough. The long trails started to be something I contemplated. I guess if I’m honest, when we moved to Corvallis, I expected everything to get suddenly lighter, easier. But it didn’t. It was better for me to be out of the city, to have the yoga studio, to feel connected to people at work. But it wasn’t like Corvallis was heaven-on-earth, a place that could solve my issues. I was realizing nowhere was.
I was also homesick. Despite always longing to be in Louisiana with my family, I couldn’t actually stand living in Louisiana. In fact I looked down upon the South as too hot and conservative, the East as too crowded and polluted. I loved the air here in Oregon, the snow caps and rivers and tiny mountain lakes. I was a West Coast snob who hardly even belonged to the West Coast. I started to think it would be fun, and good for me, to walk slowly along the East Coast. To appreciate a different kind of beauty, but beauty nonetheless.
So the idea went back and forth between us for months, gaining momentum each time. Eric’s job was always supposed to be temporary, but he’d already been there a year. I was (am) getting paid so little I sometimes forget I work for money at all. And Corvallis is a lovely, lovely little town, but new opportunities are few. And so around Christmas last year, we took a look at our lives as they hadn’t happened yet (which is a little absurd but we all do it) and we decided this was the time. Later there would be houses and babies and careers. But now we would hike the Appalachian Trail.
Fuel under an already smoldering fire. I became a little bit crazed about it. We made the decision too late to start that season (2012) and wanted to save some more money, so we had more than a year to wait. And waiting is hard. I thought I would go crazy with how long we had to wait.
But there was still life to live. And time seemed to pass fluidly. Winter faded, an early spring. The summer passed in a fast blaze of backpacking trips. And then Eric got promoted.
It happened only a few months before we had planned to leave. All of a sudden the whole thing was thrown into question. It made some sense to stay here for another year, let Eric get the experience on his resume, save a little more money. But wouldn’t there always be some reason not to do the trail?
We talked it over constantly. I couldn’t concentrate at work, longing to know my future. Would we need the extra money or not? Would I regret leaving my yoga studio or not? It’s so hard to “wait and see”, especially after you’ve already been waiting. They were hard weeks. I could see the wisdom in delaying. But in my gut I felt deflated and depleted when I imagined it.
So we compromised. It was a relief to find that solution. We’d been considering two choices: leave in December, or stay another year. But we realized we could split the difference in a way. Instead of leaving in December to spend a few months with my family before hitting the trail in March, we decided to stay here until the end of February and start hiking in April. Eric gets more experience on his resume, we can save a little more money, and I get to soak in every second at the studio that I can.
And now the little kid excitement is starting to come back.
I can feel it starting.