Saturday, August 30, 2008

how to hike the long haul

My laptop got replaced. The one that came back works! Huzzah!

I took a vacation to Pleasant Bay, to stay with friends I've had since I was a little girl. We hiked to Fishing Cove one day (2.8 km down a mountain, then 2.8 km back up again), and then Pollett's Cove then next day. Just now, I tried to measure the Pollett's Cove hike on a pretty good map, using a piece of string, and using the string method, it's 8 km each way. But what the string doesn't take into account is that the trail is about 80% steep uphill or downhill sections, and only 20% relatively flat. (These percentages do not refer to the steepness of the grade. They refer to how much of the trail is steep versus how much is flat.) Wikipedia, on the other hand, says that it is "an arduous 10 km hike".

So that's between 22 and 26 km of hard hiking, in two days. (Or between 13.7 and 16.15 miles, if you swing that way.) My knees were feeling it! But, thanks to my being young and supple, they feel well today. That's pretty good recovery!

I discovered several things on those two treks.

  • I should probably get myself new hiking boots at the next possible opportunity. The ones I was wearing were six-year-old Doc Martens, which definitely don't have the same support as they once did.
  • It's actually OK, and necessary, to walk as slow as you can up a really steep grade. Once I realized that my hiking partner was also taking it as slow as possible, I let go of the guilt.
  • I had to slow down and focus on my breathing to make it. The breathing sets a rhythm and a pace that keeps you going steadily.
  • Pollett's Cove is much more beautiful and enchanting than any photograph can ever depict. But perhaps later in the month I'll put up a photograph, anyway.
Now it's Labor Day weekend. In the past three or four years, or at least, the years I was in university, this weekend meant the chaos of finishing the summer job, packing up all my stuff, packing it into a somewhat small Volkswagon Golf, and having Mum drive me to Fredericton.

This weekend Mat gets all that chaos as we take him down to his school in southern Nova Scotia. I'm not jealous, not at all -- but there is something of the student life that I miss. There is something about Fall that says "back to school!"

But I consider myself to be perpetually in school now, a school that I control. I'm still doing research and learning all kinds of new things. I direct myself as to topics, and though it's not "official thesis research", nor devising scientific tests, I'm learning what I want to learn, through various means. And there are no deadlines or grades. It's pretty great. The only problem is that most people still recognize university as being the only really legitimate way to learn, if one is in one's twenties. And there are some days when I get down on myself and listen to those inner and outer voices, but then there are a lot of days when I don't.

I guess the bottom line is, I know myself better than anyone else does. I know what I've gone through, from burnout and depression to leaving school and coming home. I know what that journey has been like every step of the way, and I know that many amazing things have come out of it. Too many to count, really! So I also know that even though someone looking at me might see a girl in dire need of going back to university, I know that that's not who I am. I know that I'm actually a girl in dire need of more time here, who is loving being here, actually. I know that I'm in need of my projects, of my one-woman school. Projects like, for example, learning about apples and apple grafting from a local man who's done it all his life. Through all of this, I'm continuing to build my energy back up so I can travel again, and work again.

And slowly, following my breathing and putting one foot in front of the other, it's happening. Even though I didn't think it was OK to do it. And the view at the end? I think it's going to rival Pollett's Cove, if that's even possible.

Have a good weekend.

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