• Brandon A. Kelone

Pacific Crest Trail Diary 9: Day 67 (Belden, CA)

Updated: Sep 21, 2018

I'm writing from a state of frustration, discouragement, and exhaustion. Trying to find hope and wanting with all of myself to give up. I set this up so that I can't quit though; I have nowhere else to go. I don't have a home to go back to. I don't have a love to go back to. I don't have a job to go back to. I don't have a "go back to." So I'm here and I can't go on anymore and I also can't stop. And so, stuck in this impossible place, I write instead. 

I have a lot of things that I want to say and at the same time I want to say nothing. I want to delete Facebook and disappear. I want to melt into the sands and dissolve into the rivers. I don't want to be anymore. I want to give up, but I can't even do that. 

It's been unbearably hot since I wrote last; it's even become hotter since I wrote last. 

I want to paint a picture for you, to create a scenario: I want you to imagine walking on a treadmill for 12-14 hours with only 15 minute breaks. Now imagine that you're doing this and it's 80 degrees by 9am and 90+ from 11-5:00. Imagine the sweat dripping and dripping and pouring off of your face. Your clothes are soaked. Now imagine going to sleep in those soaking wet clothes and doing it again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that without ever showering or cleaning your clothes. 

That's the situation I'm in. The heat is unbelievable. It sits solidly in the 90s throughout the day and I'm constantly soaked. My clothes are disgusting and only get worse day after day after day. It's hard on the spirit. It's hard to keep going. It's hard to be alone in this. 

And that's my reality. 

I've started waking at 4am to hike as much as I can before the sun heats up. Then I'll try to find shade (unbearably hot even in the shade!) and just withstand the temperature for a few hours, then around 4 I get back on trail and hike well into the night. I'll likely have to do even more night hiking as the heat continues. It's too much to handle. It's broken my spirit and I don't want to be here anymore. I want to have never started this, but that's not reality. Instead I suffer. 

The nights are beautiful sometimes, but it's too hot to appreciate. It's too much to take. 

I've been in desperate need of new shoes coming into Belden. In fact, "desperate need" barely begins to describe it. I've had giant holes in both shoes and they are really starting to hurt my feet. They've been causing me to limp for about 100 miles. So when I arrived today I was so excited to get the shoes that I ordered two weeks ago and had shipped to here... And REI sent me the wrong size! I was on the phone with REI for more than an hour, and they refunded the purchase, but now I'm still stuck with shoes that may not may not be able to get me to my next trail town... I may have to hike those miles in Crocks. I wish that was a joke, but it's not. 

I've also needed a new sleeping pad desperately. The baffles separated so basically I have a giant balloon that isn't usable as a sleeping pad and so I just sleep on the ground. It's terrible. I also ordered a new sleeping pad from REI and had it shipped here. I ordered it a week ago and paid extra for two day shipping only for it to not arrive. It's still in the mail and I cannot get an ETA. So I also had to deal with that during my hour long phone call with REI and although they are sending me a new one up trail, until I get there I have to sleep on the rocks... Literally. 

I don't mean to be so negative; it's just that I am honestly struggling. I'm not struggling to hike; I can do that, but I'm struggling to go on, to find a reason to not just fall down on the rocks and lay there until I wither away... I wouldn't want to read this, so I can't blame you for stopping here. 

Let me talk about something else. 

I have discovered that I'm haunted by Eastern European women. This has only come to my attention as of late. Girls are a weird thing on trail. Probably 75-85% of hikers are men, but that minority, I find them difficult to deal with. They make me anxious and uncomfortable. I am not proud of myself anymore. I'm ashamed of how I look and sound and feel. I'm unconfident and ashamed of myself, so I see women and I get really anxious. It makes me feel really terrible about myself and about everything else. Luckily, it's rare that I see women on trail, so when I do I just keep my head down (hating myself all the while) and move on. I'll try to say "hi" or something like that, but it always sounds desperate and pathetic. It's a perfect representation of how I feel, so mostly I don't say anything. 

Then trail towns make me even more anxious for the same reason. The women in trail towns are showered and clean and well kempt. They are like goddesses of some sort, and I will walk widely around them to avoid contact. It's because I'm ashamed of myself, how I look and how I sound. I'm no longer my best and I'm ashamed of who I've become. That's one of the major reasons that I get really anxious in trail towns. 

With all of my being I want to be with someone, and I don't necessarily mean romantically. I feel really alone a lot, and I want to know and love someone and have them know and love me in return, but then I can't bring myself to meet anyone because I'm so ashamed of my state and my being. It's really painful. 

I used to date a girl named M---------. We were together for barely 30 seconds, it seems in retrospect, and I never could have guessed how much she'd haunt me afterwords. I was afraid of falling for her, and so I actively resisted as long as I could. Until I couldn't anymore and I fell in love. I knew better, but it still happened. We were soaking in a hot tub under clear September skies, looking up at the stars. I remember the moment. So when she decided that it was done and that the relationship needed to end (just weeks after I let myself fall in love) it really killed me in the short term. What I didn't expect was that it would become my ghost. I've spent a lot of time thinking back on that relationship, and I can see now why she wanted it to end, but still she got under my skin and I see her face sometimes. I see her in other hikers, in trail towns, and in my dreams. 

I don't want to give the impression that I ever expect to see her again or that I expect to get that relationship back; I know that it's over, but her ghost still follows me and reminds me of what I've lost and what that relationship meant to me-- it meant far more than I knew it would. 

She was the first to make me realize that there's this thing with women of Eastern European descent. I don't know how this has to do with anything, but it feels like I should write it because I think of her a lot on trail... more than I'm willing to admit. I look back on how I lost that beautiful thing that wasn't just her, but was a relationship and a feeling of belonging and love. I felt like she cared about me and I felt like I cared about her. I still do care about her, but I'm not allowed to do anything about it anymore except think about the things that I did wrong to make her want to leave. She left because I was broken even then. 

I really struggle with the way I look now that I've been on trail for two months. I got picked on a lot in primary and high school. Chris Craig and his friends all labeled me a f***** because how I looked and what I liked and what I did. So as a result I spent the last 15 years changing how I look so I could become big and strong. That was who I was; my shape was my self identity, and I don't have that anymore. I've lost the one thing that gave me confidence. I try working out on trail to keep my upper body from shrinking anymore, but I can see it for the lost cause that it is. I've become very small and I'm really ashamed by my figure. It makes it even harder to meet people, because I'm constantly hating myself and my figure and my attitude and my life; these aren't great conditions for meeting new people and giving a good first impression. That's been a really hard thing for me to deal with. 

I really look forward to getting to Washington for the #1 reason of getting back on a clean diet and exercise routine. I don't like being small; I don't like being ashamed of myself; I really don't like hating myself. It's all I have left and I hate it. I feel like the "f*****" who Chris and the rest of the basketball team made fun of. I feel like I'm not a lot more than the pathetic kid who didn't know how to defend himself in junior high. 

I think a lot about the mistakes I've made in life. I have too much time on trail to think about those things and not enough ways to escape the thoughts. 

I try to think about finishing the trail and what I'll do afterwords. This gives me hope sometimes, and I'm really excited to be done. It's not because I don't find pleasure here, but because it's hard to do anything for 130 days in a row. It makes me miss fishing, and writing, and family, and all the things that I've loved. I think about living in Washington afterwords and I think about fly fishing with my dad. I really miss those times. I miss my family. 

I don't think I have anything else to say right now, and I sort of regret writing even this. I want my friends to believe that it's all fun, but in truth it's hard. I suffer a lot and I struggle to find relief from it. I am struggling to know why I'm here or why I go on. I struggle with anger and sadness, so that's what it is. From the start I wanted these journals to be honest reflections of my experience on trail, and that's what this is. 

So to those of you who have read this far, I'm sorry that I don't have more good for you, but I'd rather give honesty than artificial reports of happiness. 

I miss having a home. 

"Wormwood"