Nineteen : Christmas

Christmas came and went like a sore thumb, slammed in between a rack of bread and the proof box door frame. Another Thanksgiving and New Years trapping it in a dismal cloud called The Holiday Season. Pluck my eyes with a turkey baster.

It wasn’t all bad, though I do feel a Scrooge more than usual this year. I spent time with a few friends, my family, and Bean.

What did I manage to acquire?
– 250$ REI gift card (spent on a new pack)
– a complete guide to fishing in Oregon (tearing out pages to make a guide for the PCT)
– knives

Bean and I discussed timeline for the PCT, since he intends on being my travel buddy, aside from Squid. I told him my new found resolve to do the entirety of the trail, from Mexico to Canada. He agreed that it should be done that way and that we both want to spend as little time off the trail as we have to. Food has always been a major concern for him as far as comfort goes. I suppose my intentions for myself on this trip are not exactly on par with his. I don’t expect to be comfortable unless I just accept the fact that I’m hiking through the wilderness. No bedroll, no camp stove. For food I’m adjusting ratios for a mix of granola, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit mixes. For the entire trip. If I want something extra, I’ll have to make a detour and get it. I think this way because the one thing I’m afraid of is being too heavy. But you pack your fears, right?

I’m not expecting this to be anything but unpredictable. I can look at mileages and stops and routes and food charts and costing guides, or I could look at it for what it is. It’s walking through the woods. You take light clothes for the desert and take a single set of thermals for at night. When you get to the mountains and there is snow, you’ve mailed yourself warmer gear to go over the thermals you already had, and send the light stuff back. By the time you get out of the mountains, you’ve mailed yourself more light clothes for the Oregon woods stint, and light rain gear, and by the time you get through Washington you should have just about anything you might need saved up from throughout your trip. I want to make good time, but I expect it to take between four and six months to complete, so I want to pack light.

I also don’t want to over exam, analyze, and plan every single step. It takes the beauty and mysticism out of it.

I’ll prepare my body and mind as best I can. I’ll gather what I believe to be enough and then some. And then I’ll go.

I want this to be hard.

Eighteen : Morning

Aia sits and looks up at me with the sweetest brown eyes you’ve ever seen. I’m sitting on the edge of the bed legs folded up “Indian style” staring down at her with a half grin. What do you want Squid? I suggest more than ask. Squid is what I’ve been calling her, instead of Aia, it’s easier to remember, to not get confused with other sounds or names.

Squid barks and cocks her head to the side, one ear flipping over on itself lazily.

It’s Friday, the screen on my phone blinds me with a digital read out of the time. Six in the morning. My first instinct when my eyes burst open was to panic, and immediately my chest tightened and my body jolted to life, springing out of bed, my right hand shooting about the windowsill searching blindly for the cell phone hiding among the debri. My left hand goes wild, spinning the desk chair around and snatching yesterdays pair of pants.

Both hands shut down temporarily when I first realize that it’s ok, in fact, it’s great. You can go back to bed, Andrew, you can go back to sleep, it’s Friday, you have the day off, and it’s only five.

But now it was six fifteen and my eyes had adjusted to the dark and street light shadows of almost early morning. Snow fell quietly around a constant fall of hail, pinging and tanging against the window.

Squid barks again and I reach down and put my hand on her head, she sits still for a moment, as if waiting for more, and then wiggles her head back and forth, doing the work for me. Good girl, I praise and her tail loses control. After an hour of sitting, internet surfing, playing with Squid and pacing in my room, I finally grab my laundry and take her downstairs. The sliding glass door opens and Squid exits for her morning business as I slide the downstairs bathroom door open with my left foot and step in with my right, the laundry basket pinned between my chest and my right arm as I slide across the floor into the bathroom, around the corner, and to the back of the room where the laundry machines sleep. I bring them roaring to life, hungry for my dirty rags, and leave them to their machinations, popping my head out into the small backyard to see Squid finishing up. I call for her and she runs back in, such a good girl, I reassure her and she loses her mind with joy.

With kettle on stove for coffee, and a mixture of beans and tomatoes, spices and herbs, marinating in the crock pot for tonight, my day begins.

Seventeen : The World Keeps On Spinnin’

Not much has happened since Thanksgiving, to be perfectly honest. I’ve been sucking down whiskey, walking in the low to mid teens weather, lucky enough to stay dry (and they say climate change isn’t that big of a deal, pfft), and keeping my head in the game.

Apparently I’m getting an REI gift card sometime between now and Christmas, which is a major score – thank you mom and dad.

ImageOut of laziness I’m not going to double check if I said this or not, but I got a screaming deal on a new sleeping bag (15 degree) at Dicks Sporting Goods, Black Friday style. What would have been a $400 bag was only $250… I guess skipping sleep can sometimes pay off. The bag with the cover only weighs two pounds. If you can afford it, I highly recommend this bag, the Marmot Helium. Next thing on the list is an ice pick, boots/shoes, and crampons for winter training – gotta get as prepared as I can for those high sierras.

ImageSomething else exciting happened Saturday night, I found a hiking buddy. Aia. She is an eleven week old Black Lab with the tiniest bit of Blue Heeler. Sweet, loyal, and adorable. She has quickly filled a very large hole in my heart.

Sixteen : The Shaolin Art of Oven Management (Part 2)

The door slowly closes behind me, then slams as the electronic locking mechanism takes hold. I’m a prisoner now, I think to myself, locked in some kind of part bakery, part hell.

If this is hell, then Socks is the devil. I tell him this later and he laughs heartily, which is how I know its authentic, if it weren’t, he’d just smile and chuckle lightly while working a little bit harder. Funny how working “ass to mouth” as he calls, for eight hours or longer at a time, can bond two people so quickly.

The break room is empty and quiet, which is a huge change from the day shifts I used to work, when the only quiet you could get was smoking outside, usually in the cold and rain. I rummage through my pack and pull out a pen. Stuffing it into my pocket, I turn on my heel and spin toward the direction of the bakery. I pull an apron from its plastic house and throw its noose around my neck. Sealing my fate, I jest aloud to no one as I loop the strings behind my back and tie a pretty bow just below the bulge of my belt. The beard net is next, which is to say I take a hair net and loop either side over my ears, making sure the loose piece of string that hangs out is by my neck, avoiding the unpleasant tickle of it on my nose as I breath. The hair net follows, actually going over my head, looping underneath my ears to keep the beard net (hair net) in check.

The sink runs hotter than usual and I feel my skin harden ever so slightly against the tide. Rinse, lather, scrub, rinse, then one, two, three as I run my hand underneath the paper towel dispenser, the machine coughing up brown sheets of paper, the sound of plastic on plastic grinding together as it wheezes with each pass of my hand. Three swipes, perfect hand drying quantity, and one for luck. I dry my hands as I walk the straight path on the “golden brick road”, two painted yellow lines forming a path marker where racks aren’t supposed to stand.

The finger scanner to clock in hates my right index finger, as usual, and immediately loves the left index finger. Work has officially begun.