You plan a hike, not an adventure. It isn't until plans fall apart that a true adventure unfolds.
You walk out one evening to buy a loaf of bread. Because you love french toast, obviously. Now, if you navigate the space between your home and the store, purchase a delicious loaf of whole grain goodness, and return home, no adventure has occurred. What a shame, right? Not exactly. You chose to walk, rather than drive which, along with reducing your carbon foot-print, leaves you most open to adventure when compared with alternative methods of transportation. You not only love french toast, but you're living on the edge. You've chosen adventure. It's only a matter of time before adventure chooses you!
However, let's say you leave your house headed for your favorite bakery (Ploughboy, of Salida, CO), and you deviate from the walk-purchase bread-return home, pattern. Now you're having an adventure, even if it may not be "classically" adventurous. Pirates, trolls, and treasure need not exist. It could be that something catches your eye causing you to detour. You could get lost. You could fall and injure yourself. You could meet a beautiful young lady who invites you over for a drink (in which case, it's only appropriate that you invite her back for french toast afterwards; it's the polite thing to do). The point is, an event occurs that forces a deviation from the anticipated sequence of events, "the plan", and you had an adventure! Congratulations!
I planned a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. And, as it turns out, when attempting to execute a 3,000 mile cross-country trek, more than a few things will occur unplanned, often even counter to your plan. That's the way it goes, and that's the way I like it! Adventure is bound to occur.
And that's just what happened.
There were a variety of unexpected events on our journey from Mexico up to the Montana border, but most unexpected was my own personal change.
As the Continental Divide Trail threw trials and tribulations in both greater intensity and frequency than expected, I found myself spending a lot of time digesting who I am, and what it is I like. I still can't say I've figured it out. But, I do know that I'm a different person than I was five years ago, when I took my first steps into the world of long distance hiking.
When I began the Appalachian Trail, I did have something to prove, both to myself and to others. I was twenty at the time, in college, and doing "well". The problem was, most everything I'd ever done had come relatively easily and it could be said that much of what I had done, thus far, was dictated by society. I did it because that was simply what people do. Not to say I was a conformist; I was a long haired punk and a dabbling conservationist, but I hadn't done anything to prove myself. I committed myself to thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, without nearly the skills and experiences most would imagine, and I learned. 2,160 miles and five months later, I stood at the top of Mt. Katahdin having completed the trek.
A year later, I found myself planning a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail's western partner, the Pacific Crest Trail. This time I knew what I was doing. I knew backpacking and long distance hiking. I knew about ultra-light hiking. And I knew what worked for me. I didn't ever worry or doubt that I would finish the Pacific Crest Trail. It was beautiful, I was surrounded by great people, and it (almost) never rained. Not once did I ever even consider leaving the trail.
Then came the Continental Divide Trail.
I was excited and had every intention to complete the trail within a single season. Only, this trail turned out to be unlike the other two trails in a lot of ways. Much of the trail felt as if existed solely as a means of connecting one interesting part to another. Much of the trail is road, sometimes even paved roads and highways. The length of the trail requires big miles to complete it in a single season, but the physical terrain and weather will do everything you can imagine to continually drag a hiker behind schedule. And, unfortunately, I found the trail community on the Continental Divide to be lacking. It isn't that their aren't good people hiking and working around the divide, because their are. But, the stresses of the trail, coupled with the level of experience most hikers have on the Divide, led to a competitive and narrowly focused community.
The CDT was rarely fun and I didn't believe I was taking much from the experience. I knew it could be done, and believe I could have completed it, if my heart was really in it.
In southern Colorado, I more or less quit. I was still hiking, but I had resolved to hike the trail on my own terms and if that meant I ran out of time or didn't complete it, then that was fine by me. We intended to call the shots. I had decided that the rules and stipulations as to what a thru-hike was, and what a thru-hiker does, no longer applied, because I was no longer receiving a positive gain from adhering to them. We took a lot of time off. We stayed in town when the weather was bad. We attended the Pagosa Folk and Bluegrass Festival and the FIBARK rafting festival in Salida, CO. I focused on meeting people and engaging in town, rather than strict rest and resupply.
We were the self proclaimed "worst hikers on the CDT" and we didn't care one bit.
I had realized that more than completing the trail in a single season, what I really wanted was to spend a summer enjoying nature, connecting with people, and having a positive experience. I realized that I was less of a solitary creature than I had believed myself to be, or perhaps had once been. While I had loved hiking the first 200 miles of the trail alone, I had to admit that I was a community oriented person.
So, by the time the idea of attending Burning Man entered the equation, it seemed unjust not to consider it. I wanted to go. I understood that hitch-hiking 900 miles away from the trail and spending at minimum a week and a half of the remaining summer would put the completion of my hike at serious risk. But I wanted to go.
To ignore that desire simply to achieve a goal and follow a plan that no longer aligned with my core values would be foolish.
It was therefor decided, if we got tickets, we would make our way to Reno, NV, and go. Then we'd evaluate our situation and continue at that point.
We hadn't quit, necessarily, we had simply taken our adventure elsewhere. Analog and I discussed exploring the Four Corners desert region after the festival. Or going to the coast. Or coming back to the trail and giving it another shot. We had no plan and no remaining agenda. We were free.
Stay tuned for more adventure. 900 miles of road in 24 hours! Reno! Burning Man! Art! People! Desert!
It aint over yet, baby!