A week ago I set out to do something exciting, bold and a little bit crazy, to walk along the coast from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Well I failed. At least in as much as I’m writing this from my couch and not an Internet cafe on the beach in Santa Cruz. I feel a bit embarrassed and a bit disappointed, but I also feel proud of what I did accomplish, and determined to finish what I started.
The temptation is to write a blow by blow account of the adventure, but here’s what it boils down to. I couldn’t do it. By the end of my first day my feet were wrecked, sore joints and a few terrible blisters. The next morning I started walking again but within the first few miles it became clear that I was in rough shape from the day before. I tried to do too much too soon. Nearly 20 miles in the first day with 55+ pounds on my back was more than I could handle. By the time I reached a roadblock in the form of no trail and a highway with no shoulders I decided that it was time to regroup and reassess.
I stopped in at a local taphouse in Pacifica for a pint and some salad to celebrate the distance done and caught a bus back into the city.
I determined that I wouldn’t let this be a success or failure, do or die kind of moment. Yes I stopped, and yes I was in rough shape. It was embarrassing to come home after only a day and a half on the trail, but it wasn’t the end. I rested up and a couple of days later with a smaller day pack set out for the Golden Gate Bridge and walked the section that I’d missed the first day from the Bridge to the end of Ocean Beach (earlier I had walked from home to the beach). It was a beautiful hike and made the whole endeavour feel more complete, and it also meant that I was still doing it. One piece at a time.
That left me sore, so I spent a couple more days resting and then yesterday I got on a bus and went back to the place in Pacifica where I’d given up days before and walked all that I could before the last bus home. I had the beautiful ocean bluffs to myself and put a few more miles under my belt.
This isn’t over. I’ll make it to Santa Cruz if I have to head out every weekend this summer to do it. So I’m not doing it as a heroic odyssey, one man alone against the elements. But that’s never what it was really about. It was about getting into nature, about challenging myself, about doing something outside of the every day. Am I sad that it didn’t work out as planned? Hells yeah, but its also reminding me that I have limits, that great endeavours require great preparation, and sometimes no matter what you plan, you get a blister between your toes and it all goes out the window.
I consider myself really lucky that I could turn around, that there was a bus stop only a mile or so back, that I wasn’t so stubborn that I tried hiking up that road with traffic whizzing by. I’m lucky that I’m not a pioneer or a refugee stuck in a hundred mile march, blister or no blister.
I understand my limits and my abilities better. A sixty pound pack is excessive, especially on a trail where food and other amenities are regularly available. Hiking twenty miles in a day might be possible, but it isn’t worth it and isn’t sustainable. Twelve miles feels a lot better.
I stayed off the Internet all week even when I was home in order to maintain at least the time to be alone and introspective. To be honest I’m a bit scared of returning to that world and getting caught up in the swirl again. That will subside and I’ll be just another fish in water soon enough.
The trail, though I spent less time on it than I’d hoped was a great place to be. Nothing but one foot in front of the other, deciding when to eat, when to rest, and a million beautiful plants, animals, rocks and sea.