Brightness, 2.0.

Dear humans and crustaceans:


Look at these cool rocks I found.

Ok, fine. Really I’m just trying to distract you, because I’ve been procrastinating for about a week and a half on writing this story. It is important (I think) when you’re creating a thing (like writing, or music)… that it builds, and does not tear things down.

To struggle is human. So is conflict. So… I have been struggling.

Here is a story about conflicting priorities, miscommunication, and revenge hiking (Like a toddler. You know. Revenge pooping. Revenge hiking is when you’re like a toddler, but bigger and can actually walk like an adult).

The trail was invisible, and everything was broken (but fixable).

Hiking on trail when the trail is under 3-7 ft of snow is the hardest thing I’ve done since starting this trek. It’s not the physical exertion, though that’s certainly part of it.

It’s the frustration of not seeing the trail. In some sections, if you can find them, the blazes are sparse, or bashful, or worn out, or being eaten by trees. Such is tragic life.


The standard trail maps don’t have a high enough resolution to read the terrain in an area, so to follow the trail, you

  1. Look for blazes, and
  2. Look at the trees if there are trees (click the pictures below for captions.)
  3. Make sure you got good topo maps of the area, and a compass. I also have ye olde GPS, but prefer using paper. Kids these days.


If you lose the trail, and arc around looking for it, and you’re not in a young coniferous forest so the trees are wide apart, and there are no sharply cut edges on any of them, it sometimes also helps to look for animal tracks, because sometimes an animal will have gotten into the habit of following the trail through the woods, and you can follow their tracks and find the next blaze. (But quite often this is wrong, and even when it’s right, you never know when they’ll stop following the trail and go off along on their own business.)

I learned that I only really started making better time once I stopped looking for the trail in vague flat areas, and if I lost it, I’d just shrug and keep hiking a little ways, to the ravine or valley or ridgeline or hilltop where I knew the trail was going, and then quite often I’d find it again. This made progress much, much faster. I was never actually on the trail; but I can say I was probably pretty regularly five feet above it.

It’s about adaptation, and persistence, and being ok with being slow, and listening to your gut if something feels wrong. I trudged; and looked with sad despondence at the nice roads I crossed. (There’s nothing like struggling through deep wet snow over uncertain trail to make you appreciate roads, Best Beloved.) But I was still here.

Then everything started breaking, all at once. In ways I could adapt for. Insulated sleeping mat has a hole somewhere, it’s ok. Ripped my pack brain zipper. Musical instrument is cracked. Backpack frame, already damaged from an unlucky airport trip, finally snapped (fixed it with my tent pole splint). Wool baselayer makes more holes every time I pull it on. Ripped a piece out of my mittens. Phone: already cracked. Ski pole? Now just a pointy stick for stabbing the cold hearts of snowdrifts. Hair tie broke. The beautiful pinecone pendant one of my coworkers gave me in Maine started shedding its pieces. Everything is breaking, all at once.


Le sigh. Now I have to fix all of these things. It’s cold. I’m so tired. Everything is frozen, excluding my face.


Just kidding, that one’s fine. Just sleep with your boots inside your bivvy, kids. Not-entirely-frozen-solid means you can still put them on in the morning. Good things all around.

*     *     *

To be continued. I’m hungry. J’ai faim. I’m not on trail right now, but I’m holed up in the Gaspe reading books and learning French for Easter. But this is too long, so I’ll write more, in a bit.

baked some brownie muffins, brownie muffins are delish

Happy day!



  1. desdemonakitty says:

    I love that you are so honest about your challenges. It really helps someone like me, who is prepping to hike next year, with being realistic about the things that will happen and what life will be like. I hope you can fix all the things, and that learning french doesn’t fry your mind. Au revoir et bonne chance!


  2. Uncle Bob says:

    I’m amazed, but you are a battler. I complain when the wind blows all night and rattles the tent. Just reading this makes me feel cold. – Uncle Bob (your Godfather)


  3. John Heznell says:

    Go get it, SA. The challenges along the way make the victory sweeter.
    (And there were times when the blackflies and mosquitoes of Maine in June hanker for snow!)


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