There was a point on the PCT, walking through the desert - exhausted and hungry, when I couldn't think of many reasons to keep going. I was simply tired of walking. The only reason not to quit was because we were SO CLOSE! Oh, so close to the end. Well, that's how this internship feels sometimes. Since returning from the trail in November, I haven't stayed in one location for more than 2 months. I've spent the last 3 months floating between a friend's house in Seattle and Mud's cute little trailer, an hour outside the city. Now I find myself in California again for the final rotation of this internship. Working for free, checking off competencies. And then I wonder, why do I even want to BE a dietitian? Couldn't I be one of those people that just hikes for their whole life?
It has been a constant struggle to find housing, shelter, and, subsequently, a good place to make food. There is something freeing about this on the trail. Food, water, shelter. That's all you need, all you think about. And usually, you find it. Yet back in the real world, the expectations of society are so high such that you can't spend too much time arranging food, water and shelter. You gotta go to work, sit in traffic, write emails. Maslow was on to something with his hierarchy of needs. It's hard to contribute to society and achieve self-actualization when you're not quite sure where you're going to sleep, or if you'll be able to make a tofu-rice-noodle-salad tonight. Well, for now, I'm happy to say that I've at least found a consistent place to sleep and make tofu-rice-noodle-salads for a couple months. So, on to contributing to society.
Since starting my clinical rotation, I've been seeing first hand the toxic effect that our food has on folks. People with uncontrolled diabetes come into the hospital and leave with an amputated leg. People with untreated gallstones that have caused their gallbladder to actually become stone itself. Hypertension, GERD, cardiovascular disease. They get put on medications with side-effects, then more medications to manage the side-effects, until taking 12 pills every morning becomes normal and our bodies are slaves to the chemicals we put in it. We do what we can to help them in the hospital, but the real help comes through lifestyle and diet changes. By the time they get to the hospital, it is often too late. People are struggling, dying, because of their food choices.
And then there's the water. Our food choices are sucking the earth dry. California is parched, depleted. Even the lush and plentiful state of Washington is in a drought due to low snowfall. More on that later.
For those reasons and more, I cannot become one of those people that just hikes for their whole life. There is work to do here in the real world. Yet! I deeply hope that I can be one of those people that finds a healthy balance between time in the office and time in the wilderness, time writing and time hiking. I don't know yet what that will look like, where I will live, what trails I will hike, what I will do every day. I can only hope that my continued drifting will take me where I need to be.
With all the uncertainty and instability of the past year, there is one thing I know for sure - I gotta get back on the trail! If I'm really gonna be a dietitian, in an office, in a city, with the emailing and the chart-note-writing and the multi-tasking, I need to spend a few weeks on the trail before I do it. I just gotta walk in a straight line for a while, with my food, shelter and water on my back.
As I get settled here in California, I hope to write more frequent blog posts, continue working on writing a book, as well as prepare for my next long hike this fall. Mud and I have hopes to complete the sections of the trail we were unable to last year due to fire closures, and maybe a little extra if there's time. For me, this means lots of writing, cooking, and dehydrating, in addition to 40 hrs each week spent working at the hospital. As for Mud, he is headed out tomorrow to hike a portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail through the Olympics and eventually end up back on the PCT in Washington. Check out his new Facebook page for pictures and more frequent updates. Happy trails to him!
As always, feel free to contact me with nutrition questions, hiking questions, or topics you'd like to read about on the blog.
Happy trails and happy eating to all!
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Other Neat Things:
My friends Harpo and Groucho are some bad-ass thru-hiking vegans. Read their blog here.
Idyllwild is a favorite trail town for many PCT hikers. This online magazine has featured a few hikers and also keeps up with mountain-town happenings.
Future Dad is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest, Te Aurora and Appalachian Trails back-to-back-to-back, all in one year! He's also a really awesome story teller. Read his stories here.