Let me share some personal info. It is a bit hard to put out there but I feel it's important to this story. For as long as I can remember I have dealt with blues, or 'low mood' as some call it. It is not something I am ashamed of admitting but I do think diagnosing people with clinical depression (which I have never been) and prescribing meds for it is WAY overdone. I have my own theories about why it seems to be such a wide-spread problem. My main hypothesis is that we, as individuals, have been sold the idea we can be or do whatever we want. So when we aren't fulfilling our dreams or making millions we feel like failures. I also think in our industrial, commercial age, we have far too much time on our hands to think about things and ponder our 'purpose' in life. The reason I am sharing this is because since leaving on my journey there had only been one day where I felt a bit lost and wondered what the hell I am doing....until this past Friday evening.
I arrived in Flagstaff on Friday and felt that lost feeling again. I wasn't sure which direction to head in. The nights are getting much colder so heading north to Utah, which is what I wanted, seemed like it may not be a good idea. I sat on the floor of the van for hours, drinking coffee and not doing much else but staring into space. I called a few people to get connected again with home. It was great to hear their voices but it made me feel more lonely in the end. Looking at the map I decided to stop being a wimp and head north to the Grand Canyon first. It was on my way and I wanted to see some places I missed when I was there last May.
I made it to Sunset Crater but the sun had already set. I pulled over where another RV was parked and crawled into bed for the night. We were asleep early and therefor up at the crack of dawn. It's always great waking up and seeing the place I've parked in the daylight. I was surrounded my mountains and the air was crisp. Sunset Crater is a dormant volcano that erupted a long time ago leaving the landscape forever changed. Okie was not allowed on the trail over the lava flows so I walked it alone with coffee in hand. Half way through I stopped and sat in the silence for a while. It was a wonderful way to start my day and I thought I had beaten the blues.
We arrived at Grand Canyon around 3:30 so I paid for a campsite and made dinner in time to get to the canyon edge to watch the sunset. I don't know what came over me but as the sun went down I started to weep. It wasn't because it was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen or other tears of joy. I felt an overwhelming sense, looking out over the vast, slowly darkening canyon, of how alone I actually am. How little and insignificant. How far away I am from everyone I love. I made a promise to myself to get up early and hike a ways down into the canyon.
I woke at the crack of dawn again. What should have happened next is I spring out of bed all rested and pumped to get out there but I couldn't make myself get up. This is one of the things about feeling blue is you have absolutely no energy to do anything. I laid there making all kinds of excuses about why I COULDN'T go hiking; I don't have the proper shoes, I don't have a back-pack to carry provisions, I have nowhere to put Okie for the day, and so on. I wasted a few hours lying there feeling shitty. Then I forced myself to get up into the cold air. I walked to the washrooms with my toothbrush in hand and in my path stood a herd of elk. They looked so majestic in the rising sunlight. We stood and looked at each other for a while then they moved on. It was a bit humbling.
I got us all packed up and headed over to the back country hiking info office to ask some questions about proper footwear and such. The man there told me my running sneakers were fine. What about Okie though? He advised against the kennel services offered in the park and suggested I do a shorter hike, leaving her in the van where she would be less terrified and constrained. What would I carry my water etc in? I remembered I was given a picnic backpack before I left and if I took all the dishes out it would work just fine. So, I had no more excuses. I took Okie for a walk, grabbed a coffee and hopped the bus to the trail head, arriving at 10:30.
Upon descending, the first woman I passed asked how I was doing. I said I was good but wished I had started earlier. Her response was. “well, at least you started”. She had no idea how true her words were and how much I needed to hear that. The hike down was amazing and fairly easy but each step I took downwards would inevitably be a step back up and I knew it would be an arduous climb. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the further down I got the warmer it was. I made it to the first rest area where I planned to turn around and go back up but I could see the next point and I wanted to go. I would make a decision to turn around there but when I arrived I wanted to see what was around the next bend. If it wasn't for Okie being in the van I would have been gone for a long, long time.
|half way to turning point|
|view at lunch break|
On my agonizing climb back up I met Joe. He's a 23 year old who works in the canyon, hiking the trails to manage the compost toilets placed in the canyon. We hiked up to the first landing together and chatted about the usual things; where are you from? Where are you going? Etc. He then extended an invitation to stay in one of the cabins back at his living quarters. The rest of his crew were laid off for the season and he was the only one left. I had planned on leaving the canyon that evening but the best thing about traveling the way I do is I can always change my mind. I accepted. I made us some supper and we drank beer and shared travel stories. He has now gone off on a two day hike into the canyon for work and left me here to do laundry, wash my dishes, cook, take a shower and basically help myself to whatever I want. It doesn't escape me the way things turned out. Because I pushed myself to go, because the man suggested a different trail, because I left so late I met Joe and ended up having a great night and now have a little cabin, with heat no less, to hang out in all by myself. It amazes me that I eventually seem to get what I need with a little bit of pushing on my part.
|my own cabin|
It's common knowledge that exercise is one of the best things for getting your serotonin pumping and I can tell you it's true. I am feeling like myself again and am so proud of myself for pushing through the feelings I would have let overcome me in the past. People who don't have problems with the blues don't really get it and I'm happy they don't. I am lucky that mine is manageable but it takes work on my part to keep it under control. There are so many amazing things in my life I have no reason to spend time wallowing in any kind of self-pity. So, if you ever find yourself feeling lazy and unable to push yourself, do it! You'll feel so much better in the end. I know I do.