I slept last night! First time. And I celebrated by photobombing some dayhikers on their way to Eagle Rock in a most fantastic way. There was about 12 of them and they had decided to organize a group photo. I was right around the bend out of sight and waited for the “Ready everybody?? 1, 2, …” and on “3!”, I jumped out swinging my trekking pooles in the air screaming “BEAR!!”. The photographer got the shot. It was priceless. I’m still laughing about it right this second. Yesterday I would have been way too tired to have such fun. Yesterday I hadn’t slept in 3 days AT ALL and I had a headache that made happiness painful. Yesterday and the days before were less lighthearted. I had the first and I hope only panic attack. I was walking along thinking about nothing, truly nothing, when the wave of terror began to rise up in me. I recognized it immediately, as I had quite a horrible time of it last year for a couple of months recovering from the stroke. I’d hoped I’d get by without them arising this trip, but there it was. I kept telling myself to keep walking, though I knew it would overtake me at some point and I’d have to just sit there. After about 20 minutes, a man and his daughter came along that I had been hiking off and on with for the last few days. He didn’t know what was happening to me in that moment (I was very quiet about it as talking about it makes it worse), but he sat down next to me and said,
“When I first touched you I felt en enormous amount of fear in you, but didn’t believe it was an appropriate thing to say to you. Would you like to walk in peace instead of in fear? God told me many years ago that I would need to give up backpacking (one of his lifetime passions) but then this year told me there would be a woman walking alone on the PCT in a great deal of fear and that I would need to backpack a section to help deliver her from that fear and back into peace.”
This happened to him on Easter Sunday and he organized the trip with his 16 year old daughter that very day. When he first encountered me on the trail, he believed I was that woman but was shy to say so (and I must say I wouldn’t have reacted well), but when he walked into my panic attack and said those words to me, I immediately started crying. I needed him right then, no question about it. He and his daughter led a prayer with me, and I felt the great heaviness of the fear and panic completely leave my body. I felt joy and easiness and confidence. The panic attack was over. What was lying beneath it was over. I knew I was safe.This all happened in the middle of 50mph wind gusts about 15 miles from Mt. Laguna. I’m not going to go on any religous rants or even try to philosophize about what that experience meant, I just know that the fear is gone and I am fresh and new on the PCT this year, not the hiker whose head could explode at any minute.
So, as expected, the PCT so far has been a unique and lively combination of heaven and hell. It’s as stunningly beautiful, spacious, and silent as I remember. The people are crazy excited and happy, even though parts of their bodies are peeling off and their legs are swollen and stiff. There’s comraderie and didgeridoos blowing down the sun, and shared Crystal Light packets. Today is a great day. It is these experiences that make me so very very happy to be alive!!