Song Bird (Caroline)

Mile 2,591


(1) Where are you from?

I grew up in Oklahoma but Ive bounced around a good bit and I now live in Salt Lake City.

(2) What day did you start?

May 7th, unfortunately at like 12:30 in the afternoon.

(3) What day did you finish?

October 8th, 5 months and one day. Tried to finish on my 5 month anniversary but my body and the weather had other plans.

(4) Do you have a trail name?

Song Bird

(5) If so, where did it come from?

I wish it were more exciting….I sing, a lot. Somewhere around Deep Creek hot springs three hikers stumbled upon me singing “Mr. Sandman” really loudly They came up from behind and scared me quite a bit. Two nights later, at the el Cajon McDonalds I ran into the same hikers who said they appreciated the tunes and could hear me from pretty far away. They said I sounded like a “song bird” in the desert and it just stuck. Before that people were trying to name me Chicita Fajita because I wore a sombrero for the first 500 miles but thankfully it fizzled out.

(6) What did you dream of when things weren’t going well?

Oh man….a lot. When things were particularly rough I actually imagined a few things to help me through. I often tried to think of myself at the end of a marathon, about to cross the finish line and all the people who loved and supported me were there, cheering me on. Sometimes the vision was so intense and real that I actually began to cry tears of gratitude and joy on trail. Other times, I would imagine the part of myself that was miserable as a little kid, a smaller version of myself perhaps. I pretended that I was taking her along for the ride and I was my job to nurture her and make sure she felt strong and excited instead of scared shitless—which I was a good deal of the time.

(9) Think back to your “pre-hike self.” Now think of yourself here at the end. Has anything changed?

I don’t know if “changed” is the word. Ive been unveiled. There are parts of myself that have been knocked loose. Before the trail I felt like I knew myself. I was open and bubbly and goofy and kind of a “yes-woman”. Coming back from the trail I felt like the dark side of myself. Cynical and unsure, apathetic toward society and pessimistic with life off-trail. Now that I’ve had some time I have hope that I’ll find something in the middle. I feel like I’m no longer afraid to say “no” to the things that don’t serve me. My voice has gotten stronger, but I can never un-see some of the dark corners that were exposed. If i were to boil it down it might sound like this: I am still myself but without a lot of the b.s. social norms that I’ve subjected myself to before. When you decide to cast away a lot of those expectations, life in the social world can be a lot harder than it was before.

(10) Now that you are off the trail, what do you miss most about it?

It’s funny, as I’m answering these questions I’m at a job interview in Klamath Falls and on my drive here I crossed the PCT twice. I found myself pulling out my phone and opening “gut hooks” to see just how close I am to what now feels like home. I found myself getting incredibly nostalgic. I miss so much about it, it’s hard to quantify. I miss the simplicity, but everyone probably says that. All you have to do every day is walk, eat, poop, and sleep. I wish life in the city were that cut and dry. I miss being able to be so in touch with my body and mind that I could mark the ebb and flow of my mood by how fast I was walking. Mostly, I miss how the trail is really a great equalizer. There are people out there who have grown up homeless, who have doctorates, who have families, who have lost everything and it doesn’t matter. But it also matters so completely. These stories are who make us into who we are but on the trail these differences are celebrated and explored because we all have the same goal—to walk a really long way. Now that I’m back in the city, especially in our current political climate, it feels like there are more things that separate us from seeing the humanity in others and prevent us from exploring the humanity in ourselves.

(11) Before you started, what were you most afraid of?

Being alone. Facing my inner demons through solitude.

(12) Now that you are finished, what are you most afraid of?

Losing sight of how strong and terribly gorgeous I am. I know that sounds incredibly vain but I mean it in the deepest sense. I’m afraid of losing the parts of myself that were great and terrible and forceful and gentle as I reenter society. I’m afraid that society and societal pressures will ask me to forget that girl that grew in the woods.

(13) What’s the difference between life on the trail and life off the trail?

Life on trail: miles, food, poop, sleep. Life off trail: escalators, microwaves, Netflix (you decide if it’s better or worse)