He looked a little discouraged, standing there with water dripping down from the brim of his hat. His pack lay against the wall of the campground restroom, sheltered by the eave of the building from a steady rain that started several hours earlier. He looked to be close to 30, tall and lanky as many backpackers are. As I came around the corner he looked up and mustered a polite smile. I asked him, “How far you backpacking?”
Now he cheered up a little; the smile got bigger. He spoke with an accent that make me think West Virginia, “Not sure, probably San Francisco, I don’t have my plane ticket home yet.”
Camping with my family on the Southern Oregon Coast, the rain was coming down pretty steady on this, the last day of June. Tim went on to tell me that he had started hiking the Oregon Coast Trail at the Columbia River on the border between Washington and Oregon. When I met him he was three weeks into his trip and about 50 miles from the California boarder. At 20 miles a day he would be in California in no time.
Tim is a High School biology teacher. We talked for quite awhile. He seemed to enjoy the company as well as the respite from the rain. As you might know, I too enjoy backpacking. Just not steady, long distance backpacking. Tim as it turns out had previously hiked the full length of the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Both trails measure over 2,000 miles in length.
When I asked him how he was enjoying this trip he admitted he was a little discouraged. He had spent the last night sleeping on the beach near Port Orford. While the winds were not as bad as they often are, the rains were quite heavy and steady all night. I’m sure it was not the most pleasant way to spend a night on the beach.
“Some days are the most exhilarating, but some days, like today… Well I find myself thinking. I tell myself, ‘you know, you really don’t have to do this.’ Twenty miles to Gold Beach huh?” He looked like he realized he should be walking again so I prepared to wish him luck.
But I thought to ask him one more question. “Those trips on the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, do you regret doing them?”
My question had the desired effect. Tim shook his head, “Oh no! They were difficult, but I’ve never had any regrets. I’ve seen things that very few people ever see” I smiled and said, “I bet you won’t have any regrets about this trip either.”
He gave me a knowing smile and said, “Yeah, I think you are right.”
15 minute later, covered in a giant poncho that covered not only his body but his backpack, Tim walked by our camp. He had a bounce in his step once again. He glanced over and we shared a friendly wave. I watched him as he turned the corner of the road that led back to the trail.
In have to admit, I felt a little jealous.
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