School starts tomorrow. I might be able to get away for a long Labor Day weekend, but the summer's pretty much over. For some dumb reason I'm signed up for a 9:00 AM Spanish class that meets M-F, I'm teaching 3 sections of Econ 100B (Macro), and I'm facilitating a student-taught course on impact evaluation of poverty relief programs. I don't see a lot of research getting done this semester.
On the eve of the death of my freedom, what did I accomplish this summer? Certainly not what I set out to do. I most certainly did not break the Pacific Crest Trail speed record. My friends Scott and Adam did, however. Hearty congratulations to the both of them. They did it without setting foot in a car the entire way, and were only met by their significant others along the trail a couple times over a two-day span. Basically, they summited Everest alpine style with no Sherpas and no supplemental oxygen; they kicked ass in the most environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing way possible. (I'm reminded of this old Mark Jenkins piece from Outside when I think of how much cleaner the unsupported hike is than the supported.)
Anyway, I bailed on the record attempt because, even though I absolutely loved it the first time, I didn't want to do the PCT again, fast or slow. In this instance, life seemed too short to spend more than one day doing something I've done before. (Running the same race over and over is fine, they (mostly) take less than a day.) And it's not just hiking the same trails again, it's the fact that I'm still hiking trails. I realized that, especially on my long trips, I need to be pushing myself to learn new backcountry skills. I learned lightweight backpacking on the AT. I learned desert and snow travel on the PCT, rainy travel on a coastal trip in California, winter travel over a few winter breaks in California, and some glacier and high altitude stuff in Peru, Pakistan, and Tanzania. On the CDT I learned to string together routes of my own creation, and I can't go back to doing less than that without feeling like I'm wasting my time. Increasing my PCT daily mileage from 29 to 41 would indeed have been a challenge, but not the one I was looking for. So instead I made up a short PCT alternate through the San Gorgonio Wilderness, then hiked the Sierra High Route as part of a 450~ mile route of my own construction. I successfully followed Steve Roper's cross-country route. Next time, no more stringing together random trails from the map, and no more following other people's well-described cross-country routes, it's up to me to make up my own cross-country routes. (Or start adding packrafting or winter travel or canyoneering.)
I'm moving into a new place on September 1st, and hopefully then I'll settle down to the routine of teaching, running, and wasting time on the Internet.