Monday, August 10, 2009

Thunder Mountain

A landlord called and cancelled an appointment on me today because she already rented her apartment out to someone who weaseled their way in before me. I am beginning to get that "I'm going to be homeless forever" feeling in my gut, and honestly, it's not for lack of trying. I could be trying harder, and I could be less picky or more willing to blow all of my income down a rent hole. Sometimes I think about just pitching my tent in campsite No. 5 at the Mendenhall Lake Campground, which was my first "place" in Juneau. I've been thinking a lot lately about my first days in Juneau, because they were exactly three years ago, and they were filled with a lot of the same desires and uncertainties. But those days, those rainy homeless days in August 2006, were also filled with hope. Sometimes I feel like this second go-around is lacking in that regard.

I had planned to spend the morning dealing with my housing issues, but that call and another discouraging e-mail took all the wind out of my sails. I looked out the window to see sunlight filtering through a thin bank of fog, and beyond that was a surprisingly large patch of blue sky. "Screw it," I thought. "I'll just go hiking."

I headed to the Heinzleman Ridge trailhead. Heinzleman Ridge trail is a place I like to go when I'm in the mood for feeling lost, without the scary prospect of actually being lost. I have never found my way up to the ridge on the actual trail. I always end up wandering up a faint spur in a maze of bear trails at some point and bushwhacking through devil's club and blueberry bushes for a mile or so until I reach the meadow. As I plow through the vegetation, I grab handfuls of bright blueberries and talk to the unseen bears as I fill my mouth with juicy sour goodness. A fun way to travel, even if I would genuinely appreciate it if I stumbled across the real trail one of these days.

My recent longer hikes and bike rides have been alternately exhilarating and depressing. Exhilarating because I really am happiest in the mountains, skimming alpine ridges above a huge populated world that hardly notices me. And depressing because I my life currently is uncertain and unsettled, and I find myself slipping into that feared dark head space and its windows that feature me front and center on a downward spiral.

When Geoff first broke up with me, two days before we left Juneau for our summerlong trip down south, I immediately lost all interest in biking. I really did. Zero passion. Biking, like the mountains, is a place I go to soak in space and solitude; at that point in time, that place was dark and filled with thoughts that made me feel really bad about myself. One of the few things that kept me riding during those last weeks in April and early May was a wavering conviction to continue training for the Great Divide (I didn't admit this to many people, but I mentally pulled the plug on that dream up until very close to the actual race, stopping the drain only long enough to maintain an excuse to stay in Utah and continue "training" by going on fun trips to the desert.) I remember just dreading going out for rides during our trip down the Cassier Highway and the Pacific Coast - even though we were traveling through beautiful places and bike rides were often my only opportunity to spend some time alone. I don't think I ever blogged much about that aspect of the road trip. It really was pretty miserable.

Anyway, summer marched onward and things got better. The fun desert "training" proved successful in that I rediscovered my passion for cycling. Then I actually showed up for the start of the Tour Divide, and, even more shockingly, eventually finished. Honestly, if you asked me a week before the race what my chances were, I would have just shaken my head. I had frostbite that kept me off my feet for most of March. I was working 70-hour weeks to make up for my upcoming vacation through April, and the breakup kept me preoccupied and demotivated in May. May turned out to be the biggest obstacle I would have to overcome. That I found the healthy head space to actually stick out the Tour Divide is even more amazing to me than the fact I managed to physically get through it despite my admittedly inadequate training.

But, I guess the point I'm working up to is that I am falling back into a dark head space, which was expected, but frustrating nonetheless. I guess Tour Divide stood to cure me only if I could keep up that "bike-eat-sleep-bike-eat-sleep" mindset all the time, which is obviously impossible. I knew I would eventually end up back here, confronting the hard things I left behind. At least I have places like Thunder Mountain that can still serve as escape, and a newfound optimism that, even if my mind isn't always along for the ride, as long as I keep plugging toward my goals, I'll eventually get there.