Saturday, March 28, 2020
How things change in just a few weeks! On the day that I cancelled my Grand Enchantment Trail hike, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sasky, none in New Mexico, and I believe eight in Arizona. Those three places still have a (comparatively) low number of cases, but numbers are ballooning elsewhere, millions of Americans have been ordered to stay in their homes, and Canada has closed its borders to all non-essential travel. I’ve gone from feeling bitter about the cancellation to feeling grateful that I didn’t fly to the U.S. and start my hike only to be forced to return home anyway.
It’s tough timing for thru-hikers. Along with the GET, northbound hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail are begun in the spring, and many hikers had already started or were just about to start walking when the pandemic began escalating in the United States. ‘So what, it’s just a vacation that you have/had to cancel,’ you say? Thru-hiking, or any long-distance hiking spanning multiple months, is comparable to moving to a new city. You give up your job, you sell your house or end your lease, and you put your faith in the arrangements you made beforehand for new accommodations and work. But then you get to the new city, and uh oh – there’s nothing for you there after all, and you return to the old city but you have no job or home there either, and everyone else is losing their jobs and looking for work at the same time you are.
It seems like everyone is on edge nowadays. Not sitting in their closets and rocking back and forth on a big pile of toilet paper, but their emotional baseline is higher and they’re more easily agitated. That’s understandable considering that there are no good options for us now – we can steer the boat into one iceberg or a different iceberg in the other direction. I have no idea whether I’ll be able to hike the GDT this summer, but I’m going to maintain hope. That’s what we need to get us through these times.