For months I’ve looked north. From the rusted red deserts of New Mexico to the granite spires of the Winds, again and again, I’ve watched nothing more than smears on the horizon rise to surround me before falling away, back into nothing, replaced by a hundred-thousand footsteps and the next smear on the horizon. It felt endless once, somewhere back there, somewhere where hope was all I had, back before I could count the days, before I could look north and see a world beyond my trail’s reach, a place where the footsteps would end.
For so long, the end felt impossible. I forced it out of my mind. I pushed it away to save my sanity. I couldn’t think of Glacier’s peaks as I swallowed my last gulp of water fifteen miles from a windmill that may or may not exist in the New Mexican desert. No, I had to be there with my tongue drying out. I needed to feel my lips crack in the heat and taste the blood when I smiled.
In its way, it’s beautiful.
Dirt ground into my heels, skin ripped across miles of thorns, lungs bursting in thin air. Welcome to the world, moment after moment, live in Technicolor and real enough to taste.
But all that slips now. The veil falls in the overwhelming presence of the end. An outside world long-held at bay is ready to crash on top of me. What am I going to do with my life in three more days when I step into Canada and leave my maps behind? What will it be like to return home? Do I even have a home anymore? Where does one go with no direction?
I stare at the last horizon. I stare at the end. It’s impossible. The idea struck a dissonant chord in my mind for so long that I convinced myself it didn’t exist at all. Don’t tell me it ends. I can’t hear you. This trail doesn’t have an end.
Until it does.