CDT flashback: after the end

One week after I finished the CDT, I wrote about life after the end. Recently, I shared it on this year’s facebook group, and it resonated with a lot of people. I am reposting it here, with commentary at the bottom. I may resurrect other CDT blog posts in the future.


September 29, 2016

I stare into the bottom of my coffee mug, swirling the grounds as though they could tell me my fortune. I have been trying to take it one step at a time.

I eat an entire family-sized thing of hummus.

Later that night, I meet up with a bunch of other hikers at a bar. “Word on the street is you just finished the CDT,” a stranger tells me. “Congrats.”

“Thanks,” I reply, beaming. Inside I am twisted. I can tell that I miss the trail. But what do I really miss – the experience itself, or the fact that it was uncomplicated? Not easy, but simple. One foot in front of the other. Water. Food.

Later at an open mic, I read a poem I wrote about the CDT. “I think this is the first poem I’ve ever written that isn’t about a breakup,” I joke, “or sex.”

When I finish, Jody implores me to read another. “One of the breakup poems.” I guess those are more relatable.

Emptiness. Popeye’s words echo again and again in my head. When people ask me what’s next, I tell them the PCT. But in my heart, I wonder if there can ever be another trail besides this one.

I thought it would be strange to be back in the city, but it’s actually full of comfort. The bread at the bakery across the street tastes the same. Everything is in its correct place at the grocery store. I am, as always, an alien.

I feel like I can’t get clean enough. I stand in the shower until my fingers wrinkle. The feeling is starting to come back in my toes. There are scars on my shoulder, my knees. I hope they stick around forever.

Driving is scary, but I’m still boss at parallel parking.

I spend hours on the front porch, watching people walk by. Watching the trees shake their leaves at the changing season.

Holy crap, I forgot how attractive everyone is in Colorado. 

I love Denver. 

I miss Montana. 

I guess the real lesson here is, everything ends.


More than one year later, I feel these words as I re-read them. Everything ends: it’s true, we live in a temporal universe. But I could just as well have written, Everything changes. The spirit of the CDT has lingered and buoyed me through everyday life. I have more strength than I realized.

I started talking to a therapist recently. The other day she asked me, “What do you think the meaning of life is?”

“I don’t think life has a meaning,” I said slowly. Do people still believe in that?

She was unfazed. “How are you going to give your life meaning?”

I don’t know. I went home and did what I usually do, write.

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