A Thanksgiving letter that had to be written:
Dear Anne ,
What's up, chica?! Long time, no see! Guessing it's been over 30 years, no? When we all dispersed after junior high and our first year of high school? (The Grand Santana Diaspora) I hope this note finds you well.
I know we're all busy on Thanksgiving Day - plus people don't seem to really read much anymore if it's longer than 140 words - so I'll try to be concise and to-the-point.
Back in the early '80's (1982? 1983?) we were all sitting cross-legged on the floor of the assembly room downstairs at Willard, listening as two young men regaled us with tales of high adventure and excitement from their recent trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. They were funny and entertaining and looked a little hippie to me, with a bit of lumberjack thrown in for good measure. Long hair, beards, tan, maybe a little too much denim? It's all a bit fuzzy now, as not only did the presentation take place over 30 years ago, but I'm sure I was sneaking peeks around the room at then-blossoming bosoms (Yes, talkin' about you, Jeannie !) and maybe not paying as much attention as I should have.
That may be why I can't remember both of their names. They were both your brothers - Eric and _______ Schwab. They planted seeds of inspiration in my mind and soul that finally found life over this past summer. I don't recall all the specifics of their journey - the amount of time it took, where they stopped, how they did their food resupply, etc. - but I remember thinking and FEELING, "Those guys are frickin' cool! They're out there livin' it. They got out of Santa Ana and followed their dream on this adventure." And that all stayed with me over the years. Along with a few other moments of inspiration sparked by others - a bartender at the Mellow (not Magic) Mushroom in Evans, GA who had hiked the Appalachian Trail, Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild" and a few others - their story stayed with me and when I finally found the time and money and courage to put my own PCT hike together, I went for it, for 4.5 months of 2017.
Which is why I'm writing to tell you, in the interest of full disclosure, that I'm going to kill those two brothers. I'm currently in the process of developing time travel technology that will allow me to go back into the past, BEFORE they ever started plotting their insanity, and I will eliminate them from our universe's current timeline forever.
Now, wait! Hold on! I know what you're thinking, so you don't have to say it! I'll go ahead and say, "You're welcome" right now. I'm sure, like any older brothers since time immemorial, they tormented and teased you to no end and my plan will put an end to all that. You'll never know it happened. Plus, and here's where we both know the big payoff is, they're gone, so guess who gets more of an inheritance from your parents? Boom! (Just remember to take me out to Fogo de Chao sometime and we'll call it even, girlfriend.)
I figure my plan will erase their hike, plus the ensuing assembly at Willard, and I will have been able to grow into my early adulthood without this nonsense lingering in my thought databanks. It will mean I don't have to spend months smelling like a horse every day. I won't have to spend 8-12 hours a day - sometimes exhausted to the point of tears - hauling a 45-60 lb. pack up and down mountain trails or through desert valleys. I can bypass the whole "filtering all my drinking water" thing. I'll be able to keep a few of my toenails intact. No squatting in the woods to empty my bowels. You get the point. But best of all? No flies, gnats, or.......mosquitoes. It'll ALL go away. Poof!
The only hiccups so far have been related to the process of time travel itself. I'll freely admit that I'm terrible at both math and science. It's been a challenge to say the least, especially with only rudimentary tools and materials to work with on the trail. Attached is a photo of one of my early prototypes, something I was working on in the Sierra Nevada range. That was my third attempt, I believe, just as I was ready to begin animal trials. Alas, all attempts at putting a marmot in that thing only resulted in severe claw scratches and bite marks all over my hands and forearms. (Don't believe the hype! Marmots are very anti-science. Not a very progressive species, if you ask me.) Anyway, I still don't know what is holding this all up, although my suspicions are that it has something to do with our antenna array. I'll figure it out.
In the meantime, could you do me a solid? While they ARE still around, next time you see them, could you give them a huge, tight bearhug, then look them deep in the eyes and say, "Thank you. Dave Ure wants me to tell you thank you and it's from him and the entire PCT Class of 2017." Could you do that for me? I'd appreciate it.
It's a heartfelt, SOULfelt thanks for inspiring me to get out there and knock out 1,550 miles of painful, but glorious, hiking. As you may have followed along with my posts, I jumped off trail just short of the Oregon border a few months ago due to the forest fires raging ahead of me in CA, OR, and WA. I made the decision eventually to stay off trail and call the hike a no-go, with 1,100 more miles to cover. It crushed my soul and I'm still in a funk about it, which is why I'm going to tackle the whole thing again starting in April 2018. Just move faster the next time around and hopefully will have less snow in the Sierras to deal with and fewer fire turds on the back/northern end.
I'd like you to thank them for being true pioneers. They hiked the PCT in the late '70's or early '80's which is just plain crazy to me. That's, like, right after the Lewis and Clark expeditions. (I may suck at math and science, but I got my history degree from Trump University, so you KNOW my dates are correct on this. Believe me!) There was hardly any trail back then, not to mention the gear and hiking clothes were different, there was no smartphone/GPS technology, and there was a much smaller external support community for the hikers. So yeah, mad, MAD respect. We would talk around campfires or during breaks in the hike about those early hikers and how nuts they had to be. How brave. Like any "first" people in any field, academic endeavor, athletic attempt, etc., those women and men who see something impossible or as yet undone and say, "Oh, yeah? Hold my drink...." are heroes to us. A solemn tip o' the hat to your brothers, Anne. casual items for the mother of the bride to wear in the summer
Now don't get me wrong....I'm still going to have to take them out. Preferably before this next round of madness begins in April.
But yeah, in the meantime.....in the meantime.....give them that hug and pass along my/our gratitude. I don't know how many of those kids they presented that slideshow to ever ended up setting foot on the PCT. I wonder about it now and then - how many others were able to see the things that I saw, encounter the beauty I encountered, meet people like the ones I met, find the peace that I found, and learn as much about themselves and life as I did. I don't know. But I'm sure countless kids at least walked away inspired in some way and ended up going after their own dreams, whether they had anything to do with hiking or not.
Pass it along, Anne. Please. I honestly tried to make them a video a few times while going through the Sierra Nevada snow mess and would get too choked-up while filming.
The experience was one of the most beautiful in my life so far, as painful and exhausting and odorous and demanding as it was. And they had a part to play in it. I'll be forever grateful. Can't wait to finish the whole trek and move on to the next adventure. :)
Just one of many things I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving Day and wanted to write you, Anne. Life is amazing, is it not?
Hope to see you and the other vatos/vatas, F-Troopers, and cholos/cholas soon. Been way too long.