The past two weeks have been terrible from a writing productivity standpoint. I’ve squandered the buffer I’d earned in the first weeks in November because of other distractions, road trips to Sequoia National Park to see the big trees and photograph them in the snow, dealing with moving away from Los Angeles and all the surrounding things that make it hard to concentrate, packing my car, seeing friends for the last time, eating at my favorite restaurants, and spending all my available time with my girlfriend before heading north. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but now that I’ve set up at my parents place for the holidays, I’m finding the words are flowing much easier, and I’m dangerously close to being back on track in the last days of the challenge.
I find comfort in the fact that I’ve done this challenge for three years now, and have never once been ahead of the pace going into my final weekend. In 2013, a nasty flu derailed me to such an extent that I spent the entire day of November 30th writing the climactic scene of my still unfinished first book while flying from Seattle to Los Angeles then cloistering myself in my bedroom until it was done.
In 2014, I had gotten so far behind, with work and training for the PCT, that I was 10,000 words behind the last day of the challenge, and took a day off from hiking in Zion to obsessively write and write and write some more until finally submitting my word count at 11:45pm. It was a race to the finish, and nothing had felt so satisfying as seeing the number 50003 on screen right before the turn of midnight.
So I sit now at around 43,500, still well short of both the goal and the end of the book, which will take me considerably longer (I’m anticipating 100,000 to 150,000 to complete it), but confident I can push forward to the end of the line with little difficulty.
As before, here’s a sample for those who are interested, a nice long one since I didn’t post last week…
Barrel Springs was an oasis, though not a very clean one. Reports from days previous had warned of rats and garbage in the eponymous spring, and we worried that there would be no drinkable water for anyone there. The large overhanging oaks and cottonwoods created a broad shady rest area for sunburnt hikers as the heat of the day rose, and the water tank, a murky, but decidedly rat-free cement cistern, provided blessedly cool, palatable water for everyone to drink their fill of.
A dozen hikers lounged beneath the trees, some eating lunch, others napping or airing out beat up and blistered feet. I saw Spectrum there, and Rick, the loudmouth who’d driven me from my juniper the day before. A hiker named Bat walked through, as Rick was boisterously calling me Film Star, because I’d told him I worked in the film industry, and he misheard it as Porn Star. I sat there dreading that it would catch on.
Now, as a general principle, I don’t mind being called Porn Star. Porn Star has many nice connotations. It implies I have a lot of sex with beautiful women, and that my penis is much larger than should be natural. It implies that I live a life of debauchery and excess, that I drive a cool red corvette and have dreams of making awesome music in my Bruce Lee inspired dojo.1 These are all good things. I get it.
Yet I bristled. The concept of a trail name was something I was very concerned about, and I had been desperately wanting a good one since before I even started on the trail. One of the first things I wondered when deciding to do the trail was what my trail name was going to be. It was beyond important that I get a good one, one that was representative of who I was, that was earned by what I did on the trail. I’d talked about it ad-nauseam with most everybody I’d hiked with, often citing Bill Walker’s story in his book “Skywalker” about a woman who shit in her sleeping bag and was named Shitbag for the rest of her short time on the trail. Porn Star not only seemed a cop-out, in that it wasn’t earned, or at all applicable to who I was, but that it seemed to easy, to infantile. It’s an important thing on the trail for everyone, like losing your virginity, and I wanted mine to be special, not given up to some loudmouth from suburban Seattle with a nasally voice and a face meant for punching.
1 Yes, yes, all my conceptions of porn stardom come from P.T. Anderson’s masterpiece film, Boogie Nights, and rightly so.
So there you go. Now I’m off to wrangle up some Thanksgiving pie for breakfast and decompress for a bit before getting to the next chapter. Hoping to get a bit of that buffer back and perhaps (gasp) finish ahead of schedule.