Hi readers. Are you there? Are you still subscribed? Are you missing my PCT posts? I am too. Every single day. I’m meant to be grading papers right now, but that’s clearly not what I’m doing. I’m drinking an IPA and listening to a Big Thief record and thinking about the trail.
It’s February in Cincinnati. When I was a kid that meant winter and ice storms and endless cold days, but climate change is a thing now, I guess, and it’s been pretty warm recently. I ran in shorts and a t-shirt on Wednesday night, with my run club in downtown Cincy, streaming through the city and its buildings and traffic lights and walk signals, alive, breathing, sweating in my city. It’s supposed to get cold again this weekend, though—President’s Day, a three day weekend, bless—so my long run tomorrow is going to be rough. It’s okay, though. I hiked 2,650 miles. I can tolerate a lot.
I’m training for a big race in May: Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon. It has been on my bucket list since I was young. I guess not every year can be a thru-hike. Sometimes you have to have a stand-in. So 26.2 in 2023 it is. The training has been going fairly well so far, although my Saturday long runs are getting to the point that I really can’t be alone anymore. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with some runners from my club and going out for 12 along the Little Miami Trail. I feel really lucky to have found friends through distance activities. I stumbled upon this run club largely by accident about a year ago now, and through it, I’ve formed some beautiful friendships. The community is warm and lovely and motivating, like an endorphin-filled hug—not unlike the hiking community.
Back in October I started substitute teaching at the high school I went to, a tiny K-12 Catholic school situated on acres of rolling green land on the edge of the Ohio River. A few weeks into doing this, the AP English teacher resigned, and the principal asked me to take over the position. It was perfect timing: in early November, I was settled in enough to feel ready for a committed job for the rest of the school year.
It was difficult and labor-intensive at first, but I quickly came to love it. The classes are small, the students are sweet and hilarious and so motivated, and I have an incredible amount of freedom over the curriculum. I get to talk about books and words and writing with students who care. I get to come to work every morning and discuss the role of contrast in Interpreter of Maladies and Huxley’s idea of beauty in Brave New World and how the Transcendentalists defined American literature. I just ordered copies of In Cold Blood and Crying in H Mart for my AP Language students and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. How did I get so lucky to discover things I love both in and out of the mountains? How am I allowed to love what I do every day so much—when I’m hiking, and when I’m not?
I committed to another full school year today. It wasn’t my plan post-trail to stay here past this year, but I love it more than I thought I would. The plan I thought of while I was still on the PCT was that I’d be here for one school year, then go abroad to teach. But I haven’t found any motivation within myself to apply to teach abroad programs. I started one back in the fall, but I abandoned it. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t feel myself wanting to move somewhere and teach grammar or sentence structure or how to speak in English. I was already doing what I wanted to do: talking about books, ideas, words, helping students develop their communication skills, being in a place where my skills are valued and my experience is harnessed. It’s okay to be here for a while. It’s better than okay. I legitimately love going to work every morning. I miss the trail, but I’m not dying to be on one again yet. I’m happy where I am. And that is an amazing feeling.
This time last year I was preparing for my thru-hike. As each day passes and we get closer to April, I can’t help but think about where I was—who I was—this time a year ago. I hadn’t met any of the people I met on the trail. I didn’t know about the fires. I didn’t know how much I’d love the desert, or how my heart would break and mend a thousand times looking at the sunset in California. I didn’t know who I would meet, how the Czechs would share their slivovice with us that first night in Hauser Canyon, how much Andy would drive me nuts. (In a good way, Andy. In a good way.) I didn’t know how the snow would be in the Sierras (by the way, a huge snowpack predicted this year??). I didn’t know what manzanita bark looked like up close, how many yucca blooms would unfold into the sky, how frogs could sound so peaceful in a creek at night. I didn’t know Jumbo and Tribute. Didn’t know how much of my life I would spend with them and how much they would become part of me. Didn’t know how painful it would be to say goodbye, knowing that our lives would splinter the moment I finally let go of James in the Seattle airport.
We still talk every once in a while, the Turbo Twats. A couple weekends ago Andy, Jumbo, Tribute, and I had a nice long chat. And!! I saw Jumbo in Germany in December, along with Toothpaste and 8 Bucks! (Remember them from NorCal?) I can’t explain how weird it was to see Jumbo in normal clothes, without the dyed blond hair, and with no beard. He brought me Revels and a Cadbury Fruit and Nut from the UK, and I brought him peanut butter M&Ms from the States. He has a new job, is constantly going to live music gigs like he loves, and seems to be readjusting pretty well. I’m happy for him.
Still, I get itchy feet. I’m going to Mexico for spring break, and the moment I booked that flight, I started getting antsy. I can’t wait to leave the country again, go somewhere warm, use my second language. I got tickets to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in June. (!!!) I’m going to spend a good chunk of July in the UK, methinks, hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland, eating my weight in fish and chips and Revels, and maybe, I guess, seeing Jumbo. I just applied to go hiking in the Brooks Range with Carrot Quinn in Alaska in August (excuse me? is this real life?). And either next year or the year after that, if all goes according to plan, I’m either going to hike the CDT or Te Araroa or both.
So yeah. Don’t think I’ve stopped. My day job may take up most of my attention at the moment. But deep down, baby? I’m built to move.
Hey, remember that PCT zine I promised? Absolute Creatures? I didn’t forget. It’s written. It’s formatted. It’s so nearly ready for you. As I write, I’m waiting for the finishing touches on the art from my dear friend Patches. Once I have that, I’ll print a proof. And when everything is ready to go, it will be available to purchase right here on the site. I think you’re going to love it. It’s months in the making. I cried so many times writing it that I lost count. I can still smell the leaves on the dirt road that day at the Canadian border, and I can still see the slant of sun on the southern terminus the morning I started. That trail, every step of it, every grain of its dirt, lives within me.
It’s almost thru-hiking season again. Can you believe it? Can you believe how quickly and how easily March rolls around every year? How dare it. I’d say I wish it were this time last year—and part of me does, if I’m being honest—but that’s not how this works. We get the time we get. Seasons come, seasons go. It’s another class of thru hikers’ turn to see the desert now, the Sierras, blazing NorCal, green Oregon, endless Washington. It’s their turn to fall in love and get their hearts broken and mend again. Wiggs is hiking this year, and I can’t wait to see how much he loves it. I love it for him. I have so much love in my heart. What am I supposed to do with it all? Hike, I guess. See the mountains. Love trail people. Write it down.
I’m still here. I’m still Passport, friend. I always will be. I’m Sarahmarie right now, but I can slide back into Passport in a snap. Snap. Front country, backpacker. People are multiple and amazing.
Well, I’ve flipped Capacity by Big Thief to side B now, and my second beer is almost gone. I’d better get to sleep so I can rest for that long run tomorrow. I hope this post finds you well, dear reader. I hope you are living life so well. Or maybe it won’t find you at all. Maybe you’re in the mountains. Maybe you’re on a trail. Maybe you’re dreaming. Good for you. I’m proud of you.
PS: Please enjoy this small gallery of cute things I have made since the PCT followed by some other assorted photos:
10 thoughts on “Are You There, Internet? It’s Me, Passport”
Sarah!!! What an incredible way to wake up this morning; to a little “W” notification from your blog! Gosh, what to say first? I’m so glad that your life is patterning out in such a lovely way. The teaching role, new and old friends, visits near and far, your marathon goal, and even your crocheting! There’s a small sense of itching curiosity I have about each of the hikers I met last year; how did each of them transition back? Were the post-trail bumps like potholes? Eastern OR forest service roads? Worse? Better? So its very nice to hear how its gone for you. Ties another piece of narrative knot, I guess.
Things are well with me as well. Our roadtrip in my van was certainly the highlight of my summer. There’s still one corner of dust from those roads that I haven’t cleaned, just for good-memories sake. I laugh each time I flip through my journal to see the “trail register” where everyone tried so hard to write neatly, despite the crazy washboard roads we were driving on.
The PCT is still my biggest personal goal or plan. I’m aiming at being part of the class of 2031. My youngest will likely have graduated highschool in 2030, which makes the following spring an ideal moment for me. In the mean time, I have been introduced to the Chinook Trail Association, which is in my own back yard! I’m going to start doing weekend sections of it this spring, I hope, and will see about getting connected as a volunteer perhaps. It would certainly be rewarding to both hike and support a trail!
Finally, to keep my hands busy, and arms, and core, and, well, my wanderlust, I decided I’d start section-paddling the Columbia and Willamette rivers. But for that, one needs a boat. So naturally, I decided to scratch-build a kayak! You can see pics on my blog if you like; its really coming along! (haileybuckingham.com)
Anyway, thats a bit of where I’m at. Lots to plan and dream for, and hopefully some more PCT trail angeling.. angelery?… angelicicim? this summer to keep the embers of that wanderlusty fire glowing.
Thanks so much for posting! Its amazingly lovely to hear from you! -H-
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It’s so good to hear from you too, Hailey! (And if I’m being honest, I hoped I’d see a comment from you hehe). Our little road trip was such a highlight of my hike too! I still can’t believe that it worked out, and that you drove all that way for us. You are truly a trail angel. Also, your kayak looks amazing! Paddling has always seemed interesting to me. I think that’s in my future at some point… although I can say with relative certainty that I will not be building my own kayak, lol.
I’m going to try to write more here in the next few months. I think it just took it out of me emotionally for a while to write after the PCT, and I didn’t have any ideas for what to blog about until last night. (Some records and a couple of drinks will do that to you, it seems.) As exhausting as it was, I really miss the daily ritual of writing a post on my phone at night at camp. I need to get back into a new routine. I like your idea to blog about your hobbies. Maybe I’ll do more of that.
Anyway, thanks for checking in again! So glad to hear you’re doing well. And that you’re still planning your PCT hike! Do it. You’ll love it. It’s a magical trail.
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A cool cloudy day on the Columbia River. It was a lovely surprise to see your article this morning. Good coffee, a delightful read, great way to start the day.
The travels ahead sound awesome, nothing like traveling to stimulate the mind and soul.
Until your next post.
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Hi Sarahmarie Had to laugh at this, “ I didn’t know who I would meet, how the Czechs would share their slivovice with us that first night in Hauser Canyon, how much Andy would drive me nuts. (In a good way, Andy. In a good way.) ” David and I are just coming to the end of 2 weeks in S island NZ travelling with Andy and I think the feeling is mutual! We are out in NZ for 4 weeks. We went to Hawkes Bay the first weekend (without Andy) which was just one week before Storm Gabrielle wreaked havoc! Took the ferry to S island on 7th Feb. By being in the south we missed all of the dreadful weather. Back to Wellington for the last week before we return to UK. Andy says that you are considering doing the CDT and/or Te Ararao? Best of luck, I’ll keep a look out for that! Joking apart, it’s been good to spend time with Andy not having seen him for 4 years. Hope all is good with you. Best wishes Angela Hickman xx
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Hi Angela! It’s great to hear from you! I’m glad you’re having a nice time with Andy. I can’t believe you haven’t seen him for that long! And yes, I’m hoping to do either the CDT, Te Araroa, or both next year! (Or the TA next fall and the CDT the following spring, depending on how things go between now and then.) I really like the idea of getting my Triple Crown, but New Zealand and the TA have been on my list for so long, and I think I’d like to make that happen. Enjoy your travels and give Andy a big hug for me. 🙂
What a pleasant surprise to have this pop up in my feed. I loved your writing all last year and I look forward to hear of more adventures. And those crochet creatures are adorable.
Thanks so much! 🙂
Yes, I am still here Passport. Though, you never heard from me prior to this time.
Thank you for sharing your rich experience with me. I thoroughly enjoy reading your story,
I don’t have a trail name, but I am known as Mr. Triple by my senior softball friends.
Keep at this girl, keep doing what you do. I am a fan. you are making a difference in this world.
p.s i think another good trail name for you would have been Treasure.
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It‘s really good to read that you love your work. And It’s also good (or even better as we liked your posts and pictures) that your trail live will continue.
It‘s been a big surprise a few months ago to see you and James on the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Frankfurt, only half an hour drive from our home on Instagram. Sorry, that we haven‘t known and couldn‘t at least buy you some Glühwein (or Handkäs mit Musik)
We would very much like to read about your thoughts on the TA. We are currently hiking it on the South Island only (NOBO) as we couldn’t start before mid january and have a 3 month visa only. It‘s completely different to any we‘ve seen in Canada, USA or Europe (but we are not „experienced“ long distance hiker as our longest hike has been 500 km / 4 weeks). A lot of times It’s difficult (especially for NOBOs) to find the trail and It’s in „poor“ condition, your feet are more often wet than dry. We (in our 50s) changed to section hiking to deal with it :-).
But the landscape is amazing, the southern night sky and stars are more then pretty, the hut system is a big advantage in bad weather and you will love the fellow hikers.
People, who did the PCT, AT and/or the CDT told us that every trail is (of course) special but the TA is „more then special“ :-).
So we are looking forward to read about your thoughts on the TA in the coming year(s).
All the best
Klaus and Sonja
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Hi Klaus and Sonja! Thanks for tuning in! It sounds like the TA has been a little challenging so far. I’ve heard that it’s a little steeper than the PCT, and actually I’ve had a few people try to tell me not to do it because I guess it’s not the best hiking in NZ. I still need to do a little research, but I think it would be so cool to hike for that long in another country, especially one as beautiful as New Zealand. Enjoy your trip!!