He Has No Comfort Owing Him From Anywhere

As thru-hikers often do, I had hiked until it grew dark and set up camp wherever I happened to find myself; in this case not far from Highway 140. In the morning, two local hikers passed by as I was packing up.

"Wow, this is a nice spot," one of them said sarcastically. "You can almost not hear the highway ..."

...

A few hours later I departed from the PCT and took an alternate route through the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The green tree cover persisted and there were no wide-reaching views to be had, but the succession of quiet, peaceful lakes offered some variety to the landscape. I wanted to linger, but the mosquitoes persuaded me to press on. I climbed up and out of the lake basin and camped just shy of the return junction with the PCT, next to a stagnant pond with views out over low peaks and a parched valley beyond. The nights were becoming noticeably colder, especially there next to the water. In all honesty, I had begun to feel burnt out and lonely. I realized that when the nights had been uncomfortably hot I had been consumed with an underlying edge of frustration, irritation and perhaps even a touch of anger. The cold, however, seemed to have the opposite effect. As darkness came and I huddled there shivering, I felt a whole host of very different emotions: loneliness, sadness, fear and humility. I drifted off to sleep and in the night something large passed by my shelter, branches snapping with each of its steps.

The night was cold and aloof, and its warm life was withdrawn, so that it was full of bitter warnings to man that he is alone in the world, and alone among his fellows; that he has no comfort owing him from anywhere.

Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat


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