It Was a Trail of Innumerable Meanings

Climbing up from Six Horse Spring towards Windigo Pass I began to feel intensely dizzy - my vision blurred and became foggy and I wavered from side to side nearly losing my balance. I quickly recovered and then felt instantly ravenous. I devoured whatever snacks I had at hand, the same snacks I had been eating for weeks and months, yet they somehow tasted better than they ever had before. I felt a burst of energy course through my body and hiked on, discovering relics from the past - vintage, diamond-shaped PCT markers nailed to the trees. Some of the eighty-year-old enameled signs were rusted, others faded and some simply monochromatic, their paint long since worn away. Others were covered in sap and others still were barely visible, partially covered with bark and having been nearly swallowed by the tree itself. I imagined how long it would be before they disappeared completely into the trees. From there my mind darted to another thought - should there be some apocalyptic event that wiped mankind from the earth, yet left the natural world intact, how long would it take for the forest to reclaim the PCT? When would it vanish completely, with no trace? And conversely, how did the first wilderness trails come to be? In To a God Unknown, Steinbeck writes of the evolution and persistence of a trail, so long as living creatures are there to shape and follow it:

The horse had left the river's forest now to follow a smooth rounded track that might have been made by a python's body. It was an ancient game trail made by the hoofs and pads of lonely fearful animals that had followed the track as though they loved even the ghosts of company. It was a trail of innumerable meanings. Here it swung wide to avoid a large oak with one thick overhanging limb where long ago a lion had crouched and made its kill and left its scent to turn the trail aside: here the track went carefully around a smooth rock whereon a rattlesnake habitually sunned its cold blood. The horse kept to the center of the trail and heeded all its warnings.


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