Pandemic Predicament

Dec. 28, 2022

By Rue McKenrick

The trail grows thin. It’s more narrow than I remember it in the past. The listless whispering deserts have given way to the choking weeds of the land east. Where I once saw for days I now only see for minutes. I even sweat most days without the chill of the West Texas drift under my collar. But it all cuts in the end. The wind, the kudzu, the bayou, the thistle. It all cuts just to yell one thing in your ear, “Wake up you sleepyhead. You have been sleep walking for months.” Have I? The trail narrows.

I walk into a seemingly deserted town. I know something is amiss. There should be thousands of People in the streets celebrating the annual festival. There is no one here. I must be mistaken. I must be in the wrong place. I am walking up to an unassuming restaurant when I see the piece of white copy paper taped to the door. Finding the restaurant closed, I walk up to the next restaurant and again see the white piece of copy paper taped to the door. In fact every business has a sheet of paper attached to its entrance. There are no cars. I don’t even hear a bird. The pieces of paper all begin the same way. Due to CoronaVirus……………… 

I am assuming the best and preparing myself mentally for the worst. I rummage through my pack to find my phone. I press the power button and wait for it to power up as I walk over to a Fort above The Mississippi. The Fort is closed too. It’s midday. My front country support answers the phone. She is telling me that everything in the whole country is closed down. I say, “I assumed it was just here.” My phone is vibrating as more notifications announce their presence. She is saying, “You should call home.” But what is home? I have no home. I left there 8 months ago. It’s thousands of miles away. I can’t even picture it in my mind anymore. It’s gone. I am asking here if I need to go to Oregon. She doesn’t even know if it is still possible to get on a flight from Mississippi to Oregon and besides wouldn’t I be at risk of contracting and spreading the virus? Now what?

I called a backpacking Friend in Canada to ask for advice. She says, “Drones Rue….it’s the only way you can continue us with drones dropping your resupply.” The notifications are coming in on my phone. I don’t have any ****** drones I say to myself. I get a message telling me that many trail organizations are asking distance hikers to stay away. I wonder if I just need to wear a hazmat suit and continue on. I am checking my voice-mail. A Sponsor tells me in a message that I am not to have any affiliation with them until this blows over in three weeks. Another Sponsor blurts out, “The backpackers are eating their young, the backpackers are eating their young.”

I listen to another message from a Sponsor saying their company is suspending all operations. Yet another message saying they are breaking our contract. “Drones huh,” I think to myself? It’s the news no distance backpacker wants to get in the middle of a thru-hike. Hello Mr. McKenrick the world has been besieged by a global pandemic, happy trails. 

Of course I am being facetious. I never imagined such a thing would happen while I pursued The American Perimeter Trail. Believe me, I have thought of many worst case scenarios but somehow this one escaped my trouble shooting brainstorming. 

I am sitting on the bank of The Mississippi to take stock. My mind is wandering and gushing as the water. So it’s over, it’s really over. But now what? Where do I go? Can I stay in the Southeast until this passes? Do I know anyone here? My head is hurting already. Do I go east or north? I am not going to have any contributors to build this trail. The American Perimeter Trail just died. I don’t know if I will be able to recover. The Appalachian Trail is closed. Wait, the Appalachian Trail is closed. I wonder what The Pinhoti Trail Alliance is reporting. I hiked that years before and never saw another hiker the whole time. Wait, I haven’t seen a hiker since California and that was thousands of miles back. I am already isolated and I don’t need to go up The Appalachian Trail anyways. 

I am trying to get my story straight. “So you mean to tell Me, I say aloud, that I haven’t been around people for thousands of miles and I have been eating exclusively out of dropped resupply boxes already.” Now I realize I am halfway to total isolation already. I just need to figure out the other 50%.

I am attempting to pull it together. I am gathering all the information I can as quickly as possible. I read the reports, and I call the local municipalities and trail organizations. Florida is out.

~ To be continued in the next edition of The Thread

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