When the Dust Settles

Apr. 17, 2023

Many times over the past four years of continuous trekking, I have paused mid stride to ask myself a nonconsequential question. For instance,  I wonder what the circumference of the moon is and how do you measure it. Compass in hand I would shoot a bearing towards the moon and try to problem solve how I would go about accomplishing this with only what I have on my back. During most of the time on The APT I didn’t have enough reception to ask “the google” and this taught me a very important lesson. Google is boring. My self imposed challenges and questions had become my main form of entertainment. They were games and google took all the fun out of it. Dare I say, siphoned the fun out of it like sucker punching an  unsuspecting opponent. Yes, you may get the desired result but you forfeit the journey. 

          On one such day a colloquialism came to mind, 

Let the dust settle. I wondered where such a phrase had originated. My first inclination was that it was possibly established in North America. My next thought was that these expressions are typically in response to a historical event or press release. Two events came to my mind. First, The Chicago Fire of 1871 which left 300 unfortunate souls to rest. Wait, but didn’t America already have a developed folklore and vernacular around this tragic incident. Do you remember Mrs. Leary”s Cow started the fire by knocking over a lantern? The popular song from 1896 that sings, “There’ll be a hot time in the old time tonight.” This explanation was not adding up for me so I moved on. 

         I was now certain that the phrase was most likely referring to the events of the 1930’s otherwise known as The Dustbowl. It was a series of dust storms that occurred for several years in a row. There were two leading factors .  One, that an ongoing drought had toasted the once agricultural land. Two, human’s failure to apply dry land farming techniques to prevent erosion. Hmmm,
        I know President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act in 1862. This provided 160 acres of land to anyone who was willing to farm it. Yet, this predates the 1930’s Dustbowl which messes up the timeline. However, this would coincide more with the American Civil War which began in 1861. So maybe the idiom suggests a more torrid reference to the explosion of shells on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Or maybe it is speaking to

The Rapture and the end of days. Or maybe it is referring to Spring cleaning and the appropriate time to clean those fire boxes. 

        What’s the point? Here is the point, if there is any. I don’t want to know the answer. Sure I could pull out the Google right now and begin sweeping through unsupported opinions and guesses. I already have plenty of these on my own as I have just demonstrated it. No, I am in it for the game not for the win. I secretly enjoy losing sometimes. It’s the best way I can explain my creation and backpacking of the American Perimeter Trail. I often didn’t have a route to follow. I could have designed one before I ever left Oregon in 2019 but I didn’t. I let the whole thing unfold in front of me as a series of guesses and unsupported opinions (my own). Is this the best way to approach backpacking? Absolutely Not! Would I do it again this way? Who cares? It has been a heck of a ride that still hasn’t ended. The conservation of The APT goes way beyond my finite life span. It’s a trip but it is no holiday. A trip without adventure and uncertainty is called a vacation. 

~Rue McKenrick 

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