Begun? Began. Begun… I never really know about the ‘a’ versus ‘u’ in this situation. And I’ve googled it more times than I can count – the jury’s still out. Anywayyy…
It has begun.
The northbound bubble – the friends and comrades and acquaintances I began this journey with back in May, the ones who have continued onward, northbound, the people hiking the whole way from Mexico to [hopefully] Canada, like I had thought I would: we have started to bump into them on our way south. Technically, it started last week, with the first odd hiker here and there. For every hiker we pass, my mind rattles around, trying to place thinner, dirtier faces with the vague memories of bright, fresh faces I had known during brief encounters four months ago.
Fun fact: this landscape has great acoustics.
The shouts of surprise and glee when we do recognise each other travel far, echoing around us and bouncing back. The sound amplifies our laughter, and there have been a few side glances and smiles from other unknown hikers who witness our reunions, but aren’t a part of them.
I’m realising more and more how special the bond is between hikers out here. I may have only met some people once or twice in town, or stopped at the same creek to refill our water, or passed one another during breaks – but running into those same people months later, hundreds and hundreds and thousands of kilometers later, they feel like old friends.
Now, not that our hiking has ever really been fast, but I expect our pace will have to pick up a bit, to make up for all the breaks we seem to be having. We should probably start being more strategic with lunch times too.
If we roll the dice and gamble a little on lunch, waiting to have our breaks whenever we run into someone we know, it makes more sense logistically. We won’t be doubling up on all the time we spend not hiking, and won’t feel guilty for spending quality time with our old pals when we ‘should’ be getting in the miles.
Every time I see someone come round a corner, I wonder if I’ve met them before. And more and more often, these days, I have. So we stop, we talk, we swap war stories and scariest moments and biggest achievements and favourite memories. We excitedly recap where we first met, and give a quick rundown of things that have happened since then.
Even though we’ve been walking the same path, our experiences can be so different.
Yet so similar.
And while ‘special’ doesn’t seem like a strong enough word for what our souls share out here, that’s exactly what it is.