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Mountain Film Festivals Inspire, Frustrate

February 26, 2015

We’re just home from Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater after watching night two of the 2014/2015 Banff Film Festival; we try to catch it every year. For the past three years we’ve missed it in Santa Barbara because it’s on a school night but we’ve seen it in Bishop while skiing in Mammoth. In 2010, my husband missed it entirely as he was recovering from breaking his neck in a bicycle accident.

The 7 minute trailer above gives you a taste of what the films offer –films which leave me hungering not for more films but to get out and make my own adventures.

One of these films featured a young man who broke his back snowboarding in 2007. Now he kayaks, thanks to friends who carry him to the river so he can get into his boat.

This one, as you can imagine, struck a little close to home. In 2010 my husband came so close to dying or to being a paraplegic or, more likely, a quadriplegic. yet, today, he has complete and unimpeded mobility. He can go snowboarding where this other young man can not.

Watching these films tonight made me question my days, my finances, my choices.

You see, for years I have wanted to rehike the Pacific Crest Trail. In case you haven’t heard or read this, I was one of the first 20 women to complete the whole thing which I did back in 1987 when we finished Oregon and Washington after doing California in 1985. In 1988, I finished a 300 page novel about the hike for my senior thesis at UC Santa Cruz.

I always wanted to also do the Continental Divide Trail and rehike the PCT, but I never had anyone to do it with and I know that hiking it by myself isn’t that interesting to me; I thrive on sharing the experience of being on the trail. I enjoy my own company and I love being on the road by myself but I have found that sublime experiences are much more pleasurable for me when shared. And when the going gets rough, it is so much better to have someone to share the misery with as well.

These days, however, I would be lucky to have any time on the trail by myself it seems. There are literally thousands of people who set off each year to hike the trail and hundreds of them actually finish. The book and the film Wild have also inspired far too many people to hit the trail.

A few years ago I went back to grad school with the express purpose of rehiking the PCT to see how it –and I–had changed in 30 years. And I wanted to take my son with me. And I wanted to do the whole thing in one season not two like I did before.

But I dropped out of my PhD program after my MA. It wasn’t meeting my needs and it was a HUGE sacrifice. Okay, it was FLAT OUT  HUGE EXPENSIVE disappointment.

And how could I justify doing the trail if for no economic, no intellectual, no purpose?

After all, I have a son, a husband, a mortgage, a job, commitments to keep. I’m supposedly a grown-up. And my husband was no longer supportive of it and my son was not that enthused (although he liked the getting out of school part). And my savings and checking account are pathetic.

But the PCT start date lived on in my calendar.

Then about a week ago I learned I would not have a summer school teaching assignment.

What should I do with those 12 weeks off? Should I attempt to hike–see how far I could get? Should I travel? After last summer’s disastrous and terrifying trip to Nicaragua with my son, I wasn’t willing to take risks in a country where I am not fluent and have no trusted friends. Should I spend time back east in New York before the Wine Bloggers Conference in mid-August? Should I swing by Puerto Rico and visit a friend with a beach house on the way?

Right now I will tell you that I am seriously considering hiking for a week over spring break heading north from the border, then, because I teach Mondays and Wednesdays, trying to hike north each weekend I can get rides. The southland is crisscrossed by roads so getting dropped off and picked up shouldn’t be impossible–it’s more of the challenges of the traffic than the actual drive.  I could get my grades in on Friday May 15 and hit the trail again on Saturday May 16 and be in Ashland by the time school starts again in the fall.

In the meantime, in two weeks the Wild and Scenic Film Festival hits town (March 13 and 14 at the Poinsettia Pavilion Ventura), and I am sure it will renew and inspire my desires–and my frustrations. And maybe yours. Check it out.

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