Cycle day 1- Cycle day 6
Miles this week: 95
Total ECT miles: 95 of 4400ish
This has been a memorable first start to a thru-hike. A week of so much newness as goes with the territory of a long distance thru hike, yet so many resurfacing old friends, like last mile of the day hot spots that develop way faster than feels fair or right, or heavenly bird songs that I haven’t heard since Washington on the Pct 6 years ago, to oh my god is this pain growth pain or trail ending pain. On the third round of a long hike, I often found myself this week with a content smile on my face while watching my brain inevitably freak out about the things it’s just going to freak out about beginning a hike. I know enough to know not to completely buy into these freak outs. One thing I know for certain is that having a menstrual cycle awareness practice, something I knew nothing about on the last two big hikes, has been a mega help with the start of this hike. I don’t quite understand how some have the capacity to write long poetic entries from each individual day of hiking (I’m looking at you hikefordays.com), I can barely finish my dinner and scribble in my personal journal before dozing off, but I do know that my focus has shifted slightly on this hike in an awesome way. And I know that I’m passionate enough about this shift to share my coveted town bath-time with my phone to write about it.
Starting a thru hike can be tough. It likely will be, at varying degrees, from physical to mental to emotional. It’s just a different world out on a big hike and the transition from house life to dirt life is understandably wobbly. Starting a thru hike while menstruating can be laughably tough. Add some rain, a few days worth, add a summit day, the most mosquitoes I’ve seen in my life, and some overzealous itinerary mileage goals because flat miles are easy miles at the beginning of a thru hike so lets do lot of them right, and that laugh can turn menacing real quick. And yet, I just feel… held? Is that the word? I dunno. I feel mentally more resilient to the start of this hike despite being at my physically weakest of my cycle. I’m armed with so damn much knowledge of my menstrual cycle from spending time with some incredible women the past few years and dare I say it, I feel cautiously invincible. Did I just use invincible on day 5 of a thru hike? Haha call me out on that in a few months when I’m in The Whites of New Hampshire crawling through the miles. But truly, the practice of menstrual cycle awareness (mca) has me excited to go about this hike with a curiosity about my inner world that I haven’t carried with me before on other long hikes. An anchoring practice that will keep me tuned in vs disassociated with my body. Tuned in to each sting or step or thought filled with pain. Woahkay. Let’s do this.
I’ll likely write more in depth on this later, but some quick bearings, the menstrual cycle can be broken down into four phases or *Inner Seasons:
Pre Ovulation/Inner Spring
Pre Menstruation/Inner Autumn
My goal this first section of the hike, the 724 miles through Canada, is to share how I experience each of these seasons on trail.
This Inner Winter, remember the peace from knowing:
-That your partner, Owen, knows exactly where you are hormonally right now and has a general idea of what to expect as far as your strengths and weaknesses in this inner season.
-That you know you are as low as you go hormonally each month, and all that that entails physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
-That your top two priorities of thru hiking are to walk super far each day and take the most excellent care of your body with the rest of that time, and one of those goals works out wonderfully for your inner winter week needs.
-That your physical state this week does not make you an inept hiker compared to your male partner, you’re simply a cyclical person.
-The practice of mca significantly increases your body awareness which is a huge help when starting a thru hike.
-Often in house life, life stuff keeps you from dosing on enough nature during your period. Not on a thru hike. More nature than you might even want. Are mosquitos technically nature?
What Inner Winter looked like on trail for me this week:
-Solo mornings. 5 miles of alone time each morning to move at your body’s natural pace, to allow your mind to wander quietly, to listen to the earth.
-To take tea, coffee, reading morning breaks because stillness is medicine in Inner Winter.
-Accepting an increase in mindful acts of service from Owen, because he knows the chores I despise and knows that this is not my most giving phase.
-So much self kindness. Just buckets upon buckets filled with kindness. Towards pace, daily mileage, accepting help when it was offered, or any shoulds that arose.
-Pace setting. This was a given considering I’m hopping onto a path with a partner who has 2200 strong miles on his legs this season already, but especially in Inner Winter so I accept authority over setting our pace when we’re hiking together throughout the day.
-Trail dreams up the wazoo. Communing with more worlds than just this earthly one.
-Allowing my bleed a voice at the table when deciding whether to take a nero day (nearly zero) day in town today. Town stop considerations: slight ankle twist, blister healing, weather, menstrual cycle.
-Finding a motel room with a bathtub at the end of this first week because you have a rest debt and a bath is one of your favorite ways to pay that debt. Yes!
These things all seem so simple, yet they feel profound to me when embodied. Its the difference of my period arriving, sighing in frustration, and trying to fit it into a tiny box of shoulds, as oppose to allowing it the space it needs. Menstruation is going to take up the space of a quarter of my thru hike. It is part of life for half of the population, and to be rushing, pushing, should-ing through a quarter of our menstruating years sounds as frustrating as wearing a pair of shoes three sizes too small far too often. I’m done with that. I’m SO glad my shoes fit properly this week, literally and figuratively. Hobbling into town today finishing up the first week of trail and the last day of my period with a grimy dirt filled face, bushwhacking cut up shins, and stubs for feet, I can truly say I enjoyed this week. Not because my period didn’t get in the way of my hike, but because I let it lead my hike. Starting a thru hike on a period isn’t too bad after all. It’s pretty freaking sweet.
Much Love xx
*To give credit where credit is rightfully due: I learned about the Inner Seasons framework from my lovely teacher of menstrual cycle awareness, Claire Baker, and she learned about these seasons from Sjanie and Alexandra, founders of a neat thing called Red School.
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