Hiking to Process Grief

The reason for the name Taogoi stems from the last thing my grandmother said to me before she passed. She told me to “get over it” when I was trying to tell her about the sexual abuse I’d gone through, as a warm up to talking with the family I had recently cut ties with. She asked me to leave before I got the chance to tell her, and continued with the choice to choose my own family.


She died in September and I started the Pacific Crest Trail the following February. Processing the loss of the families glue; the matriarch. It was very difficult, I couldn’t concentrate and had so much anxiety about every single thing, all of the time. The idea was to walk out all these feelings and emotions that haunted my peace, causing me to be unable to function. I was supremely depressed and the only thing that seemed to make a difference was watching YouTube videos on backpacking the trail. With that in mind, I applied for a permit and got my shit together, literally.

I had gotten almost two whole months of hiking, finding my trail legs, and getting comfortable in the beautiful, simplistic rhythm of walking everywhere, all day long, before I got a text from my then husband, Nick. I had gotten service at this high point where a leather hiking shoe was on top of trail marker post.


“Call me ASAP”, it said. Very unusual language from him. I called him when I could; at a high point where there is a tall wooden post, it was sporting a hiking boot at the time. It got sent to voicemail.


Who died?”, I said when he finally called me back, a few minutes later. He was in the checkout stand, buying my resupply box jerky.


Your Aunt Tiah. She had a heart attack”, he replied. I had been kidding, but he was not. I briefly got angry with him for not answering when I called him and putting off this devastating news. I was upset, shocked, and I lashed out at him. I hung up the phone and I just remember having the instinct to run. So I ran 4 miles in an hour; crying, trying to wrap my head around this new loss. I had just been thinking about how I wanted to get to know her more. Her life hadn't been an easy one, and now she was gone. I decided to call my cousin (I’ve always liked her, so I have loosely kept in touch) and send my condolences.

It still took me three days to get to town, and those days were extremely stressful. I pushed myself really hard physically, something I’ve found is my preferred way to process anything; work myself through it. I would push myself so hard that I could make it all day long, I would run out of steam by about 6pm. Hiker Midnight is 9pm (we live by the sun). I ended skipping some miles and started hitching on the upcoming road.


To Big Bear I went, in search of a big meal, charging plugs, and reception. I ate my large chili burger and root beer float, letting everything charge a bit before continuing to walk into town in search of a place to stay. I talked to my cousin, who has lost both of her mothering figures within 6 months of each other. In my mind, Tiah had passed peacefully in her sleep from the cardiac event. I was informed otherwise. The youngest of my aunt's kids had been at the dinner table with her and witnessed the whole thing. Reality is much more cruel than the mind wants to accept.


My family had lost two beloved women, and while I went to my grandmothers funeral, I didn’t find it to be helpful in my grief. So I asked my cousin if it was alright if I kept hiking, knowing how much this journey was already to help my process of grief and trauma. Even though I wasn’t talking to my family, I didn’t want this type of pain to befall us. I suppose I needed her validation because I wanted her to know that I love her and didn’t know what else to do other than continue my journey.


So I thought about her a lot for the next two weeks nonstop, until I got all the way Aqua Dolce and Hiker Haven. I got another call that my grandfather (other side of the family) died.


Now this death hit me expectedly. I’d been waiting for him to pass for a few years with quickly declining health. My fathers side of the family was always on rocky terms. They hated my mom from the start and tried to stop them from getting married. The ties are purely blood since they moved to Kansas when I was 5, never sent any birthday cards, moved back to WA when I was 14. Never called or wrote to us for holidays; didn’t even come to my wedding, the first of my fathers kids to get married! But they’ll go to a meth heads wedding. So I was surprised to cry at all about his passing. He was the nice one on that side.


So anyways, Hiker Haven was having its last year running. COVID absolutely shut down a lot of trail places, along with the lack of considerate hikers coming through. The complaints of messes being left by hikers are numerous along the trail. Along with not being grateful for rides, but expecting that trail angels are their personal chauffeur for however long they’re around for. So hopefully, going forward, hikers are more self responsible and grateful for every opportunity that comes their way. Angels have given me places to stay and have had great advice, so I will be forever grateful.

I reached to out a new hiking group and began hiking with them. Making new friends (getting involved with someone new (poly) was definitely part of the grieving too) helped a lot. Life is too short to not make friends and cherish every moment you have with them. Death forces you to realize how much you have to miss out on, and I decided I was done missing out on adventures because inspiration can come with costs. And I am definitely willing to put in the work to pay that price.


Taogoi


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