Fellow Hiker, I Am Currently Unable To Accurately Tell You How Much Farther It Is

semi-rad drawing showing how much further it is to the top

Dear fellow trail user,

In response to your question, “How much farther is it?” which you asked as I was walking towards the trailhead and you were walking away from the trailhead, I gotta be honest: I’m not 100 percent sure.

I didn’t start counting my steps when we turned around and started hiking back toward the car, and I didn’t look at my watch either, so I’m not sure exactly how far it’s been or how many minutes we’d been walking downhill when we ran into you. Also, you’re hiking uphill and we’re going downhill, and although it might seem safe to assume I go faster downhill than you go uphill, I’m not sure I should make that assumption. And even if I did, me going downhill for a certain amount of time and using that very approximate speed and amount of time to estimate the distance you have remaining would be … inexact at best. Could be a mile, could be a half mile, I’m not that comfortable getting your hopes up with an answer that might be unintentionally optimistic.

Look, I understand the desire for information. Seems like the trail is one of the few places left where you can’t ask Siri how far it is to the next thing. Although there are apps that can help. I just don’t have them on my phone right now. Perhaps that information would help ease some anxiety, small or large, that you have about how much farther it is? Maybe you left a casserole in the oven at home, assuming you would just be out for a couple hours? Or maybe you don’t want to miss the start of the game? Maybe you are worried that this hike will take so long that you will die of old age before you finish, and you’ll never see your spouse/kids/dog again, or that if you die out here you’ll never get a chance to take a pottery class, fix that leaky faucet, or finish season 3 of Stranger Things? Well, I don’t know if I can answer those questions either.

When you asked, did you mean how much distance or how much time remaining to the [summit/lake/waterfall]? Not that it matters, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re much closer than you were this morning. Or yesterday, when you hadn’t even started hiking yet. I mean, if you want to get really deep, relative to the day you were born, years away from this day on this trail, you are extremely close right now. Especially if you were born somewhere far from here, like on the opposite side of the planet.

Wait, what are we talking about here? When you asked how much farther it was, were you referring to the [summit/lake/waterfall] at the end of this hike, or did you mean something else, like enlightenment, or true happiness, or some sort of afterlife? Because I definitely can’t answer that. I mean, if you need directions to Valhalla or someplace like that, I really think you’re better off asking someone else.

You know what, though, whatever it was you meant when you asked, “How much farther is it?”—let’s just say … you’re almost there.

—Brendan

More stories like this one are in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.

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