Day 10: Radio Silent

Michael is at an altitude of 4962.46. That doesn’t mean much to me, but everyone else in the car kind of oohed and wowed when we discovered his Shapchat photos. All I could think of was “HE’S SLEEPING ON TYVEK PAPER!”

Last I’d heard from him was Friday morning. He was in a small town called Mount Laguna, sitting at a golf course, very excited about his pending pizza order. He is still with his hiking companions, he’d picked up Box 2 and was ridiculously happy. As we finished the call, he mentioned in passing that he may have to get off the trail, perhaps “hitch” around a forest fire on his way to Idyllwild…

Then, all went radio silent.

Being a woman who grew up in Europe, and who myself wore a backpack for six weeks to ride trails through Spain, Italy, Austria, France and Belgium at the age of 16, I know a thing or two about hitchhiking. Yes, I know it’s a culture. Yes, I know this is California, not Post-Franco Barcelona. I realize there’s very little chance of a smelly, almost-21-year old 6ft PCT hiker being kidnapped and sold into servitude, which is what all ex-Pat 16-year-old-girls living in Brussels Belgium claimed to fear in 1976. (It was actually the excuse we used to start smoking cigarettes: we could use them to ward off men who came to steal us. Or so we told our parents.) Still, radio silent and “might have to hitch” don’t go well together. My only comfort (other than pipeline to God) is that he’s got a posse.

While I know almost nothing about forest fire, I’ve read enough to realize its a very real threat to hikers on the PTC. I spoke with Michael before he left, after having read one of those “10 Things You Probably Don’t Know But Should Before You Hike The PCT Trail” blogs, and told him “you know, if you’re near a forest fire, DON’T RUN UPHILL.”  Seems improbable that your first instinct would be to run uphill, but hey, you are in the mountains. Uphill is just about everywhere. Michael looked at me somewhat perplexed and said “OK” and I thought, ah ha! You see? It’s a good thing I spend all day and all night reading these articles and posts filled with life saving information, scaring myself to death in order to assure your safety! (It’s hard to stop feeling in control of things in your child’s life, even when you’re smacked upside the head with the harsh reality.)

Both forest fire and hitchhiking, however, seem wildly inconsistent with the photograph he posted last night. So while I was hugely relieved to get communication, I was aghast at the vision of sleeping on ice and befuddled as to what had happened since noon on Friday. How was I going to be able to reconstruct the last two days, and how on earth did he go from this:

  to this    using only his feet?

I’ve been spoiled with his texts and calls and Snapchat posts, lulled into a false sense of “oh, this is just like he’s away at college!” kind of comfort. It was a good way to start, certainly. But in the last 48 hours, I’ve realized this is the honeymoon phase, Maxine. The deeper he gets into the terrain, and out of Southern California, the less likely there is to be cell service. The longer he’s away from home, the more likely he is to forget to call Mom. It’s OK. I can handle this. I’ve got my posse too.

But I can’t help but wonder, without a cell phone and Snapchat photos, how on earth did my mother handle this? Are we made of less metal than our mothers were? Do we have less faith, or less confidence in our kids, than they did? Or did they know something that we don’t know, that it’s actually true that our job was is to raise children to go out into the world and handle things themselves, sending a post card every now and then to say “All is well, having a great time!”?

Every time I’ve talked to Michael since the day he arrived in San Diego, he’s said “this is so much fun.”  So all is well, he’s having a great time. Time for me to take a page from my mother’s book, and be satisfied. Job well done, Maxine. Job well done, Mum.

Helen Patricia Timmins Frampton

PS. Just got a text from Michael, as I’m writing this: I’m OK. We’ve been in a snow storm and haven’t had service for more than 5 minutes.  Job well done, Mike (oh God, why didn’t he take a bigger coat?)

  1. Mary Hoffmann

    May 8, 2017 at 10:18 am

    You will survive this mom! You have to trust all that you gave him all his life growing up he is using and will do well! You were a great mom. He is a great son, he is having the time of his life! Enjoy!

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Mary, thank you so very much. Meeting you and talking about your son’s AT hike was a huge help. Thank you for following Michael, and me, on this journey! Trust is the thing, right?

  2. Sharon Hoitsma

    May 8, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Beautifully written. Incredibly insightful. Can I relate to the fact that our parents must have endured many sleepless nights as we trekked across Europe with nothing to fear!

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Sharon, thank you so much. How crazy it was, what we were all allowed to do in Brussels, at such a young age! I wonder if our parents sat up at night, though? It’s very possible that, to them, it was just the normal course. That’s the grounding I’m striving for these days!

  3. Jo Ann Clipp

    May 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Love reading this! Hang in there!

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Jo Ann, I had you in mind, specifically, when I reflected on the cigarettes and walking to the Waterloo bus at night! Thank you for following this journey. Sons are something, aren’t they?

  4. Janet Johnson-Loveland

    May 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Check out the Halfway Anywhere blog on the PCT experience.

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      I agree, Janet. It’s great and provides me with good ideas of what foods to change up in Michael’s boxes! Thank you for the recommendation!

  5. Mary Pillard

    May 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Had to laugh about the cigs and “white slavers” as my mom used to call them! Love the blog Max. It’s funny because about a wk b/4 you mentioned that Michael was walking PCT, I had a patient who talked about her son, and how he has done all 3. Took him about 5 years I guess….. Hang in there! Really pretty pic of your mom!

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Mary, you won’t believe it but I’d originally wrote the post, citing how all of us claimed to be afraid of the infamous “white slave trade”, and then I thought perhaps that was a politically insensitive thing to say! It’s always wonderful to know that other moms and sons have been through this. I started the blog because I literally couldn’t find a thing about how a mom felt during this, but it’s so good to know that there are moms who have survived the stress! Thank you for following us, and for liking it. I’m doing my best, with the support of this wonderful community of friends and readers! (My mom was young then, but always beautiful!)

  6. Ron

    May 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Michael! I know you will read this one day to see how nuts you drove your mother. A piece of advice, don’t worry about it, it’s all about you. And guess what, it all comes back around – circle of life and all that jam. I was in my 40’s before I realized what I put my rents through. How? By having my own kids do unto me what I did unto my folks (in their own way). I was actually apologizing to my mother for all I put her through, and thanking her for her relative silence as I did it. She laughed hard, something my Ma does not do often. She said it was tough at times but knew, one day, I would grow to understand that being a parent was , in part, suffering the fear of the perils your offspring face, and having the faith that they are capable and free, and to let them be free, and to know one day payback will come, and they too will become parents and realize where they are in the circle of life. So live it up, and don’t read too many blogs while your out there in the real world having real adventure. It’s all about, we had our time long ago.

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    1. MaxineFrampton

      June 5, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks for reading the blog! I too get a lot of spam. I don’t have any tips, I just check every day and delete what looks to be inappropriate. Good luck with your efforts!

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