My hair worries me. Not my leg hair or my armpit hair, of which I will soon have copious amounts. The hair on my head. The massive amounts of curly hair on my head. My hair has one response to being outside, in a bun, in the weather and the rain. It stealthily starts forming itself into one giant dreadlock. As hard as I try to keep it untangled it is guaranteed that at some point I will be running my fingers through it and in some wayward layer of strands I will discover the most complicated, intricate knot anyone has ever seen. And think about how many bugs could hide in my hair! Terrifying! Will Kyle really have to spend hours every night checking me for ticks like we are two chimpanzees? I mean, people think they have thick hair, and then they wrap their fingers around mine and their jaws drop. What if it makes me to hotter when it is humid out? I should just chop it off, right?
But there is something about long hair; you can’t understand it until you grow it for yourself. It’s like your own personal plant, you watered it and fed it, pruned it, watched it grow and now you’re proud of it. It’s part of who you are, you get compliments on it, you’d feel naked without it. When I’m hiking along and I glance over my shoulder I see this mass of curls that is familiar to me, comforting. It’s like my version of a dæmon from the Dark Materials Series. I have struggled a lot trying to decide whether I should cut my hair off or not and a lot of people have taken one look at my curls and asked me if they are to be chopped before the hike. But the answer is no, this is a time to express myself, love myself, maybe rejuvenate myself but I’m not recreating myself. People are always cutting off their hair in moments of crisis, when they need a change, a moment to step back and reassess. But I am not in crisis, and this isn’t a change, it’s an adventure. I am taking a step forward. So my curls can stay. For at least another 2,200 miles.
My face has not seen the sharp titanium blades of a razor in nearly five years. Throughout my late teens and early twenties I experimented with growing facial hair, but it always left me feeling dirty, unkempt, and lazy. I abandoned the attempt every time. Maybe it is just a part of growing older–the looking progressively more dad-like as you age syndrome (although you will never, I repeat never, catch me wearing white tennis shoes, tall white socks, and kaki shorts) – but I think growing facial hair coincided with growing into my identity. Lately the beard is who I am, it’s what I am about. And so, to start fresh, I plan on sentencing my beard to death via razor – his only crime committed is looking so damn good. I will be starting the AT clean shaven. Will I recognize the young boy under the beard? Will I be the same person? Will I still be the sexy, lumberjack man Lindsey has grown to love?
The Beard – Part II – Rebirth
With the death of a beard also comes life. The chance to let it grow and flourish like never before. I plan to embrace the new beard and nurture its growth for the duration of the hike. Do a Google image search of the AT, and the results are littered with fantastic and gnarly beards. I am usually a person of humility, but I can’t help thinking mine will be special, I dare say one of the best the AT has seen thus far. Sure I could grow a beard over any given 6 months, but it just doesn’t compare to actually earning a beard. An AT beard is born of dirt, of rain, of sweat, of food crumbs. It’s not grown, it’s raised. I plan on being a proud papa!