In the Hot Zone

Sympathize
quarantine sign

Before we dive into today’s important topic I wanted to let my loyal followers know that I have received a JD Powers and Associates Award.  Yes, it is true.  I recently was informed that I will be recognized as the best blogger in the category of “retired liberal leaning persons relocated to northeast Wisconsin from Maryland who have also recently completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2017 and at the same time have begun learning how to make pottery”.   Continue reading “In the Hot Zone”

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Fun and Games on the Frozen Tundra

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Extreme sports, Wisconsin style

On my second attempt at climbing Aconcagua (the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere), I remember being awakened by our guides around 4 AM for our summit attempt.  We were at high camp, in an area called “White Rocks”.  It was very dark and very cold and the wind was blowing.  The temperature was around -15° Fahrenheit.  But, with the wind chill factored in, it was rather more objectionable.  Still, we had to get up anyway.  Actually, what bothered me most about the situation was that I had to get out of the tent, carefully stumble up a slope and then behind a few rocks, proceed to moon the Andes while heeding the call of nature at 19,500 ft altitude.  Continue reading “Fun and Games on the Frozen Tundra”

Truth in Advertising

 

You’re walking on the Appalachian Trail in the woods, on a sunny spring day.  It is cool but not cold, without a trace of humidity.  The trail is flat and straight, with the grade ever so slightly downhill.  The path itself is dirt, with not a rock in sight, but covered in pine needles so your feet are cushioned as you walk.  What could be better?  Well, it probably would be better if you woke up from your nap and actually started hiking because the above is a figment of your imagination.   Continue reading “Truth in Advertising”

Reintegration

After 152 days and 2,189 miles I’m finally done with my AT thru hike. 152 days is a long time to be gone from home.  By the end, I was pretty much a well-oiled backpacking machine.  I knew where everything was in my pack.  I had a regimented routine for how I started my day, hiked and ended my day (people who know me will probably say “well, hiking the AT didn’t change THAT about him”).  Continue reading “Reintegration”

Humbled

So, I’m a bit over 1700 miles into my thru hike, currently taking a day off in Killington, VT.  I recently passed a sign that says there are 500 miles left to the summit of Katahdin (signs no longer say how far you’ve walked – we’re in countdown, not countup mode).  Finally, after I made a recent Facebook photo post, my friends commented on the fact that I’ve lost so much weight they think I might disappear if I turn sideways.

As loyal readers of this blog well know, I am a bit slow on the uptake at times, but it has finally hit home – this thru hike thing is really, really hard (yes, I know that many of you will be saying to yourself “well, duh!”).

After months of resisting or worse yet, fighting, the demands of the AT, I have been humbled by it.  The real question  might be why it took so frikkin’ long to arrive at this state?  Frankly, I don’t have a clue.  I think it might be an accumulation of things.

In the past 2 weeks 2 hikers whom I met on trail have called it quits – they’d hiked more than 1600 miles, endured snowstorms, thunderstorms, drenching downpours, roots, rocks, steep inclines, lots of mosquitos and more.  They just decided that they’d had enough.  When someone you know leaves the trail at this point, it really grabs you in the gut and you wonder “am I next?”

In about 40 miles I will cross the Connecticut River and enter New Hampshire.  The White Mountains and then the rough backcountry of Maine await.   Most people seem to agree that this final piece is the toughest but also the most beautiful part of the entire 2,190 miles.

My attitude about the earlier parts of the trail has also changed.  In a previous entry I labelled the trail builder/designer for the AT in northern PA a sadist.  Well, I have rethought that. If you don’t bend in response to what the AT sets before you it will eventually break you.  I now think about what the AT in previous states has taught me, in order to be able to successfully complete the whole trail.  Georgia and Virginia gave me practice with really long ascents.  Tennessee and North Carolina? How to do miles under adverse weather conditions.  Pennsylvania?  How to walk over rocks and boulders for long periods of time.  And then, in succession, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont gradually put those things together with Vermont adding a lesson in how to walk in lots of mud.  Of course, there was also great beauty in the outdoors in all these states.  Once I realized this, I stopped fighting the AT.

I’ve stopped pushing out 12 hour hiking days to get in 20 or 22 trail miles. I’m going off trail more frequently to get to “real” food at restaurants and I am taking days off from hiking more frequently to rest up and load myself with calories. I no longer care about the arbitrary schedule I set for myself 6 months before I set foot in Georgia. And, after actively resisting hiking together on the trail, I’ve discovered that, with the right people, walking the AT at this stage with a hiking buddy has some really significant advantages.

I’m hoping that all of this means that things are coming together, and right on time, as the last stages of the hike loom just ahead.  Somewhere buried in here are lessons that carry over to life off the trail as well.  I hope those lessons stay with me once I’m done with the AT, whenever and wherever that may be.