Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: A Start
Hello my friends, this is my Appalachian Trail (AT) journal but no, I’m not on the trail right now. I have however decided to start in late February or early March of 2015 to attempt a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.
I recently told my doctor about my plans and you may have just reacted similarly to him.
Me: I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.
Him: How far is that?
Me: About 2200 miles.
Him: WALKING?! You’re going to die, 2000 miles, wild animals, oh my God, I could never do that.
All of those thoughts have crossed my mind, I’m quite aware that it is one of the safest places I could be in the US. I’ve also considered being ripped to shreds by bears, bitten by rattlesnakes or copperheads, gnawed on by coyotes, laid immobile by bad water, buried in snow, being struck by lightning, shivering with hypothermia, having my face paralyzed by Lyme Disease or falling to West Nile Virus. Relying on one of my favorite movies, Ghost Dog, it’s the way of the Samurai to contemplate certain death.
I will have just angered folks knowledgeable with the AT, few people ever die on the trail. Some people get hurt or ill and in fact the biggest dangers come from the littlest critters, if you become ill on the AT it will most likely come from tiny critters in your water, ticks or mosquitoes. The larger and more prevalent downer for most people is deciding to quit an attempted thru hike.
I have a different perspective on doing a thru hike, a lesson I learned five years ago trekking to base camp at Mt. Everest in Nepal. The reason I did that trek was to get to base camp, to put my feet on Mt. Everest. I’m not a climber, I have no ambition to summit the highest peak in the world, but I wanted to walk across the Khumbu Icefall and put my feet on the base of Mt. Everest. One of the coolest moments of my life was the first time I got to view Mt. Everest with my own eyes and it fueled my desire even more.
However somewhere along the way, I know not where; as I had personal firsts every day, my first time above 13,000 feet, reaching 14,600 feet which is higher than any mountain in the continental US, reaching my personal best of 17,600 feet. Somewhere in the process of walking each day in unimaginable beauty I realized a truth that I had read and heard stated my entire life but never truly believed, it’s not the destination but the journey that matters.
I stood on the Khumbu Icefall, only because it’s much, much larger than I ever realized, it’s a river of ice that goes on for miles. However, a freak snowstorm struck the day before we were to visit base camp. This closed the pass we were supposed to take the day after leading into the Gokyo Valley. Our group had a decision to make, make it to base camp and likely have to skip the Gokyo Valley, or miss out on base camp and do a marathon trek around the mountain we were supposed to go over. Had you presented this scenario to me prior to the trip I would have guaranteed you I would have selected going to base camp. We didn’t, we chose the Gokyo Valley and in doing so I found one of my favorite places on earth, the second sacred lake of the Gokyo Valley, the peak called Khan Tiga gleaming in the distance. I spent a couple of hours just sitting there looking at a level of beauty you rarely find anywhere feeling a peace I have rarely felt.
Somewhere along this trek I had learned an amazing lesson in mindfulness and in focusing on the now, not the next. It’s time to physically remind myself of that concept again on the Appalachian Trail. I hope to become a 2000 miler, a thru hiker and walk from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Kathadin in Maine over all forms of insanely steep hills through 14 states. However, if it doesn’t workout that’s ok, it takes 5 million steps to complete the trail. However many of those steps I take, I’m sure it will be worth it and will provide me with many happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane