Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Fear and Loathing on the AT
As I’ve mentioned previously I have undertaken planning to do a thru-hike next year on the Appalachian Trail (AT). My hope is that I will walk all 2,200 miles of the AT from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Kathadin, Maine starting in late February or early March, 2015. This is my trail journal where I hope to take you from my decision to do this, through my preparation and then notes from the trail and hopefully all the way to Maine. All of this in my journey and process to live happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane
Fear and Loathing on the Appalachian Trail, a catchy title for a book, well more like a stolen title. Of course I’m referring to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson’s masterpiece and probably the funniest book I’ve ever read. No other book has made me laugh out loud more often on airplanes than this book. Often flight attendants ask me what I’m reading, I tell them, and when they explain they’ve never heard of the book I gift it to them. I’ve given away at least five copies of the book on flights and it will likely be one of my few luxury items on the AT.
I liked the title so I used it, but the title of this post should have really been fear and anxiety. I mentioned in the first post I did about this journey that there are lots of way to get injured or die on the trail. Bears are the way most people fear and the one thing people always bring up when I tell them what I’m planning on doing. I do have a healthy respect for Black Bears and will take the precautions I can in regard to them, my first piece about my thru-hike has the list of potential horrors. But there are some specific things I really am anxious about on the trail and they are probably not the ones you would expect. Lightning is my number one fear, having once been caught in a severe thunderstorm at 9000 feet in Bryce Canyon National Park with lightning hitting trees around me, I am very afraid of getting caught out in a lightning storm on the trail. Both that day, and on the AT, I will be carrying metal trekking poles and that makes me a big bag of water with lightning rods in my hands, pretty much the perfect conductor for a bolt of lightning. However to keep things in perspective, from my reading I’m only aware of two people having been killed by lightning on the trail in the last twenty years.
The second source of anxiety for me on the trail is exposed trails. Exposed trails are trails that are narrow and have a rock face on one side and nothing on the other. Often on the nothing side, the drop off falls a hundred feet or more to the forest floor. Given the amount of rain the AT sees each year walking muddy exposed trails is a real source of nervousness for me. As I explained in an earlier post, the hardest day of hiking I’ve ever experienced was eight hours of exposed trails in the Himalayas, some with nearly a thousand foot drop offs. The amount of focus needed to hike these trails safely is amazing and very tiring; thankfully, I don’t expect nearly the amount, or severity of exposed trails I experienced in Nepal.
The final source of my anxiety for the trail is actual rock climbing. There are some sections in the White Mountains and maybe others I’m unaware of where I will have to do some minor rock climbing, up say ten or fifteen feet. I’m not a good climber and I don’t particularly enjoy it, I like climbing down even less, in fact I’m a terrible descender. On top of that, I’ll likely be doing it in the rain with a thirty pound pack on my back. Not something I’m looking forward to doing at all.
The thing about these sources of anxiety, other than the lightning, is that they are things to overcome. I have to keep in mind, children, people as old as eighty, and even the blind have completed this trail, I’m capable as well. Part of the reason you do things like hru-hike the AT is to stretch yourself, to do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, things that make you anxious, because accomplishing these things builds something inside of you, call it confidence or character or whatever you want. Overcoming obstacles transforms you in ways you can never predict or imagine.
So there will be fear and loathing and anxiety, but more than anything else there will be happy days my friends, months and months of them. ~ Rev Kane