Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Rules for the Road
It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way. ~ Cheryl Strayed
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. Katahdin, 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
So as I’m getting ready to set out on my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, I thought I needed some rules for the road to guide me on my way. The single overriding rule of course is to hike your own hike. What this means is that everyone is different and everyone has to do this journey their own way. Some people will be purists and hike every step of the trail, some folks will “blue blaze” taking some of the side trails that skirt some of the nastier parts of the trail. Some folks will have dedicated schedules and need to be very frugal, others, well not so much. So what these rules are for me are some guidelines to help me determine what hike your own hike means for me.
Be happy and thankful for every step on the trail
First off this is a journey, there is a goal for me, Mt. Katahdin by my 51st birthday August 26, 2015. Hell, even better if I can summit on my birthday! But being too focused on the goal is to overlook two hugely important facts. First, only about 30% of the people who attempt this journey make it all the way through. Some quit due to things they control, many for things they can’t control. A stray step, a virus, the wrong mosquito, there are many things that keep even strong well-prepared hikers from finishing.
The second is the fact that the whole journey is estimated to be 5,000,000 steps. If you’re too focused on the five millionth step, you’ve missed out on all the joyful and amazing things going on for the previous 4,999,999 steps. So no matter how many steps I take from 1 to 5,000,000 I want to try and be mindful and enjoy every step.
I’m not always the most social animal but I really want to be more friendly than normal while on the trail for a number of reasons. First, I really want to connect with my fellow thru-hikers who in my estimation are on average a really wonderful group of humans. Second, you never know when someone out there is having a really tough day and good use a smile, a good word, a helping hand or a spare snickers bar.
THIS is an adventure, so for god’s sake take the right kind of chances. I’ve already done this in one sense, a new friend on Twitter (Phoddo) mentioned meeting up at Trail Days in Damascus, VA in May. My initial answer was I’ll pass, not into crowds or doing the typical hiker festival thing. Then I remembered why I’m doing this, adventure, fun, stretch yourself, so I’ll be in Damascus for Trail Days. Although the hike itself will be amazing, I’ve heard so many great stories from previous hikers about side trips and misadventures they ended up in by just being open to stepping off the trail, that I have to be open to that sort of thing.
Try new things
Along the lines of the last rule, I need to be open to trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. I don’t know what they will be yet, but I have to be ready. Of course June 21st is Hike Naked Day!
Meditate every day
Something I go through phases with in my life, I’m hoping to get into a regular meditation routine on the trail. It will help my mental health on the trail and given that this endeavor is easily as much a mental as a physical challenge it should pay a lot of dividends.
Write every day and answer the three questions.
This is already a solid routine for me and one that I really want to continue on the trail. Hell I bought a $15 space pen to make sure I could write under any condition! I’m hoping to put a book together around this adventure and I want to make sure I don’t miss a thing when I do. I also have three questions I’ll be writing on every day. What was the most beautiful thing I saw today? What did I learn today? What made me happy today?
So there are other rules that I’m sure will develop as I walk, but this is a good starting point. As always happy to have you suggest some for me in the comments as well. Hopefully the rules will serve me well and help me have happy trail days my friends ~ Rev Kane
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