Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Changes
Tonight I want to address something I talked about sometime ago here on this blog. People continually ask me why attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail? The answer I have settled on is that, hiking the Appalachian Trail is an adventure and adventure leads to transformation and I want to lead a transformational life. That of course means embracing change, something I am really weird about because I’m one of the few of us who actually likes change. I think it comes from getting bored easily.
However, that does not mean that change doesn’t scare the hell out of me like it does everyone else. What it does mean is that I’m willing to push through the fear and take the leap. For me, the only really hard part is the first step, once I’ve started my fear is gone. So what really holds most of us back is not our circumstances but the doubts and fears within our own head. I’m here to say you can take that first step.
One of the changes I have experienced after my first couple of months on the trail really didn’t become apparent to me until recently. I have developed a deep affection for the mountains. I’ve always been an outdoorsman, my whole life I have hiked, hunted, photographed and fished, being in the woods in the fall has always been a precious thing to me. But being off the trail right now I actually find myself longing to be back out there it has become home. The count is five days right now until I go home again. The thought hit me hard today as I was driving in the Hudson Valley and caught my self eying and analyzing the slope and difficulty of the ridge lines in the Catskill Mountains.
I’ve said on several occasions while on the trail that I didn’t know if the experience would lead me to spending more time in the woods, or if I’d never go hiking again. I can say for a fact it will be the former.
This quote by Colin Fletcher is perhaps my favorite quote about hiking. It’s also one of the most accurate. You go through phases on a long hike. First there is the amazement of your surroundings, the forest, the flowers, the views, the difficulty or ease of the topography. Then when the initial wonderment wears off you start analyzing how well your gear is functioning, how much weight can I drop out of my pack, why the hell did I bring three lighters?
Finally, when you can no longer avoid it, particularly when the trail is difficult and you have to be focused and mindful of your steps, you get into your own head. Humans have two super powers in my opinion, the abilities to rationalize and deny anything. We use these skills to avoid thinking about life’s bigger questions, however after some time in the woods, you can no longer escape yourself. You come face to face with all of the questions you avoid on a daily basis. Some are universal, some incredibly unique and personal. The process is less about “finding” yourself and more about revealing the you that has been lying underneath layers of societal and personal bullshit.
I’m fortunate, I’ve been hacking away at those layers for some time, so getting to me hasn’t been that hard. The hard part is now that I’m there what the hell do I do. I think my plan is in tact, it’s time to take some risks and try and live the life I envision instead of the one that was safest and made the most sense. At 50, perhaps I’m getting here really late, perhaps I’m early to the party, we’ll see.
Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again ~
So, as I contemplate my AT experience coming to an end, and that could come as early as June 20th or as late as September or October, it’s time to start planning. Stay tuned my friends as I unfold the details and keep moving forward I will bring you along.
There is a message in this for you as well my friends, one that I am going to start repeating often, and one that I hope you will take to heart. Yes you can! Not an original message, it’s a little tweak on Cesar Chavez’s Si se puede, which was then translated and used by the Obama campaign in the form you most likely know it by, yes we can. But this is a personal message so it’s yes you can, and you can. I know you can my friends, whatever it is and when you do, you will have many more happy days ~ Rev Kane