Appalachian Trail Happiness: 1000 miles and done
I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that? ~ Soledad O’Brien
So my Appalachian Trail adventure has all but ended, just a day hike left to do in NJ and then I will have hiked in all 14 states on the AT, climbed 9 out of 14 of each state’s highest peaks including the highest peak on the trail. Not bad for a 50 year old fat man who has turned 51 since starting this adventure.
My last hiking partner was a really amazing person, Chai, Spider Chai – in my best British accent. She was a young hiker from Scotland who turned me on to Time Lord Rock, provided me with great conversation every night and even played me to sleep one night with her ukulele. She was an absolute perfect final hiking partner and a damn fine human.
We hiked together for about a week and then we hit Pine Grove Furnace State Park one morning and the wonderful grill/store there. I had passed my personal 1000 mile mark on the way into the park and celebrated with a huge breakfast, then another, the day started to warm up and Spider remarked she didn’t feel like walking anymore. I seconded that thought and took it a step further, I decided to pull the plug. I had planned on doing NY/NJ but the weather forecast was calling for heat and quite frankly, mentally I was done. So we got a campsite for the night, got showers and then rained on like hell for most of the night. I started in the rain and ended in the rain, a perfect circle.
I really love the quote I used tonight it really hits the point of why I and why a lot of people attempt a thru-hike. The big thing is that doing something like this makes you do a lot. You change your life in order to make space for the attempt and the time, you challenge yourself in a hundred ways, and the space you find in your head while on the trail can do amazing things for you. You get all of this whether you do one day, a month or the whole trail and I admire the hell out of anyone who attempts a thru-hike.
No matter what, quitting a thru-hike attempt on the AT brings a huge range of emotions. Relief, embarrassment, depression and pride. It’s a relief to know you will no longer being doing something incredibly hard, embarrassment that you failed the attempt, your mood tanks as you will no longer be on the trail and no longer be in as close contact with your trail family. Finally pride in your accomplishment, after you fight through the initial emotions. I wrote a piece early on about Quitting the Appalachian Trail, it’s still a good read and should provide some appropriate perspective.
To understand the level of disconnect when leaving the trail, you have to understand how hiking partners are so much more than that, they become selected family and many of us refer to each other as trail or hiker family. My piece on Trail Community, should give you a better feel for what I’m talking about.
So my goals in starting this adventure were as follows: make it through the first day; go at least 100 miles; cross at least one state line; complete 500 miles; do more miles than Bill Bryson did; get enough material to write a book about the adventure; do 1000, 1500, 2000 miles; and finally complete a thru-hike. So except for the mileage above 1000 miles I hit my goals. My most important goal was to get enough material for a book, I certainly did, hell I had enough a month into the trip, to be really honest I had enough after talking to some of my new family for the first time. The book will feature some of the blog posts I’ve written, definitions of terms and slang from the trail defined via story, and finally fleshed out entries from my journal. I’ve started working on it already and hope to have it completed by early spring.
So what’s next for me? Well as someone once said, “I’m a sampler of life.” My next samples will be photographing polar bears in Churchill, Canada on the shore of Hudson Bay. Hopefully swimming with a whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium and then moving to Pensacola for a few months to write where I hope to put out a book on the AT, another I’ve been working on and three poetry chap books, stay tuned.
I’m still processing the whole AT experience but in one word it was amazing. I met incredible people, stretched and tested myself, worked out a lot in my head. This whole summer was amazing, even the time I was off-trail rehabbing my knee was a blast. I visited old friends, explored some new places and really have just enjoyed my time away from the workforce. More posts to come in the next couple of weeks about the trail and my thoughts about it all, all in all lots of happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane