Knowing when to quit

I’ve been tempted; tempted to walk out of work; tempted to say something hurtful and blunt – off the cuff- to someone; tempted in complete frustration and hopelessness to smash something, to slash my thighs, my throat but…I don’t. I keep it stuffed somewhere in the already over-stuffed solar plexus, stuffed to bursting. I say to myself at that time – “breathe, you know this will pass, don’t fuck up”. I do do something, some small thing to make myself feel better in the moment but I am right, I’ve learned, this too shall pass and – it does.

I read some posts on The Trek and feel better about my planned journey. It’s really comical in a way that everything – it seems, everything – I’ve read about hiking the AT is all similar: a personal journey in which you find out what does and doesn’t ‘work for you’ during the journey. That doesn’t leave much absolutism to planning for a six month hike in the woods. All the gear heads have the answers to what you should definitely bring with you and all the grounded tree-huggers know that it’s what’s between the ears not what’s in the pack that will get you through the arduous journey.

The greatest obstacle as far as I can see it: Quitting.

Quitting my job and my life as I know it and step into a great abyss of an unknown. Making sure I have enough funds to pay for all my bills (mortgage, taxes, car and home insurance, utilities, phone) for six months while I do not work and then there is what I spend during my journey. Pushing away the fear of ‘making the right decision’ about leaving everything and everyone I’ve ever known and trekking out in the “elements” (i.e. leaving all known and, thus, accustomed to comforts of daily living for, instead, consecutive days of rain, snow, wet, cold, sweaty, thirsty, achy, hungry days in the woods with varying company of strangers to hours/days of complete solitude). That day isn’t here yet and until IT arrives I will vacillate between “good idea” & “bad idea”.

I’m not tempted to quit the trail before I start. No. I might question the shrewdness of my decision but I am willing to accept the consequences of my actions, which are…what? Being cold, hungry, lonely, hurt, destitute? Well, those are part of living, living even in the rat-race I am currently trying futilely to out-run. What are the benefits of thru-hiking, taking a chance? Freedom, interconnectedness with others in the most organic way, immersing myself in nature, finding my limitations, having an epiphany, experiencing the highest of highs and lowest of lows? Yeah. I’ll take those chances. The way I see it right now, changing my course, … I can’t lose.

Daily Prompt: Tempted

My biggest goal is also my worst fear

I fear that if I don’t do this now I will physically and emotionally fall apart

Per my usual, everything I said I’d have done in preparation for my 2017 Thru-Hike…THIS YEAR…JUST A FEW WEEKS AWAY!!…is incomplete. It’s not that I’ve been slacking, albeit I could have accomplished more. No, I have been preparing but it’s the preparations that are ‘behind the scenes’ like the DIY projects around my house that my daughter’s family will be living in while I’m gone; working – to make money for paying bills while I’m gone; some illnesses/injuries; holidays, etc. So when I resumed some hiking reading on The Trek: newsletter (Appalachian Trials website – which I’d hyperlink but I can’t figure out how to find the http address); bloggers posting about their preparations and plans for their thru-hike, I am now feeling very “behind-the-eight-ball”.

I know, take a deep breath, everyone has their own journey, their own hike, their own way of doing things – which is when the adage “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” pops into my head. Time is flying by and the only preparation I feel I’ve dented is the mental/emotional determination that I AM GOING TO DO THIS, PREPARED OR NOT. I keep telling myself that despite what I have for equipment/gear or how ‘out of shape’ I am – everyone starts off and then has to adjust, whether it’s equipment or attitude or the physical stamina required to keep going. I’d prefer to not need to make too many “adjustments” once I’ve begun; i.e. if I can be in better shape, I’ll be better off, if I can have the ‘right gear’ to begin with I won’t need to buy more later.

The bottom line for me is, as it always is, I’ll do my best and just “punt” later. I am going to be an almost 54 year old woman solo hiking the AT with limited experience camping. I’ve read plenty about hikers stating that preparation is good but no amount of preparation is going to really prepare you for 10-14 hour-day hikes day after day and sleeping in the woods in all kinds of weather. There is just no way to prepare for that until you do it. It would be helpful to have SOMEONE who I could bounce ideas off of, someone who had some experience and could offer some advice but my situation is that I am the only person I know who hikes and plans to thru-hike. This is an alien idea to everyone in my very limited circle so I am reading what I can and doing my own research and preparation in addition to working and carrying-on with my current daily life.

Here are some questions or concerns I have that I have seen addressed no-where in print – not even thru-hiking books:

Money: what does a thru-hiker bring; cash, credit card, both? and if cash, how much? and where do you keep it? worries about theft?

Sleeping Bags: apparently down is the preference but no one has said how in the hell they keep a down bag DRY when they spend days and nights slogging through rain (and snow) and no way to dry off when getting INTO the tent/sleeping bag. ???

Maps: I know maps are important even if the AT is well marked with white blazes but the maps I’ve looked at for the trails entirety is over $100.00 and rarely have I read anywhere hikers referring to their maps. It seems to be a follow the trail or the pack endeavor. I’d hate to be the one dumb-ass who gets lost and doesn’t even have a map.

These are but a few of the things on my mind – things I seek answers to but they are elusive in all my reading material. I’d love to have someone, some person who’s done this before, I can text or call and say, “Hey! How do you keep your down bag dry with consecutive wet days?” Or, “Should I invest money in maps and if so, carry all of them with me?”

Externally I am going about my life, doing what I need to do. Internally I am afraid I’ve made a decision, set a goal, that is not going to come to fruition because I fear failure, I fear I’m not up to the challenge, I feel that if I only had a little more time to be more ready I would be better off (but hiking the AT is a time-sensitive endeavor, once you pass the window of opportunity, you have to wait for the next time) and I fear that if I don’t do this now I will physically and emotionally fall apart. Doing the thru-hike is not an option for me – I’ve invested so much of my self-worth and personal survival on this goal that I cannot abort my plans – I am getting through each day of my life physically and emotionally by focusing on the trail.

So, this is it. My first post of 2017 with my fears and goals –

Daily Prompt: Interior

“Ultra-lite” Backpacking

Our local library sponsored a program featuring one young local woman who has experience long-distance backpacking wherein she featured her own equipment and advice (from her personal experience, of course) about going light (or is it, “lite”?). The program was schedule for one hour but she went two and had to wind it up due to library closing time. It was a small room but a good turn-out.

What I appreciate about the ‘in-person’ experience is obviously you can SEE what is being discussed and there’s opportunity for questions/discussions. Even if you are reading a blog/book/article about items (which, btw, is helpful because the brand is SPELLED out whereas listening to someone mention a brand, usually a clarification/spelling is required) and there are photos, it is sometimes difficult to see it clearly or get a ‘real’ idea of how big, heavy, etc. the item is.

I found this program very helpful, a boost really. I can’t say that I will follow her lead about weight, brands, etc. I mean, thru-hiking the AT was not on her list of accomplishments so…

But the biggest take-away were the ‘big-3’: sleeping bag, shelter, & backpack. So far I am sticking to my one-person tent with ‘poles’ because anything else I’ve seen is just inviting  frustration and disaster (a ‘tent’ that uses your hiking pole and spikes would most likely end up collapsing on me – and probably in the worse weather – because that’s the kind of shit that happens to me) so I am going to have to suck-up the ‘extra weight’.

The sleeping bag: seems ‘everyone’ goes with down but, for ALL the reading I’ve done with all the complaining about the non-stop rain, wet conditions, etc., NO ONE has explained how in the hell they dry out their bag! There is no way, if you slog all day in the rain (even pretending that everything in your pack stays dry), set up your tent, pull out your bag from your pack, and place it in the tent (now wet from set-up) – and even if you strip down naked before you get into the tent – that your down sleeping bag DOES NOT GET WET. NO WAY. So…how does it dry between one use, packing it up the next  day – still raining – and the next night? **I will say right here: I really do believe, in all the blogs, etc. that I’ve read, that there is a heavy dose of fabricated, rainbow-pissing unicorn ‘writer’s liberty’ taking place because with all the “trail magic”, “wonderful people” experiences, “getting away from it all”, “bonding”, “freedom”, and “best experience of my life” talking, no one really delivers the low-down, the crap that really happens. It’s like a collective denial of the really shitty experiences to validate having been so dumb as to have taken up the pointless burden of the hike in the first place. It’s as if admitting that being beat to tears and pondering quitting is admitting to – wait for it – WEAKNESS. There. I said it.**

I think I’ve stated that I bought a Deuter pack with which I’m already dissatisfied. I liked the presenter’s “gossamer” (cottage-industry) bag; it weighed practically nothing and it was huge, so back to hunting for a pack.

Otherwise, it was all the ‘small stuff’: first aid kit, ‘stove’, types of water bottles, filtration systems, etc.

I will mention again as I’ve mentioned before: it’s all a little intimidating thinking about and preparing for this hike. I’ve convinced myself that I am doing it so it is not a question. It’s the fear. The fear of what might happen (just how miserable am I really going to be, since no one talks honestly and unequivocally about that), can I do it, am I doing the right thing? And I will tell myself right here, again, what I always tell myself – everyday – in my head: you don’t have a choice. Your life is a redundancy of nothingness, an empty void that is not going to change. You can keep slogging along as a marginalized middle-aged, single woman with a job that is abusive and under appreciated for the meager wages that barely keep you out of poverty (but that’s only a matter of time) for another almost two decades, creeping toward creptitude with no savings and a retirement plan that, by then, will place you in the poverty echelon, alone and wishing that you had done something in your life that you wanted to do. The choice is really pretty simple: be generous to yourself for a change, quit your unsatisfying, miserable job and run away before you are too crippled with bad knees, hips, and back pain. Deal with the consequences as they come up. Death awaits us all. No one escapes. Why be miserble right to the end…or, why be miserably not doing what you want right to the end? (I haven’t ruled out the possibility that I might not live through this experience. Some don’t)

Daily Prompt

AT hike prep update:

I have two blogs: ThruHikeR for all my hiking thoughts and trailingthoughtsblog for all the other stuff floating around in my head; I like to keep the the serious business of my AT thru-hike plans separate from the superfluous daily-life thoughts. Both sites are WP and I’ve notice, regardless from which site I comment on another’s post (or use Daily Prompt) the default site to which any responses are directed is the hiking site. It’s a little confusing to me and I imagine -perhaps- to others, if they care to notice but I don’t have the AI (artificial intelligence) nor the inclination to investigate and/or correct this. Just an FYI to any readers out there.

This post is going to encompass a little of both of my worlds.

I just (well, 24 hours ago) finished my ‘work week’ and I am now on LifeTime vs WorkTime. The first few hours of my ‘day’ off begins with going to bed after my 7P-7A shifts. The first  day off is my TransitionDay which usually encompasses about 5 hours of sleep followed by a few hours in ZombieMode followed by an ambien & a melatonin and, hopefully, a full-night’s sleep (but I usually wake in the early morning hours even with the sleep-aids). If I’ve done 48-60 hours of work in a five-day period vs the typical 36, well, I sleep almost 24 hours before I’m really awake, that makes my second ‘day’ off the TransitionDay and it’s a bit surreal; I’m not quite fully in either world.

That’s where I am today.

I spend my LifeTime usually thinking about, planning for, reading about or doing actual hiking. In actuality, I spend quite a bit of my WorkTime thinking about and planning hiking also. I haven’t done much actual hiking in a very long time because I’m obsessed with thinking and planning and reading. When I am at work, the thru-hike seems very real and very do-able. No hesitation, no questioning my choice. When I’m on my own time I start to second guess if this is really the wise thing to do – as much as I desire to do nothing but “get away” for awhile. Clearly I am running away from my job and, to a lesser extent, my life.

What makes doing the AT thru-hike seem a very practical choice for me is reading the autobiographical accounts of those who are currently hiking or who have thru-hiked the AT already. I’ve not heard from one source that it was a ‘bad idea’ or that they regretted it. On the contrary, all those who have hiked the AT…especially those who reached their goal of completing the journey – claim it was the best thing they ever did, “life-changing” I believe is the theme. Many say they want to do it again in the reverse order or some go on to other trails such as the PCT, CDT or the John Muir Trail. When I am having my doubts, I reflect on these accounts and this: you can’t reach your goal if you never take the first step, you’ll never know if you don’t try & what have you got to lose? I’m sure everyone who quits their job, leaves home with all their possessions in a backpack and climbs those first few steps at the trailhead has some jitters along with the eager anticipation.

Anyway, that’s where I am right now, plugging along at my job and with each and every minute thinking of NOT doing my job but breathing fresh air and enjoying a freedom that I’ve never had (not even in childhood, but that’s a whole ‘other story). I know it won’t be easy but I tell myself that during those times on the AT I will then remind myself; you might be cold, wet, hot, sweaty, hungry, achy, tired and otherwise miserable but you’re not at work!!

Thank you Phil for commenting/inquiring. You are my prompt for today’s post 🙂

On another note, I took advantage of REI’s Labor Day sale and bought some ‘trail runner’ shoes (there’s no way I will be “running” on the trail. Not only would I break something and be off-trail but, even if I could run with a backpack, it would end the joy of the journey too soon) and a Deuter 30 +10 backpack. I’m not sure I like the pack or if it’s big enough and the shoes feel confining after wearing sandals all summer but I need to trial them both and see. REI takes returns or exchanges which is why I went that route.

Daily Prompt: Hike

Quadzilla’s words of wisdom

I just finished reading the blog by Jack Jones; http://www.thejourney.co (not ‘com’), about his current flip-flop hike of the AT. At the end of my reading, the last post, Jack, a.k.a. “Quadzilla”, was leaving Harper’s Ferry to take a train to Maine and hobo it back to H.P.

I have found Quadzilla’s blog a very nice combination of subtle observations of the positives (the Zen of thru-hiking, nature and happy coincidences) and some of the negatives (or what otherwise might be termed ‘surprises’) on the trail. It seems to me that Quadzilla has led a ‘charmed hike’ and that might be his natural luck or he sees the positive when connecting dots or incidences along the trail.

I enjoyed reading Quad’s posts because they were relatively short but informative (I took notes), he noted some surprises but he was not daunted by them nor did he let them alter his attitude, and his whole perspective was upbeat regardless of the weather or what/who he encountered. I’d say his whole blog was void of judgement and I like that.

I read Quad’s blog with an open interest in his experiences all the while hoping that I am as fortunate as he has been. Yes, our attitude does contribute to our experiences but, realistically, shit does happen despite a good attitude. I can only hope that keeping a positive and open mind, what ever happens to me will reveal a silver lining.

I still think that my hike will be the best gift to myself and it will – yes, strip me down to my character flaws – make me (more) of a stronger person. I paid particular attention to Quad’s summary about the trial ‘burning away fears’ in his post “The Dip” and how our ‘real life’ is an illusion (“The Journey of a Thousand Miles” post) with the trappings of expectations on behalf of others/society. I’ve saved his blog on a tab so I can go back and re-read some posts that resonated with me.

 

 

emotional preparation

Driving to work today I felt pretty good about doing the AT’17. Most days lately I’ve felt unprepared, anxious, doubtful and even forgot I was not going to be ‘around’ (at home/work) next year. Today I felt like it was a good idea and I felt that, no matter how unprepared I am (who can REALLY be prepared) that it will be just fine, an experience I will have been glad to have had. I did not have any of the doubtful feelings of the last few weeks. I wish I could determine why some days the idea of hitting the trail on my own for six months seems like a good idea – I’d duplicate it if I could.

Some of the reasons I tend to feel anxious are: what am I going to do with my two dogs? I do not yet have the ‘proper’ equipment (a three-season tent, for example) and I need to make the time to ‘investigate’ and get it. Do I really want to hike the trail, as a woman, alone? These are my three priorities as I try to mentally prepare. There are other “minor” considerations such as quitting my job and what I will do when I return, spending all my savings on doing the trail while still making house and car payments (for these items I won’t be using), and my education credentials to maintain my (professional) license so I can work when I get back to the real world.

I know no one can really prepare for every conceivable problem or situation in life no matter what we are doing and I try to remind myself that, although I want to be as prepared as I can be, there will be events, mistakes, situations, etc that just cannot be known in advance for even the best prepared person.

Most of the blogs I read are positive. Sometimes minor injuries are mentioned, emotional ups and downs, etc. but mostly bloggers seem to be gravitating (writing anyway) toward the ‘good stuff’. I’ve read one blogger had to leave the trail for health reasons but I believe he got back on and one other blogger seriously considered giving up (I don’t believe they did though). I, personally, like to read about the things that are not so pleasant. As a future thru-hiker I want to be aware of the things that you don’t necessarily think of before-hand. We all know that the weather is a factor and minor injuries (blisters, aches) and everyone is constantly hungry. The ‘hardships’ or incidences that befall a thru-hiker and what they did to overcome it is what gets my attention.

Overall….I’m glad to hear about all the good things bloggers have to say…it IS encouraging just knowing that so many continue on the arduous journey despite all that happens or just the emotional roller-coaster of being away from family/friends & comforts.

I’m still not ready

I was walking my dogs ‘early’ this morning (i.e. before the temps got up to the >90 predicted) and, being warm enough in the sun, I got a good whiff of the most pleasant aroma – the solar-baked-pine needle aroma! I LOVE the smell of that…everytime it reminds me – nostalgically – of hiking in the Whites.

I haven’t been out all summer. The thought of doing the AT and not ‘being in shape’ dogs me daily. My only consolation is that completing the AT is a mental challenge more than physical (although I still think to myself; I have all winter, my favorite season, to hike/snowshoe and get in better shape) as most people who complete the AT will say – they get into shape doing it.

It isn’t laziness that has kept me from the mountains, it’s my night schedule and some very necessary home-improvements. Knowing I won’t be home (or working) most of next year, I have to use this time to “make the doughnuts” ($) and get stuff done that I won’t be here to do. Next year I can freeze, sweat and be as uncomfortable as nature dictates but this year I have to suffer with the tedium of owning a home and having a job. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Still…I’m a little leery of the big plan, the whole thing. Time seems to be flying right on by and I feel that I’m just dog-paddling my way through an ocean of responsibilities and duties and mental anguish. It’s going from a dream to a nighmare. I’ve said I’d do it and now it’s nearing ‘pay up’ time. I still need to get (some) gear. My one-person tent, I don’t think, is going to cut it. Agh!!

One day at a time.