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

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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

Adventure as a Good Thing

For those who think “adventure” can be almost anything: my best and true adventures have been hiking and traveling. My worst ‘adventures’ have been homelessness and depression. I really don’t recommend the latter which, I think underscores my perspective.

The purpose of my ThruHikeR blog is in preparation for my AT’17 pilgrimage. I can only relate to ‘adventure’ in terms of destinations/travel & such physical things like skydiving: enjoyable things or things to try to get me out of my comfort zone and see if I like it. I am sure some would describe “adventure” in basketweaving, pottery, dog grooming and the like. Not all would think of spending six months in the same clothes with only periodic showers and real food as an adventure so, to each their own.

I’m not going to elaborate any more on this topic on this post because I’ve done so in other posts (in this blog. I have another blog, ‘trailingthoughtsblog’) and if anyone wants to check them out, be my guest.

BTW: I have enjoyed reading others’ posts ~especially ‘thechangingpallet