2,168 miles to a better version of me

I will be honest.

I’m not completely satisfied with ‘who’ I am. I am happy with what I’ve accomplished, which isn’t much but it’s all relative to what you have to begin with and what you’re options are as you go along. I am grateful for many things – again, all relative. But I could be a happier person with myself if I was…well, different.

That’s only one of the reasons I want to backpack the AT. My dissatisfaction with myself right now is probably the main reason to go on the AT journey. I feel that the challenge of the AT will transform me ~ I have a fantasy that I will emerge from Katahdin a ‘new woman’. The whole experience of spending six months hoofing it through the woods in pouring rain day after day, hiking under the beating sun with sweat pouring off my body, climbing mountains over roots and rocks, enduring aching joints, blisters, chaffing, mental and emotional fatigue, smelling my own reek wearing the same clothes in all kinds of weather, week after week, month after month thinking of food all the time ~ well, it seems to me that it would strip me down to my raw, bare self…what I am really made of. Right?

Some might inquire: well, if you’re not happy with who you are why not take a class or change your job or make new friends, a new hobby, volunteer somewhere??? All good ideas but my whole point is that it’s not just my job or my hobbies or how I spend my spare time or what my interests are…it’s all of the above. It’s taking the hobby that exhilarates me, quitting the job that devitalizes me, traveling that interests me, making new friends that stimulates me and pushing my mind and body that strengthens me!! That’s what I need, a mega-dose of taking all that is good and saturating myself in it while simultaneously breaking down all my comforts zones and seeing what emerges.

It’s the challenges in our lives that make or break us, that mold us into ‘who’ we are and although the AT is a chosen challenge it’s still one that most people quit because it’s hard. It’s hard to endure the strain on your body, the separation from friends/family, the hunger, the ‘injuries’, the elements *oppressive heat, cold, wet, sleeping on the ground or from a hammock, mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, snakes, bears, etc.*  and you really can’t escape from any of these unless you get off trail for a night or two. It’s also hard to endure the mental game: when you are at your lowest and wondering “why am I doing this?”, it’s hard to not give up, to continue to push yourself because it’s a goal that you, for whatever reason, set for yourself.

I’m hoping that when I’ve ‘bagged’ that final mountain on the Appalachian Trail while carrying  35 pounds on my back for 2,168 miles I will have transformed into a stronger woman who is more self-confident, willing to take chances, patient and energized and ready to tackle a new chapter in my life ~after a shower, some good food and sleeping in a bed.

Daily Prompt: Mountain, Transformation

 

 

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

 

Appalachian Trials Blogger!!

Hey Karyn

Zach Davis with Appalachian Trials here.  How’s it going?  
 
After reviewing your application, I’d like to invite you to join our 2017 class of Bloggers!  Congratulations!
The above is a portion of the acceptance email I received recently. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Appalachian Trials is a website by Zach “Badger” Davis designed after he completed the AT (and he wrote a book about the psychology of thru-hiking the AT) and it’s crazy popular with AT & PCT hikers *and those who want to thru-hike*. This website is the epitome of everything “hiker” from “almost-in-real-time” posts from hikers on the trails, gear advice, books, sponsors, guidance, maps, and more. I highly recommend it (so much information!!) and his book. And I’m not just plugging it because of the above email, I know I’ve mentioned it in previous posts. 
 I hope by the time I commence my thru-hike I will have some followers (from this blog) who are interested in reading my posts *which will be one of many featured on Zach’s website* but either way, it will be an experience that will definitely give me plenty to blog about.

 

Pups on Mt. Kearsarge

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“Westerly” view from the peak.

Always cognizant of my future pilgrimage, AT’17, I am trying to get in shape physically as well as mentally. Working night shift doesn’t allow a lot of ‘days off’ for obvious reasons so when I get a ‘real day off’, I head to one of many choices of hiking trails here in NH. I always take along my constant companions, they’re small but thIMG_2156.JPGey are really good hikers!

There’s the puppy cuteness factor that always makes other hikers pause and pet. I am sure some people feel that dogs don’t belong on trails but it’s not about me ‘bringing them hiking’ as much as it’s about them being with me; they are happy hiking and they are not happy when left home alone or with a ‘sitter’. They have smiley faces when they are out hiking with me.

While I am hiking I’m constantly reminded of the decision as to whether or not I am going to take them with me. I’m leaning toward taking them for various reasons that slightly out-weight the reasons NOT to take them. I try to find blogs or articles about hiking the AT with dogs and there are not many (unless you consider the big-sale books based on hiking the AT with a dog, but, I think, they are usually ‘glamorized’ tales and not as realistic as they could be). I’ve found three blogs on the Appalachian Trials website that were very good about stating the facts of hiking with a pet. What I am looking for is intel on “HOW” a thru-hiker goes about doing the trail with a dog: there are areas where no dogs are allowed ~ what did you do, how did you do it; there are the obvious problems with carrying kibble AND all the hiker necessities; a constantly wet dog on days that it’s just rain, rain, rain; how does it effect other hikers and how do you handle it; etc. There are many questions and, I’m sure, many different responses bases on individual experiences. I know my experience would be unique to any one else’s experience but what we all have in common is the rules of the AT where no dogs are allowed and the more daily issues of carrying extra weight and dealing with less than desirable weather.

I’m getting to the point in my imagination where I can’t imagine NOT taking them with me. They are, as I’ve said, ‘constant’ companions and leaving them behind just doesn’t feel right for me. I’d appreciate any comments or references that anyone can suggest (I know I don’t have a bunch of ‘followers’ so this is an exercise to be repeated at a later date)

BTW: the Kearsage hike was great. One hour up via the Barlow trail and about two hours at the top on a day (as you can see in the photo) that was beautiful but only slightly cool with the breeze and the sun behind a cloud. We sat and snacked with less than a dozen other hikers before we headed back down. The state park has a very ‘swanky’ picnic area and a very nice play area for children and, when the park is officially ‘open’, facilities. This day, the ladies room was still locked so I stripped off my clothes between my car and an open door, doused myself with bottled water (driving back home soaked in sweat is very uncomfortable), and put on dry clothes.

The day was glorious.

 

53…how did I get here?

Pensive is the ‘daily prompt’ here at WordPress: the ‘ping-back’ didn’t appear to work for me last time and, per my usual, I just keep on trying.

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Turtle Pond from (near) Oak Hill in New Hampshire

“Per my usual”

I’m one of ‘those people’ who ..”things just don’t work-out for” but I’m not going to write about that. I’m going to write about my awesome day which started at a leisurely 9:30 a.m. with sunshine, coffee, my grandson and the whole day stretched out before me with no work in sight (well, after my boss texted me, we phone-tagged, and ultimately talked about the next schedule…but after that…) no work in sight. I sat with my grandson and, yes, my mind wondered because he’s four and we just hadn’t gotten to the in-deapth conversation stage at the time so,… I was wondering about life and what to do with my infrequent, wonderful-perfect-weather day off. I decided, once relieved of my child-sitting duty (I enjoy my grandson but he preferred to go with ‘daddy’ somewhere instead of going to the park and playground with ‘grandma’) that I’d go ‘for a walk’ with my two constant companions, my dogs. The walk turned into a little pleasant surprise.

I usually leave home thinking about where I am going to walk and there’s limited trails in my area but my car drove itself to a place I hadn’t even thought of and then my feet took me on a new trail I hadn’t been on. We, in no time, came to an over-look on a beautiful day; temp. about 70 dry degrees with a light breeze. The above photo on the granite ledge. I didn’t want to leave. The ‘kidz’ wandered a bit, then lied down in the shade of a stout evergreen while I tried to find a comfortable position for my back (padded rear-end but no back support) and once I found it I just sat and leaned into the moment. I let little cross my mind but the blue skies, white clouds, green hills, the bird-song and the breeze with that ‘solar-heated pine-needle’ aroma that I LOVE.

I thought: I’m 53 years old. How did I get here?

It was a weird hybrid of nostalgia/regret/contentment. I can not express how much gratitude I feel when I am in the woods/on a trail. I count my blessings: I’m healthy, my parts work, I’m independent, I’m employed, I have a home, my family is healthy, I live in a wonderful part of a free country, I have nothing to complain about. It’s great. I know that I should express my gratitude, if only in my mind, and count my blessings. I know this because I’m aware of all that is ‘wrong’ in the world and all that other people don’t have or suffer. My life isn’t perfect, far from it, but I’ve learned to think ‘globally’ or ‘outside of myself’ when I’m not being self-absorbed.

I was having “trailing thoughts” stemming from a composite of ‘things’ that I’ve noticed lately or I’ve heard about (I’m going to break these thoughts down into separate posts) but I tried to just “be” and not get immersed in one feeling or another, especially the nostalgic or regret ones, those are a downer. I made my mind focus on one particular thought trail: the AT in 2017. I thought of myself, in that moment, on the trail in some place I’ve not been yet, sitting in the sun and drying my tent/socks/shoes/clothes while resting my feet and warming up from a cold night or rainy morning and thinking about being grateful for my journey, my ability to do the AT, my opportunity to take the pilgrimage that some only dream about doing, my independence, my ‘new friends’ and my ~ what I hope will be ~ new direction in life.

I never thought I’d one day be in this place: a place where I decide, because I want to, to ‘leave it all behind’ and make a solo journey backpacking in the woods for months on end, enduring ‘hardships’ (it’s all in the perspective) and fears to get to an unknown place; not only a place geographically but also physically, emotionally (financially) and spiritually and socially. A stripping down to the raw essence of ‘who I am’ and ‘why I am here’. I can barely contain my enthusiasm to do this ‘thing’, this wonderful thing that so few do.

And those were the trailing thoughts that made my day so awesome! The decision to ‘go for a walk in the woods’ turned into 90 minutes of ‘meditation’ on where I am in life and where ~ barring any ‘unforeseen occurrence’ ~ I might be in another 30 plus years.

Okay…so something today ‘worked out’ good 🙂

Lone wolf or prefer a pack?

I started hiking with a group, a formal group – the kind that ‘advertise’ everyone have a pack with all the essentials: medical bag, layers of clothes, extra socks, shelter material, headlamp, matches, etc. I’m not demeaning these groups; being prepared is smart hiking even if it seems like ‘overkill’. And hiking with a partner or in grimages-2oups is also wise. But we can’t all prepare for every situation nor can we accomplish what we want if we wait for the best circumstances to arrive.
I got a good hiking foundation and learned a lot from hiking with groups. However, even living in a hiker’s paradise it soon became apparent that, if I wanted to get out more, I’d have to go solo, my schedule just didn’t jive with those of hiking groups – which was usually on weekends. It was a little daunting at the beginning. I feared breaking a leg, getting lost and envisioned other misadventures that I’d heard befall other lone-hikers. But after the first few short, well-traveled trails, I got my nerve on and started to just enjoy the hike.

As it turns out, hiking solo isn’t really all that rare among our species. There are probably a lot more adventurers with the same limitations on their time as myself. Since I started hiking on my own I’ve encountered many other hikers, men and women, young and more mature, with or without a ‘guard dog’, (with or without appropriate gear or adequate water and shoes too!). I learned very quickly that I really enjoyed the solitude; I could hear (besides my own heavy breathing) birds singing, the wind blowing, sometimes something rustling in the woods (squirrels usually but I have seen deer and bears), occasionally some distant truck but more often than not…quiet…

~~~~~~ the absence of sound ~~~~~~

In a world of noise pollution ~ which is how I describe almost every aspect of daily life including relaxing in my own back yard ~ getting beyond it is heaven. I almost cringe when I make plans to join a group (and I’ve backed out every time, not necessarily for that reason). I love conversation, not gossipy talk but real discussions. And I like learning about other places, trails, experiences that other hikers have had. But there is something about hiking alone in nature that is so rejuvenating.

imagesI’m a lone wolf. Even when I have been in a group, I spend over 90% of my time listening to the conversations of others so, in effect, from the perspective of other hikers, I’m almost not really there. The other reason for my aversion to group hiking is the responsibility to others; being on time, car-pooling, basically…following the leader. I’m not ‘hiking my own hike’ when I am conforming to the pack.

 

So, as I think about backpacking the AT, I still have not decided which way to go: NoBo or SoBo? That’s the topic of a future post.

 

Sacrifice:

I’m resorting to using a prompt at WordPress for this post, not because I don’t have anything to say but because the word “sacrifice” touches on something regarding hiking and my future plans. I have a friend with a friend who has never hiked the AT because he’s been told it’s a “selfish act” (and for some reason this took root). This person breathes hiking and is planning doing the Long Trail in Vermont this summer; he is over the moon with giddiness about this because it’s a ‘thru-hike’.

I’ve read only a few times that doing the AT is ‘selfish’. I really don’t understand that. My assumption would be that spouses, bosses, or maybe anxious parents/friends/family feel that the hiker is putting their own desires, needs, dreams ahead of those of others’ – i.e. just stay ‘home’ and Live the American Scheme like everyone else and don’t upset the routine.

I can’t really say personally why someone would react as if selfishness is what doing the AT is all about because I haven’t told anyone yet that it’s my plan. For all I know, my family might feel that I am being selfish. I don’t think so but…you never know. I feel that I’ve sacrificed my life to the routine that it has been because it was the ‘responsible’ thing to do: school, family, job with very occasional deviations to ‘enjoy living’ (if anyone has the means, they might use a week or two per year to do something that they really love).

Hiking the AT might be a selfish act but six months out of, what will be, almost 54 years of my life is small potatos. I think of my life thus far as a sacrifice of my authentic self. Hiking the AT might turn out to be another sacrifice: I will probably have to quit my job to do it (I don’t think a ‘leave of absense’ will be likely but I will try that first), I haven’t yet figured out what to do about my two small dogs (I don’t really want to find someone to care for them for six months -a sacrifice leaving them behind and worrying,  but taking them along is another sacrifice as the hike is now much more complicated), and finally, leaving my family for six months with minimal contact is going to be very difficult. My visit to my brother in the Philippines for two weeks had me weeping because I missed them so much.

There are many sacrifices made by those deciding to thru-hike the AT but it’s a sacrifice of the spirit NOT to do what you so desire, what you are compelled to do. You have to live your own life, hike your own hike.