I’ve been off-trail for 20 days now. 20 days already!! Time is really strange. I remember stepping through the arches in Amicalola in May. I remember feeling a queer surreal feeling. It didn’t seem real at the time that I was embarking on a 2,189 mile hike. Even now after completing the thru-hike the idea of having hiked all the way from Georgia to Maine feels surreal.
Back on the subject of time – this idea that time truly is an illusion keeps coming back to me. I can’t articulate it very well. But something about the hike has brought that idea to the forefront of my mind. Maybe it was getting away from calendars and schedules. From weekends and weekdays. Often on trail I wouldn’t know what day of the week it was. It was really nice to not be on a schedule. Wake up, walk, eat, sleep. I guess this is a glimpse into the timeless Now that is so often written about. I don’t have any conclusions on time save that somehow our fundamental understanding of time is not accurate.
Overall the transition home hasn’t been overly challenging. My first week back all I did was sleep, eat, play video games, and catch up on movies and TV shows. Since then I’ve started going to the gym and am taking time away from entertainment to do more productive tasks; like writing this blog post.
I think I developed stress fractures and damaged some connective tissues. My feet still hurt when I put weight on them and I get sharp pains in my knees randomly during activity. It’s slowly getting better and not enough to prevent me from working out or going about my day. The worst of it was the week after getting off the trail. I was so sore and stiff during that time it really felt like how I imagine severe arthritis to feel.
I miss the simplicity of the trail. Wake up, walk, sleep, repeat. This process of reintegrating into “normal life” makes me conscious of the insane number of choices we have each day. This week alone I’ve wasted hours trying to decide if I’d rather watch a movie or play Hearthstone. It really is ironic: time that I’ve set aside to relax and be entertained is transformed into an un-fun and somewhat stressful purgatory while I try and figure out what would be the most fun thing to do. What’s even more unsettling: 90% of these daily choices have very little real impact on our well-being or happiness. It doesn’t matter if I have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast. It doesn’t matter if I watch TV or play a video game. It doesn’t matter if I choose to read now or read later tonight. It doesn’t matter – yet the decisions still have to be made and by the end of the day we’re exhausted and rightly so.
So I’m going to consciously work to eliminate as many frivolous decisions as possible. Breakfast everyday is going to be the hash of rice, lentils, and eggs that the Yellow Deli served. I’ll write-out a workout plan and schedule and start writing priority lists again.
Update on Hiking Friends
I just saw on Facebook that Bear finished his thru-hike at Harper’s Ferry after 259 days! It looks like he’s lost even more weight. I last saw bear in Rutland, VT. That was when I got serious about finishing the hike and sent home 7lbs 7ozs of gear to include the tent and stove. Your help with his GoFundMe really did help him push through the final leg of his journey.
Blake is still on trail and should be finished this week. Kelly made it to Harper’s Ferry and is calling her hike until warmer weather(she’s a straight southbounder and needs to go all the way to Springer Mountain, Georgia). Laura went home in New York after about 1,700 miles and Looker got off trail after injuring his foot in Massachusetts.
I hopped on the scale at the gym yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find that I’m already back up to 193lbs, which was how much I weighed when I started hiking in May. I think I haven’t really lost any mass in my legs. I may have even gained a bit as my jeans seem to fit more tightly than I remember. It’s probably because my pack was so heavy for most of the hike.
I’d estimate my average pack weight to be around 45lbs until I got rid of things in Rutland, VT. I’d leave most towns carrying 50+lbs and by the time I got into the next town my pack would be down to 35-40lbs.
I’m never going to carry a pack that heavy again. It sucked. Knowing what I know now I could have probably stayed under 40lbs the whole trip even with all of my camera gear.
I took pride in having the heaviest pack and letting others know that my pack was 50 pounds when they complained about their pack weight. It was really quite stupid and caused me a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. That pride of having the heaviest pack didn’t help me in any way. And really nobody cared. But all the same that idea of “carrying the heaviest pack” over the most strenuous sections of the Appalachian Trail kept me from dropping weight.
There’s a saying on the trail that you “pack out your fears.” I think we do that in life. We pack our fears of failure, of pain, of rejection. These fears weigh us down. They keep us from taking risks. They keep us boxed into a “safe” life within our comfort zone.
I wish dropping emotional weight was as simple as unloading a backpack. But maybe the process is similar. We expose ourselves to discomfort. Recognize that nothing is as bad as the scenarios conjured by our minds. Then we simply let go, piece by piece.
Thanks for following along. I plan to keep this blog going and post up photos of hiking adventures around Missouri and other random stories as I embark on the next step of the journey.