The Trek, my blogs, the AT

I’ve neglected my domain here…I’ve been juggling a few things. As I’ve said before, I have  posts on the website TheTrek.co and I will now provide hyperlinks to the last three:

https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/middle-age-and-what-that-means-for-a-thru-hiker/

The above was written while I was on a break from the trail.

https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/102242-2/

I’m not sure why the above link is a number and not my title but it’s about getting back on the trail.

https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/epiphany-arrived-beatiful-day-mile-376-hike-came-end/

and finally this last one is why I got off…again.

I’m off-trail indefinitely but it still lingers in both my conscious and subconscious mind like flashes of a dream that I can’t quite grasp it in it’s entirety and bring to the forefront of my memory. I’m sifting through what it all means for me – which seems, even to me, a little bit like reaching, like making – as the adage goes – a mountain out of a mole-hill (no pun intended) but it has been a significant ‘event’ in my life and I am not ready (nor do I think I really can) to put it to bed. So, I am going to be writing a bit more, here, about my experiences and what they meant to me for awhile longer.

~BuzzCut

Daily Prompt: Revelations

37 days, magic and realization

It’s the last day of May. I came home on the 29th around midnight. I’d been on the AT for 37 days and I’d finally had a meltdown.

37 Day Summary:

I’d done well with what I packed and what I thought I would and wouldn’t need. I brought some stuff that I sent home before I even started – and then needed to have mailed back to me. I brought some stuff that I thought I wouldn’t really need/want – and subsequently also sent home.

I spent the first two weeks with bleeding, weeping toes/feet from the skin having blistered and rubbed raw. Other thru-hikers thought I was done, finished but I persevered and hiked 12-16 mile days with those throbbing feet until I finally got a pair of boots. I thought, “this is the beginning of a new kind of hike”.

I had a good week or two after that but then the monotony set in and the questions: why am I doing this? who really cares but me and do I really care?

I was so lonely hiking alone for hours of the day. All I could think about was my family back home. At the end of the day I was relieved to reach camp/shelter and find my ‘tribe’ (or some of them – the trail dictates when and where you arrive, not you) – we talked about what we saw, who we talked to and what we discovered, what we liked or disliked about that day.

The running ‘joke’ about the trail was the constant damp or rain: 32 of the 37 days I was on the trail is either rained or rained intermittently. We had two above-average hot days and two partly sunny days that were perfect for hiking. Otherwise, we were constantly wet from both sweat and rain. And, it was cold. You reach camp, try to dry off and get your one pair of dry clothes on, hunker down in your bag. In the morning you get your wet clothes and boots and put them back on..pack up and head out for another day.

My feet were my first problem then it was my legs/knees. They constantly ached with stabbing pains. My toes and the balls of my feet were numb constantly. My nights were sleep deprived due to either the cold & wet but mostly due to my painful leg cramps.

Many of my tribe were due to get off the trail (planned, arranged or not) and spend some zero time with their family. It was the 37th day and I was spent, cooked, done. My legs ached, I was tired and inconsolable. I just wanted to go home. I just wanted my family.

NY, rain and departure:

I can tell you that many days had their ‘trail magic’ and had their highlights. I thoroughly enjoyed all that I met on the trail. The days that were hardest and I thought, ‘there’s no way trail magic is going to fix this’, I was wrong.

Three of us had humped our asses over NY ascents, rock climbing, descents, bogs, etc. for 11 (eleven) hours to reach a shower we were informed was available. By 5:30 we were met with disappointment and we were told we had to back track to a shelter for thru-hikers (where we knew there was a rogue bear that was not afraid of people entering the campsite and stealing not only food bags but back packs) – we refused.

I met a man at the fountain who was exercising his dog. We talked. I eventually asked if he had a truck to which he replied “no, why?”. I said it wasn’t far but I wanted a lift back to the trail. I returned to the public bathroom to finish my ‘bird-bath’ (washing from the sink) and when I came back out my tribe called me to the picnic table. The man had returned with his car and offered to take us to his home for the night. (Heavy rain was in the forecast for the next 24 + hours). We accepted. We went to his home, showered, did our laundry and slept in beds. The next morning he’d gone out to buy breakfast food and made us a meal better than any restaurant (he’s a chef). We drank coffee and packed and made it back to the trail by mid-morning.

There was something profoundly emotional about the whole scene. I just wanted to stay warm in a comfortable home and drink tea. I wanted rest. What I realized I wanted was my family, my home. Comfort. I cried for the next three miles to the next shelter where various members of the hiking community were huddled down under a dank roof from the rain and cold. We all talked about how miserable it’s been. Two members knew they were getting off in a few days and were motivated to move on the the destination. Someone else said, “I’ve thought all morning off getting off. I’ve done over 300 miles of the AT and that’s more than anyone I know has done”. I blubbered that I just wanted to go home. I made up my mind. The next road or opportunity I was off.

Up the AT 2.5 miles was a throughway with a visitors center 0.5 miles from where we would be crossing. I would hike to the center and just ‘punt’ from there as to how I’d get home.

Through a taxi (called by the woman at the center) to a town where I could get on Amtrak and then get to Boston for Concord Trailways (bus) home – I arrived about 11:30 pm. It was a long ride but I was so satisfied that I’d made the decision to get home.

Expectations vs. Reality:

It’s been two days. I keep thinking about the trail, about my tribe. They’re scattered now. I think I will get back to the point where I departed but I am not feeling really sure about that. I am not disappointed in myself. I feel like I’m in limbo…not sure what I will do, not sure about what I want.

I hoped for magic. I hoped for some answers. I hope for a change in my life.

I got all three but not in the way I had expected. The reality is that you make changes in your life, try something new and then learn something new. My life is full with my family. They are the most important thing to me – more important than a dream. I can have both and maybe I still will. It’s a wide open future and I can do what I want but I’m glad I took a break from the trail, from the unrealistic push to keep going when my body and mind were telling me to stop.

If I get back on, I’ll need to make some more adjustments to make my life on the AT a little more tolerable. That’s a decision to be made another day. Right now I’m going to spend some time with my kids and grandson. We are going to have a hot meal and socialize, catch-up. That will carry me forward.

 

Addendum: June 1st. I found out today that my daughter is pregnant with my second grandchild – perhaps getting off the trail was ‘destiny’ or Trail Magic at it’s best!

 

 

Thoughts from two months ago:

The “start date” is closing in and I’m feeling pretty good about my pack and contents. Sure, I might need a thing or two once I start or find out I hate the underwear I’ve chosen but all of that will shake out over several days or even weeks when I get into the trail-lifestyle.

Daily “life”

Now that the essentials are purchased, played with and packed I have the leisure time to contemplate how my days will most likely be spent. We all know that each day – except for the zeros – are spent putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, month after month. When I think about this, really think on it…I start to feel a little like…what in the hell is going to keep me motivated to keep going for months just walking through the woods? 

The “draw”

I, like probably everyone else, have on an emotional or spiritual level glamorized the trail. We all know that leaving our relatively comfortable world to sleep in the woods and carry a loaded backpack everyday in all kinds of weather is not easy or glamorous. But those of us that enjoy being in the woods, hiking, might think we have escaped our life’s drudgery and entered a hiker-heaven. I know I do. At least on the surface. But when I consider doing this every day not just getting away on my ‘day off’, I feel that the bliss will soon wear away faster than the tread on my shoes.

Some “reprieve”

I’ve been giving some thought to how I might give my days some form, some structure that might make me more comfortable (being a creature of habit) and also give me something, when the monotony starts to take it’s toll, to look forward to, some ideas with how to do things I enjoy throughout the day.

Part of the lure of thru-hiking is the freedom: unstructured, unscheduled, timeless freedom. But freedom, after days of seemingly limitless hours stretched between sunrise and sunset and nothing to do but keep on walking might start to feel a little like, well, drudgery ~ especially solo hiking and if I’m outside of a bubble for hours or days.

Considering things I enjoy doing or that I would like to get in the habit of enjoying again include some reading  – time to escape into another time or world and characters with whom I want to spend some time. I can get lost in a well written story or sometimes finding out about the trials and accomplishments of historical or contemporary people is intriguing and encouraging.

Sometimes I need to write, usually just to get thoughts or ideas out of my head an on paper (or computer) but on the trail I do want to keep a journal. I have the blog/posts that I do want to write but that won’t be everyday. I’m thinking of keeping a paper journal – bound or maybe just pages mailed home intermittently so I’m not carrying the extra weight of a notebook. This, for me, is an easier form to jot down thoughts while walking or write more lengthy entries at lunchtime or at the end of the day. While I’m in town, recharging on multiple levels, I can enter my posts on The Trek or my blog, Karyn’s Domain.

BuzzCut

My daughter’s father-in-law (who is that to me, second brother-in-law?) gave me a beautiful necklace; a carved wood Raven on a silky cord and a card with a wonderful sentiment. He decided my AT trail-name should be “BuzzCut”. I wasn’t sure about the name at first but it’s grown on me and if I wait until I’m on the trail, I could be called worse – farts-in-the-wind, roadkill breath, you know. *Back to the Raven: in Greek mythology the Raven was/is a symbol of good luck; Native American lore it’s a creature of metamorphosis, and symbolizes change/transformation. There is more to be found regarding legends, lore and spirituality of Ravens but they are all good and – interestingly, appropriate for me right now. I will keep it with me.

I’m down to less than a week before I get on the Concord Trailways > Amtrak and arrive at Harpers Ferry for the Flip-Flop Festival (FFF) Saturday-Sunday (22-23). I am staying at Teahorse Hostel Friday and Saturday night and thought – subject to change – I’d step onto the trail Sunday afternoon. I plan to take occasional pictures and post at least daily on FaceBook. My The Trek posts and Karyn’s Domain posts will have to wait until I am sure I can recharge soon – maybe once a week. Either way, I’ve found a supple leather old-time paper-journal that I think I am going to splurge on for a comfort item and for ease of keeping track of my journey without using my phone battery.

I have my tent, air pad, sleeping bag set up in my backyard to sleep out tonight. We are/were supposed to get some rain but I think the few drops that fell earlier is it. I guess I’ll have plenty of rain showers to test out my (tyvek) footprint and tent fly soon enough.

On another note: I hiked in Franconia Notch on Saturday with a great group of people through MeetUp. It was my first time with this group and I wish I had more time but I will definitely look them up when I am back home. I also took a very long ‘hike’ in Concord with another MeetUp group (only the leader showed up – it’s Easter Sunday after all) and we spotted a Bald Eagle. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen one ‘in the wild’ and certainly not in Concord. We stood still and watched it for several minutes before it soared away. It was a wonderful morning walking the trails with our fur-babies. I feel so – blessed is the only way I can describe my life right now. I keep meeting wonderful people who are genuinely interested in my journey and want to keep in touch with me.

The Appalachian Trail will be a months-long journey of climbing mountains but the first real challenge was climbing out of my stagnant life and preparing for this moment!

~BuzzCut

*Daily Prompt: Climbing

three weeks before I hit the AT

Because the preparation to thru-hike is not all that interesting, I’ve been reading hikers’ posts instead but in the interest of continuity (for my two followers) I’ll post a short ‘update’.

I’m still making final purchases for my hike – some stuff ‘big purchases’, i.e. a sleeping pad *I’ve decided that comfort for six months/>2000 miles is a wise investment and some small like tweezers. My pre-finished pack weight is 16 pounds! I’m happy with that ~ plus food and water. I’ve reserved my spot at a hostel in West Virginia after I get down there by train. I will attend one day, if not both, for the “Flip-Flop” festival and then commence my journey north on either Sunday or Monday, April 23-24.

I sent my resignation letter very early this morning – a two-week notice because it would just be cruel to quit without one. I already had it typed and sitting in the drafts folder waiting for the ‘right time’ – which leaves me five days of work left in two weeks, and one week to make final preparations and then I leave.

I’ve had or will have my final medical/health appointments as of next week: dental, eye and physical. I could wax and wane on the fiasco that is so called ‘healthcare’ but I won’t bother…some people have nothing. I will sign up for something for my journey – research to be done: ‘travelers’ insurance or ACA?

I have not uploaded any app on my iPhone with which to document my journey – WP or FB. I am not sure exactly what or how I am going to do my journaling but that I had already planned to figure out on the trail to see what works best for me. I plan on bringing paper and pen, which I enjoy using. I don’t enjoy typing on my phone and I don’t want to waste my battery doing so. My initial thoughts are to keep paper journal for ease of use, make FB contact at the end of my day and enter a WP post when I’m with or near electricity to recharge. I haven’t figured out how to upload/post photos yet on WP – I can barely manage that on my computer but if/when I do, I’ll post some pix.

I’ve used my Coleman stove and, although it did work (I boiled water in 15 minutes – which according to responses to my FB post, is WAY too long) I am not sure how much I am going to use it. The ‘danger’ of using a stove in the woods for a cup of hot water made me a little uncomfortable so whether or not I will take it is on the back burner 😉

Car is registered and inspected, dogs vet/groomer/city license all done – pre-paid and taken care of, necessary ‘bills’ are arrange to be paid and I’ve sifted, minimized and packed up a lot of my possessions – because it feels good.

I am surprised that I don’t feel any anxiety or apprehension or having second-thoughts. I know I’ve been planning on doing this for months but now that it’s almost go-time I feel very content. Some posts I’m reading are full of, yes, enthusiasm, but also a lot of stress, indecision, etc. I think the stone-cold realization that we are not going to the moon but hiking a trail along the east coast has a sobering effect. My attitude is: any adjustments I need to make, I will make when I can – plenty of towns with stores along the way and IF (and I don’t see this happening but…) I need to get off and go home, I will. That’s it. I’m not going to starve, freeze to death, get eaten by a bear or asphyxiate from lack of oxygen. It’s a hike – albeit a long one.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m way to restless to sit in front of the computer lately but I appreciate anyone who reads and comments. I expect my blogging will be much more intersting in the future as long as I can write interesting.

~K

Four weeks before I start!

It’s the first day of a five day break from work after having worked five days in the last seven at, what I can legitimately refer to as, the asylum. It’s been crazy; the manager disappeared and will not be replaced, the staffing is so short that we can’t fill a week’s schedule without holes and godforebid someone call out sick. All I can say is; with all this sh*t, IAMSOGLADIAMLEAVING!!!

I haven’t decided on a final day or even when I will give my resignation (depends on if I get paid my overtime and a few other concerns). I have reserved my  two night stay at a hostel, the TeaHorse, in W. Virginia before I start my northbound section of the AT from Harpers Ferry to Maine. Then I will flip back to HF and go south to GA, *known as a Flip-Flop thru-hike, it’s on the ATC website >>. I’ve registered my hike with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (and received my ‘bagtag’ to hang from my pack!!). I have my new backpack, Merrill shoes, a new down lightweight coat, my AWOL AT Guide and various other items that I’ve been slowly purchasing to add to what I already have for backpacking. I’ve made arrangements (he has the use of my car while I’m gone) for my son to take my two “fur-babies”, I’ve pre-paid their groomer and the vet for any and all necessary appointments, I’ve already pre-registered my car, I have my car inspection appointment next week and I will have to renew my driver’s license as well before I leave (April 21), dental and doctor appointments. I’ve made arrangements for the ‘family plan’ phone bill, mortgage, property taxes and utilities to be paid.

I have a few remaining items that I want/need to purchase for my ‘trip’ before I go and, if there is anything that I want or want to exchange once I’ve started, I can do that along the way and my bus/Amtrak tickets also. I’ve been in contact with several women hikers (from a woman’s hiking group on FaceBook) who will be doing the same section around the same time. We will possibly cross-paths at some point.

This is such a BIG DEAL!! I am literally LEAVING my life to go live in the woods for half a year! I can’t even imagine…well, I’ve been imagining from all the books, blogs, posts I read what it’s like but, who can know until YOU do it? I am so overdue to decompress; my body has been revolting against me and with good reason. My joints are so achey and I have this weird throbbing/stabbing pain that runs along my arms and legs sometimes and not to mention the FAT that has taken up residence under my skin like a blown-in insulation layer. That will be history soon 🙂

I know I will feel much worse once starting this thru-hike before I start feeling better…correction, I will be feeling physically worse but mentally? – FREEDOM! Any time, any day that is ‘hard’, I will just remind myself of what I left behind (not my family) – the daily grind of work to pay bills; the endless, soul-sucking cycle. I will remind myself; If you leave the trail and go home, what you have to look forward to -besides being a quitter- is job hunting and returning to what you desperately escaped from in the first place.    

*Do YOU want THAT?!

HELL NO!

Then “embrace the suck”! (Zach Davis; Appalachian Trials) Take every step, every uncomfortable night’s sleep, every miserable blister and fold it into a FREEDOM omelet with all the sunrises, sunsets, fresh air, birdsong, babbling-brook, S-I-L-E-N-C-E except the sound of the wind in the trees, the timelessness of being without having to be anywhere or anyone for SIX MONTHS. Gosh, how hard can it be? What’s to fear?

I’m really doing this. This is really happening. I am so …. relieved. It feels like there is an end to this life and a new beginning to, hopefully, something better.

The latest:

Fourteen work days left, about 4 weeks to departure, I am feeling pretty good, however, this will be a pretty boring post.

I will say, my last day of work started out frustrating and then I reminded myself, with a smile, that I won’t be here much longer so these last few days I won’t sweat the small stuff. I also decided that I won’t work for another ‘company’ that I don’t respect; ‘customers’ always abuse staff about things that we don’t control while the ‘management’ hides out in their mahogany offices. From now on, I will work for a place that I can defend because I believe in them – not because I can’t do anything about it.

I went to REI today and returned my Deuter backpack after buying my Gossamer pack, which I am more pleased with – it’s more stream line and lighter. I also returned my shoes and got some Merrill’s. I bought a buff because I liked it, not because I think I’ll need it, it’s a multi-use item but I will still bring a bandana.

I was happy that I met a guy there that had hike the AT years ago so he shared some tips, one in particular is that the AT tends to be ‘wet’ (unlike the PCT) so he recommended an acrylic bag vs down – which is the opposite of what everyone says so I’m not sure where he was coming from, regardless, I have an acrylic and I was not willing to buy yet another item. Same is true of my clothes, tent, stove, etc. If I get on the trail and I’m really uncomfortable, I will switch something out. I still have a few small but important items to purchase including some food and then I can check out the total weight.

An item I decided against is the GPS with SOS; not only are they expensive and probably unnecessary but then you have to purchase a ‘plan’ (similar to a phone plan) for a few months or a year for another hundred $ or so. Cell reception is 99.9% reliable along the AT so I opted out of that idea.

My two days off have flown by and it’s time to go back to work for the weekend – ugh, so I’m going to end here and get back into my BACKPACKIN’ BOOK by Allen and Mike; it’s fun and informative.

~K