There’s a crazy range of what people believe is necessary on a backpacking trip. First, you have Jerry. You’ll see Jerry hiking with a 75L pack, sleeping bag dangling behind him and maybe a full-sized skillet. The second individual you may see is Carl. I once ran into a dude, now called Carl, on the Appalachian Trail doing a thru-hike. He had one of those drawstring bags you used to tote your middle school gym clothes around in. That was his entire pack. He was living out of that for 6 months straight. Carl was an animal, and also was not amused at how many questions I was asking him about his gear. I’d love to be that lightweight, but I currently have a base weight of 16 pounds which is a happy medium. Here’s a breakdown of what will get you through a backpacking trip:*
There you are. Staring at a picture of Alex Honnold completely smashing a route, with zero ropes of course, and you’re wishing you could rock climb yourself. It’s a feeling of desiring to do it, not knowing how to get into it and also not wanting people to think you’re an entirely incapable noob. What if you go to the climbing gym or hit up some outdoor routes and you suck? Isn’t that embarrassing? I know I’ve felt this way, but it’s time to slap yourself out of it and, thanks Nike, “just do it.” Here’s how:
Coming back from the AT, it seems as though I’ve been plopped in the middle of a bustling street as I wander slowly, a bit lost, through the throngs of people who have a destination. There’s an odd disconnection I feel that can’t really be explained. A trail friend was complaining how it’s been hard to participate in small talk. You can no longer ask people how many miles they did, talk about how gorgeous the view you all passed that day was or what they’re cooking for dinner. Even talking with some friends, I feel slightly off and removed. There’s this fog I’m trying to see through that appears to have no end. I’m stuck in the thick of it. I can hear others, but I can’t quite reach them properly.
As life does, it moves on while you’re gone. People have grown, moved away, gotten married or had children. I think this is all part of some culture shock that should pass as I spend more time away from trail life. Nonetheless, being done with a thru-hike has me feeling these type-a ways:
Shoot, it’s time to find a job.
I’ve spent nearly 6 months in the woods occasionally talking to the animals lurking within the forest. There was a stretch of 10 minutes where I did a call and response sequence with some crow on a branch. A crow. Luckily, no one saw me. Unfortunately, it’s clear that some signs point to slight delusion. How am I supposed to dress up, talk properly and impress someone in an interview?
Everyone says to “enjoy the journey.” I am, but sometimes it’s hard. Now that Katahdin, the final mountain I’ve been walking toward since March, is 220 miles away, I can’t help but want to be there. Friends keep posting their iconic Katahdin summit pictures almost every day, and I would love to be touching the summit of the mountain that initially seemed unreachable.
The other day, I stopped short because the mountains were hard and the day had been long. I threw up my tent atop the beautiful Mount Old Blue, but I felt uneasy. I loved the view, the serenity and the hushed bird chirps, but I couldn’t help but think how I had ended early. Why would I end early when I could’ve made Katahdin 10 miles closer that day? Being tired feels like no excuse right now. It’s almost as if I should simply let my feet walk until I reach the mountain. No sleep, no rest. Just walk. My feet itch to be scraping the sides of the slippery rocks in Baxter State Park. Everything I do that delays the union of my body and Katahdin seems to eat away at me. I don’t want to look back at the Maine section and regret going too fast, but I also want the rush of a goal accomplished.
To help pace me, motivate me and make sure I let myself laugh throughout the final two weeks I’m meeting up with some old trail family (The Four Day Family). They kept it slow, and had some emergency, that has allowed us to be within catching up range. I’ll take a short day into Caratunk, Maine to reunite with them. We’ll tackle the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin together. I’m happy to be getting back with familiar faces. I know they’ll keep me on track mentally, so I can’t wait for Sunday. Here’s to enjoying the journey, but also fighting to accomplish a goal.