The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,181 miles long. The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships,and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do traverse towns and roads, and cross rivers. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Journal Entry, Spork - 7/20

Almost 1,400 miles behind me. 1,400 miles, that doesn’t even seem possible.  It feels like I’m talking about someone else. I get these frequent rushes of just how much I enjoy this.  I learn something new every day about myself. I’ve gained a different perspective of who I am, why I am, and what life is about. The woods tend to take on an alien feel at times but less and less every day.  The woods are where I sleep.  They are where I eat, spend my day, and think. I appreciate a soft spot of ground to set up a tent. I appreciate the natural placement of a stump for sitting.  I appreciate the convenient scattering of dead wood for a fire.  It’s the little things out here and it’s the appreciation of the little things that makes the woods home.

All my days are basically the same and totally different at the same time. I normally wake up around seven or eight, stumble out of my tent and find out what new part of my body is sore. Food is the first thing on my mind. Food is always on my mind. I grab my food bag and take out a couple 430 calorie honey buns. I’ve fallen from the engineered hiking food tree right into the junk food aisle at the gas station.  I’ve come to realize that food is just fuel.  It’s like gasoline.  There are several grades but all propel the vehicle.  I try my best to eat as much protein as possible but calories are the gasoline that makes you go.  I am averaging around 10,000 per day and still having a hard time maintaining my weight.  6 months ago you couldn’t pay me to eat a honey bun.  This week, it’s my treat du jour.  Next week it will be something else.  I take them down in four bites. 860 calories in... Check.  The sweat starts to bead while I take my tent down and mentally prepare myself for the day.  Before I know it my pack is full and my campsite is empty. Some days I start to hike and feel great right away and others it takes 15 minutes to get my stride, but then, it’s on. I turn into a machine.
 I walk, I smile (sometimes breaking out into fits of laughter at a chipmunk that gets startled), I live. I have found myself cackling like a hyena at the antics of a four inch mammal. Around 12 or 1 I grab a seat on the "perfect" rock or log.  Sometimes it takes a while to find. I have walked an extra two or three miles in search of a sweet spot for grazing. Bacon, string cheese, and tortillas, maybe some Snyder’s pretzel nibblers if it’s a very good day. What do I do now? Walk.  By this point I’ve seen 30 chipmunks and squirrels, maybe a snake, a bear on a good day, birds, birds and more birds, and maybe one or two other hikers. Savages, how dare they intrude upon my home.     
Long distance hiking is a funny thing.  It takes a portion of your mind to keep you going but once the switch clicks the zone-out take over. My mind is all over the place. Random thoughts invade my head.  I think about what was going on 200 years ago where I’m walking, what the frog that just looked at me is thinking, how anyone could ever order a good steak well done.  I haven’t seen a snake in a while and every root morphs into one.   I make up new lyrics to old songs.  I make up new songs to old lyrics.   Sometimes I’ve walked 10 or 12 miles deep in thought before I have to stop and check where I am. I  quit long ago looking for white trail blazes.  My subconscious sees them and directs my movements.   You could solve the world’s problems on a long distance hike. 
Every day is a constant search for water.  Your world revolves entirely around water.  My day is like the spread of civilization.  People always settle near water.  I now know exactly why.  Where you have lunch, dinner, and camp must have access to water.  Thirst is a powerful motivator.
My world has recently turned into a friggin’ sauna, all day, every day. Water is tough to come by.  Many of the springs marked on the maps are dry.  Often potable water sources are mis-marked. The heat this week has averaged well into the upper 90s. The humidity is beyond description. The air is thick and soupy.  The vistas are smoky blue.  Planning your distances on the report that water exists at some point in the distance requires a lot of work. Being out of water is a crisis in this heat but it happens sometimes.  I used to flip out about these things but little rattles me these days. I feel much more in control.   When things go wrong the trail has a way of fixing it with something awesome that you didn’t expect. Maybe a cooler filled with water and Cokes, maybe an unexpected stream, or a fellow hiker that will hook you up with a liter of water. Trail magic is more than folk lore.  It is an almost expected and certainly anticipated part of the experience.  It’s really the last link to society.  It’s also a wonderful statement about the same. 
The pack always feels a bit heavier at the end of the day. Once you find the campsite, the pack comes off and the tent goes up. Now it’s time to eat.  I believe that I will remember every camp site I stayed at on the trail.  I think back over them now and they all seem clear. I have never slept so soundly.
I continue to surprise myself.  My latest surprise is the ability to walk 20 miles in temperatures over 100 degrees.  I’ve done it, several times.  Yet another challenge behind me.  I suppose you could say that you can do anything if you have to.  But the truth is it’s not what I have to do, it’s what I want to do. 

1 comment:

  1. Spork!!!!! I miss you! Love this post. Hope you continue to enjoy the hike!! Say hi to Kipper and Chimp from me! Happy trails!!