AT Brief: On My Own (Finally!)
I love chatting. Any money I’ve ever earned has been a direct result of chatting, be it about food, wine, English or Global History. Hundreds upon hundreds of hours of my life, beginning at age three and continuing to the conversation I literally just ended on this very trail, have been spent with a phone glued to my ear, pacing back and forth, chatting endlessly. Any drugs I’ve ever taken have been the kind that make you chat more. I love chatting so much that I majored in French and studied Spanish in Mexico so I could not shut the fuck up in multiple languages.
Now Let’s Not
But talking constantly is tiring, and thus before starting this stroll, one of the draws the long-distance trek was the alone time – “solitude,” if we’re being douchey. I envisioned endless days of hiking in silence, pondering literature I’d fallen asleep to the night before, cogitating upon plays I’d scribble in my Walmart notebook at picnic tables or in piles of grass. Epic epiphanies, as it were.
Of course, as any hiker is wont to tell you, this shit don’t happen. Hiking all day is exhausting, and it’s hard enough to read the water ratio on the back of the bag of Knorr’s Sides without fucking it up, let alone do a thorough analysis of Slaughterhouse Five at hiker midnight. Not only am I getting stupider out here, with my vocabulary slowly eradicating all words larger than three syllables, but I keep burning the bottom of my Snow Peak pot, which cost more than all of my IKEA kitchenware combined.
Additionally, hiking alone is hard. Not the act of it, but the logistics. Everyone out here is extremely gung-ho about Interacting With One Another. Yes, I’m thru-hiking. No, I don’t have a trail name. No, I don’t carry a gun. Yes, my life is your bucket list. No, I don’t think smoking on the trail slows me down – but inane conversations do. Please let me hike five miles in peace.
But Two’s Company!
Part of the difficulty is that I’ve never actually hiked alone on this trip. My boyfriend was with me for the first 115 miles. After he left, I ran into a girl who we’d met in the Wilderness and hiked with her for a couple of days. I then met another hiker, and she and I teamed up for nearly two months, making our way through Maine, the Whites, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut before I got off at the CT/NY border to take a trail vacation (trail-cation?) at home in New York.
We had a time of it. We enjoyed every town from Stratton to Sharon, liberally sprinkling zeroes in whenever possible. Alcohol was consumed, cigarettes were smoked, and chatting was at the forefront of every day. It was sublime to find a hiking partner who also loathed trail names, and found the whole cultivation of eccentricity thing appalling (people hiking in ties: I’m talking to you!).
At the same time, though, it felt like the only real difference between my trail life and my home life was my outfit and a little bit of physical activity. I’d wake up, have coffee and a cigarette, and do something for eight hours in order to get to the part of the day where I could eat a delicious (relatively speaking) meal and bitch about other people.
This does not mean that I have a desire to spend time with people who are super-positive and don’t inhale. Rather, since I’ve been off the trail for a week and have received word that my friend is no longer Georgia-bound but rather homeward bound, this now feels like stage two of my hike. I spent 800 miles heading towards New York, living it up and learning the ropes. I’ve switched out nearly every piece of gear for a better version, and have worked my way up to the point where 13 miles feels like a slow day (hence I’m sitting at the Perkins Fire Tower blogging rather than hiking).
I now have 1400 more miles of fall to make my way to Springer. Though I’m sure I’ll Have Some Interactions, I’m going to make a concerted effort to, quite literally, hike my own hike. Additionally, it would be incredible to blow through all the books I downloaded onto my phone and have to study the veins in fallen maple leaves as I fall asleep. Feel free to not leave a comment.
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