Experiencing the Unexpected
I have read that it takes about two months, approximately 66 days, to form a habit. After ninety-0ne days and 1300 miles on trail, I have found it to be true, and new habits have been formed.
In my “off trail” world, my brain awakes with a million things to do. Usually, my thoughts race around with an abundance of potential tasks, obligations, and responsibilities.
As months on the trail have passed, I have noticed slow, unexpected, transitions that have taken place. I call it a “hiker’s habit,” in which every part of the Appalachian Trail has become my new norm.
The AT has simplified my daily tasks in a sense. There are no contemplations as to what my agenda will consist of. My brain and body are in a synchronized state. Both of which wake up to chirping birds every day. These birds seem to be my new alarm clock. And yes, somedays I wish I could push the “Snooze” button as thousands of melodies wake the forest and sleepy hikers.
My new habit comes with a great reward system. I think gifting ourselves with motivational rewards is important in life. For some, it may be taking a ride, laughing with a friend, or simply sitting.
Currently, my reward at the end of my day looks like this. It consists of a flat, non-Rocky surface to lay my tent. In addition, a quick, out of a package meal and lastly, a prayer thanking God for another successful day on the trail.
At the end of the day, my body and brain understand that it is time to rest, recharge and prepare to do the same thing the next day.
Though I find it to be simple, peaceful, and mind-blowing, many may label it as “Mundane.” The absence of morning rush, time restraints, and other various commitments leave me with a simple urge to hike long distances. The weight of my provisions on my back, the sweat, and constant motion are now parts of me. This, to me, is simply amazing!
Expectations are Changing
As I roll into different towns to refuel and take a zero day, I have noticed my standards or expectations have changed. My thoughts are, “All I need is a roof over my head and someplace to stay dry and warm.” I haven’t always been like this. Pre AT, it seemed important to visit places that had a clean bed, clean floor, clean toilet, basically clean everything.
Currently, I have been more flexible. My new requirements look like this; Running water, a toilet that flushes, and a roof. Without question, I consider such a place a 5-star and instantly I become a “Happy camper.” Though at times, I have to do my self-talk when I roll into some unique places. I remind myself, emphasizing, remember “it’s all about the experience” and that is a lesson I’m learning!
The experience. The unique, unexpected situations that happen on the AT are surreal. Some are beyond pleasant and some are challenging. I have concluded that I don’t always have to be comfortable, I just need to work thru it.
I often ponder and think about how much thought and effort I have spent focusing on my comfort level in the past before the AT. For instance, if I was too hot, I would turn the AC on, if I was too cold, I would turn the heat on. If I needed to get someplace fast, I would step on the accelerator.
I have spent my whole life focusing on comfort without even recognizing it. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing, it’s just what the trail continues to teach me.
The trek is not about luxuries, it’s about the ride (trek) thru. Or as many hikers say, “The experience.” I’ve learned to embrace a little ray of sunshine warming my back, a cool rain, a beautiful sunset, and/or a full-size moon. As Christ shared in Mathew 5:12 it’s not all about our personal comfort, we can be thankful for every experience or situation that comes our way
Learning to be Uncomfortable
It’s easy to see and feel comfort on the bright, sunny days when so-called life is just cruising along. Or on the days that the trail isn’t dishing out 5000-foot mountains to summit. It takes a different outlook on the days when comfort is non-existent. It seems so easy to hyper-focus on the discomforts, yet I believe I have a choice as to what I focus on.
My trek this far has thrown many days of discomfort, and on those days it has opened a door to draw closer to Christ. He is praised in the storm and praised in the sun.
Currently, my storm has been to get the “AT creepy crud” (poison oak) healed that seems to have taken a liking to my body. Just want ya all to know “Poison oak” isn’t for sissies!
Therefore, with Christ as my rock, I will trust that this too shall pass. Whether I am carrying poison oak, sumac, or something else, I will continue to trust His perfect timing in all situations.
Getting off the Trail
Nope, I can keep going! This was my self-talk for two days. Subsequently, the physical and mental battle became too much. I was itching, in pain, dirty, stinky and hungry. I guess one could say I had hit my AT wall. Though, I am happy that this was my first so-called “inconvenience” since March 10th.
I was forced to contact a friend and be picked up because of my physical well-being. Port Clinton, a cute little town right off the trail, was the place where I knew I needed help.
Upon arriving at my friend’s house, I realized I had not been in a house since March 7th. Therefore, I was beyond ecstatic about the provisions at hand; couch, shower, foot washing, and most of all, friendship.
Time to Heal
This time to heal is happening for a reason, so as with all AT experiences, I will embrace the moment. I know the trail will be waiting for me and I will be waiting for it. The beauty will still be out there. As I continue sitting on a soft couch healing, I am being taught it’s ok to just be patient with today.
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