Getting Off Trail – Two Week Recap
The title says it all. I made it two weeks. I ended up getting off at Dick’s Creek Gap. I was lucky enough to have my wife shadow me for the first two weeks and get me this far. I want to remind everyone I was 6ft tall at 270 pounds when I started. I am by no means a small person. I am also not a football player. So you can imagine that I am “slightly” overweight and out of shape. This is all my fault due to my lifestyle over the past few years.
It was a rough two weeks for me. I’m not saying it isn’t a tremendous task for everyone else to hike this trail. However, everyone has their own experiences, even when you are in the same bubble. These are just my experiences. Week one consisted of trekking from the Arches (approach trail) to Neel Gap, and week two consisted of going from Neel Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap.
Out of the gate, I ran into issues. The entire first week, my heart rate was between 165-180 bpm during my hikes. This is exceptionally high as my calculated max heart rate is 186 (you can find this number online). To sustain this rate for hours a day is not healthy. At night, my resting / sleeping heart rate was between 90-100 bpm. My average resting / sleeping heart rate is in the low 60s. Again this is another indicator that things were not well. I slacked packed most of the week to try and help with the heart rate. I knew I was out of shape.
After making it to Neel Gap, I took two days off to help bring the heart rate back down. During week two, I was more conscious of my heart rate and slowed things down even further, which worked. However, my body decided to throw me another curveball. While I was able to eat breakfast and dinner (when in town), my body decided not to process any water, food, or electrolytes I consumed during my days of hiking. This came to an explosive head on my last major climb from Addis Gap to Deep Gap Shelter. As I was halfway up Kelly Knob (1 mile up with 1000 ft of elevation gain), my body decided to bring back up all the food and water I had given it.
I turned around and made my way back to Addis Gap for the night. I tried to take food, water, and electrolytes slowly but could not keep anything down all night. The next day I did the climb again and hiked the 5.5 miles to Dick’s Creek Gap. Luckily my wife was able to hike up (she’s super in shape) and carry my bag (full gear pack of 30 pounds) from Deep Gap Shelter for the last 3.5 miles. At this point, I hadn’t had food or water in my system for almost 36 hours and was venturing 5.5 miles.
Why did I get off the trail?
As you can see from the “Health” section, my body told me I was not up to this task. I was also not having fun 98% of the day. Even after a long day, I felt no sense of accomplishment. I’m not sure what I should have been experiencing, but I can tell you it was not the same as you see on many YouTube videos. The weather was also a problem. Three days of my two weeks, the weather made national news for the massive storms that rolled through. There were some great points on the trail. Interactions with hikers and some of the views made things well worth it. But again, these were few and far between for me over the first two weeks. I started to dread the next day’s hike, and this isn’t good.
Success or Failure?
I would have to call this a draw. If you were to look at earlier posts on this site from other hikers, you would find many posts related to “Why Am I Hiking”. The majority of these posts do not state that their ultimate goal is to complete the trail and be considered a thru-hiker. Instead, hiker’s goals are enlightenment, soul searching, physical and mental health, etc. I can say that even after two weeks, I can start to see how these goals are the correct ones. After a week on the trail, my anxiety in the morning was gone. I lost weight and had forgotten entirely about work. However, I know that other issues would creep in from either physical health or mental health if I kept going. So I decided to pause my hike for now.
While I only accomplished a short section of the trail, I still completed it. To be out there is more than most of society can state. I made it past Neel Gap, where 50% of all those who get off drop from the trail. I lost approximately 15 pounds in two weeks and met some great people. I slept out in the woods, hiked in the rain, and my gear held up and did its job. Every single hiker I came across was friendly and willing to go out of their way to help other hikers. Would I do this again, or will I get back out on the trail? Only time will tell. I know that I need to be in a little better shape before tackling anything like this in the future.
Best of luck to those still on the trail or those who are just beginning. Hike your own hike and do what is best for you.
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