Interlude (Day 67+): Perspective

Getting Out of AT Bubble World

This weekend, Northstar, Gus, and I stepped outside the AT bubble and reentered the real world. Gus only made it as far as the dogsitter’s in Baltimore where, reportedly, he appropriated the bed in their spare room and comes out only to get more stuffed toys to de-squeaker.

Northstar and I made it a little further, flying five hours cross-country to San Diego for a family celebration where, strangely, people call us weird names like Kate and Jon. They also wear clean clothes, shower daily, poop inside, drive everywhere, know what day of the week it is, and wait in long lines everywhere for nearly everything. Several times, I had to stop myself from stepping off the sidewalk and peeing into a bush. Although in my son’s urban neighborhood, that might have made me the exception, as many of the residents seem to do their business directly on the sidewalks. Welcome to California.

Take Me Back to the Woods!

I’ve been on sensory overload since we drove into the outskirts of Baltimore last Friday. So many people. Constant jarring noise, flashing lights, crowds, lines, parking, traffic, merge lanes, semis, and more. The first morning at BWI, Northstar said I looked gray and worn. I don’t doubt it because that’s exactly how I felt, despite having shaved, showered twice, and put on clean clothes.

Which no longer fit, by the way. If I put anything heavier than my reading glasses in my pants pockets, they slide right off. Which also makes me fit right in on the streets near my son’s apartment. I picked up a new pair of Teren travel pants in a smaller size which fit much better than the ones I started out in. If you’re looking for a durable, quick-drying, well-designed pair of hiking pants, Teren makes the best ones I’ve ever worn. They’re nice enough to wear to graduation (I did), as well as rugged enough to slog through mud and butt-slide down rocky trails (I’ve done that too).

We spent the weekend just hanging with the family. Nathan was honored for his work as Chief Resident and was brutally roasted by his Attending Physician/Mentor, a tradition at UCSD-Scripps graduations. Of course, his best accomplishment was producing the cutest grandchild ever, who spent every waking hour getting cooed at by Northstar. The whole family made it to San Diego, and we had enough time for everyone. Perfect.

The Real World’s View of the AT

I discovered that most people in the real world don’t care that much about the Appalachian Trail. My family does, partly because I do, but mostly because we’re that kind of people. But nearly everyone else gave me a blank stare if someone introduced me as “He’s hiking the Appalachian Trail.” The most common response was, “Where’s that?” If the conversation got as far as, “How long will that take?”, it ended when I answered that I expected to finish in September. People just can’t fathom hiking for that long and probably thought I was teasing them.

Q & A in the Real World

My family asked lots of questions like, “What have you learned so far? What’s the weirdest person you’ve met? Is the AT what you expected? Are you excited to go back?”

The answer to the first question I’ll keep to myself for now, aside from what I’ve already written in this blog. I had a hard time answering the second question. Almost every AT hiker is a little weird, and none have been over-the-edge weird. I told my family some stories that I’ve already blogged. But I die a little inside every time friends or family ask me questions I’ve already answered in my blog. Which, coincidentally, is part of the answer to the first question.

Hiking the AT has been exactly what I expected. And more. And less. Parts of it are harder than I imagined (mentally, emotionally, socially). Other parts are easier (physically). But overall, I think I came well prepared and have endured well enough. I love the woods as much as I expected to. I appreciate the open meadows and balds more than I imagined. I’m looking forward to experiencing the trail in the middle Atlantic states and New England even more.

The last question was easiest to answer: Yes. Definitely yes. I’ve had days where I thought I might not be able to hike the next day, days where the hiking was unpleasant, and plenty of days where it seemed like everything was falling apart. But I don’t recall a single day where I didn’t want to get up and hike.

Let’s Get Walking

Northstar woke up feeling better the last day I hiked and has improved every day since, so we are definitely returning to the trail. Four delightful days of eating and not walking all day salved both my spirits and soles (a pun, not a typo), but I’m eager to hike again. I can’t wait to get away from the crowds, the noise, the traffic, and all the over-stimulation and just walk in the quiet woods.

I miss my family and will especially miss watching my granddaughter get bigger and more playful every day. But I miss very little else outside the AT bubble.

At least for now.

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Comments 2

  • Harry Poppins : Jun 19th

    Sounds a bit like following Christ. Just a thought.

    • Jon : Jun 22nd

      Too true.


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