Lessons the Trail Has Taught Me (So Far)
It’s the 9th, I’ve just slid into town this morning, and I’m excited to share my week with you. It’s been a big one, full of learning curves and adjustment for both mind and body. I’m going to try to go over how this transition has changed me, because I don’t see a lot of people exploring that topic and I think it’ll be interesting to explore. (Who knows? Someone may even find it helpful.)
Now, admittedly, my week has been pretty unique, even within the backpacking world.
For one thing, while November is supposedly the driest month of the year, it is not, in fact, impossible to get seven straight days of rain (ask me how I know). For another thing, because of the time of year I’m starting, the people I’m meeting aren’t going in the same direction as me, and they aren’t super plentiful. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people, just not as many as a typical NOBO in April would encounter. All that to say that not everything I list here will hold true for everyone.
Without further ado, here’s five things my first week on the trail has taught me:
1. How to get up early and how to go to bed way early.
For example, it’s seven o’clock right now and I feel like it’s eleven at night. I’ve just gotten used to going to bed when it gets dark… there’s no reason to stay up any later. Now this effect was pretty much expected, but I didn’t expect to still use my clock; I figured the sun would be all the clock I needed. As it turns out knowing exactly how many hours you have until sunset is extremely is extremely useful for planning purposes.
2. How to accept what I can’t control.
At the beginning of this week I was pretty tired of the rain and I got agitated. I remember staring up at the gray, overcast sky and saying, “Don’t you dare rain. Don’t. You. Dare.” I felt like if I got mad enough it would fix the problem… that’s sort of how it works with people, right? If you act annoyed they stop the offending behavior (usually). But as it turns out that doesn’t work with nature. This first week has taught me to realize that nothing I do will change the bad things that happen, and that my job is only to react to those things the best I can. There’s a peace to that knowledge.
3. How to be in close contact with people.
If there’s one spot left at the shelter and the alternative to staying there is tenting in the cold and rain all night, you learn pretty quick to suck it up and sleep next to strangers. Going along with this, I’ve learned to find something in common with just about everyone. If you’re alone in the woods with someone they have to become your friend… or else you’re just stuck with someone you dislike for several hours. This has really given me a fresh and positive perspective on humanity. Being able to connect with anyone is a great feeling.
4. Conversely, it taught me how to be alone.
Perhaps the reason people on the trail get along so well when they’re together is because so often they’re not. I’ve spent two nights alone so far, one at the top of Blood Mountain, and there is a certain peace and contentment that goes with the silence and solitude. I’m not sure I’d like to be that isolated all the time, but certainly it’s an unparalleled experience to be alone with only nature and your own mind.
5. How to be positive.
Many times over this week it’s been easy to simply throw up my hands and declare that everything was too hard and I was officially throwing a tantrum at the world. It’s amazing how quickly I get angry when hungry, or cold, or wet, or all of the above. I’ve now implemented a new strategy yo temper these impulses: I pause and take a moment to remember all the positive things that have happened to me that day. Normally there are many that I haven’t even noticed until that moment.
That’s all for this week! I really am having a great time, but the rain has certainly presented some challenges. For example, I got pretty near to trench foot before I stopped into town today. Fortunately the weather is looking drier (if colder) for the next week or two.
I hope to have another post out when I next stop at a hostel or town. Until then have a wonderful and blessed mid-November.
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