Lessons the Trail Has Taught Me (So Far)

Hello everyone! 


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.

It hasn’t just been rainy; its been foggy too. I took this at about three o’clock in the afternoon.

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.

The sunset from Blood Mountain, which I got to witness in perfect solitude.

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.

 

Best,

 

Eliza

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Comments 8

  • Avatar
    LeeAnn Hohn : Nov 10th

    It was great reading your blog and learning more how your adventure is going. We were hoping to hear from you today but we know it’s not easy to make calls.

    We are looking forward to your next contact.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    TicTac : Nov 11th

    It’s good to hear that you are finding the ways you need to deal with the good and bad along the Trail, as seldom will you have so so days. Your comment about how to something positive when you are feeling down is wonderfully apt, and I hope you continue to do it each day. It also helps to get your mind off putting one foot in front of the other and let your eyes wander over what you are passing. Be open to the wonder of what is beside the trail, not just the treadway.

    And radical acceptance is an important skill on such a hike Eliza. If you are not familiar with radical acceptance, basically it means accepting life on life’s terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. As you continue on your hike you and radical acceptance will become fast friends.

    I look forward to hearing more about your unorthodox – but completely understandable – journey on your way to a thru-hike. Take Care and be kind to yourself.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Holly : Nov 11th

    So jealous that you had Blood Mtn. to yourself! What a treat! You’ve been dealing with some pretty crummy weather, but the payback was being able to experience peace and solitude in such a special place. The rain is the only reason you had the extremely popular Blood Mtn. all to yourself.

    There’s a great song by Kacey Musgraves: “Silver Lining”: “If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining, It’s gotta be a cloudy day. If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning,
    You’re gonna have to stand in the rain.” Too often we don’t appreciate how “lucky” we are to be “standing in the rain”.

    Still, you have earned some sunny days – hope NC is dryer and not to chilly. Happy Trails, H & B

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Philip Riske : Nov 11th

    Eliza,

    What an amazing journey you are on! I loved reading about what you are learning about yourself and others. I look forward to reading the next installment.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jarry : Nov 13th

    It’s so good to hear from you, dear. 🙂 What a week you’ve had already!! Blood Mountain looks unbelievable.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Robyn Monroe : Nov 14th

    We’re all watching your journey with admiration. Very proud of you! xoxo

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Brandi Denton : Nov 18th

    I am so envious of your journey. Your a trooper for sure. Idk where you are now but I am in East Tn near Gatlinburg if you need anything don’t hesitate to reach out! ([email protected]) I am looking forward to your next blog. Enjoy the beautiful fall colors! Stay safe and have fun! Xoxo- Brandi ❤

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Eliza : Nov 19th

      Thank you so much for the well wishes! The fall colors really are breathtaking at times, and I just got snow, which was absolutely beautiful.

      As for your kind offer, I’ll actually be in Gatlinburg soon, and may even need a ride! May I email you with details about that?

      All the best to you, and many thanks,

      Eliza

      Reply

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