Lost and Found- My First 100 Miles on the Appalachian Trail
Just a blip on the map of the entire Appalachian Trail, but the trail teaches you lessons rather quickly! I’ve literally and figuratively lost and found so many treasures already. Today I’ve got Georgia on my mind, and all that I’ve lost and found in these first nine days.
- Excess baggage. The first week I was very angry at my backpack—the way it dug into my bony hips and shoulders. Having to take it off and put it back on again over and over for times when I needed to stop for water, or when the weather changed and more or fewer clothes were required. Trying to wrangle it so that I could leave it on while peeing behind a tree, and then get my pants back up before someone came around the corner. So much frustration! I realized that two things needed to happen rather quickly. One, I had to get rid of everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and to carry lighter food. Two, I had to come to an acceptance that this is the way things were going to be. I distinctly remember on Day 8 of my hike saying to myself, “You are a goddamn pack mule. Like one of those that carry visitors up and down the Grand Canyon. You are so strong that someday you’re going to own a donkey and name her Luna after your own damn trail name.” And I released my anger at her heaviness.
- Mirrors. I’ve been working at a gym for the past six years, surrounded by mirrors every day. I wear full makeup to teach my spin classes. There are no mirrors out here in the woods. My beauty routine consists of waking up, brushing my teeth and hair, throwing on a cap or buff, and applying sunscreen and chapstick. When I do get to shower in a town, I don’t spend the time to blow out and straighten my hair. I’ve cut my nails short to minimize the amount of dirt that gets under them, and I wear the same mismatched clothing every day. It seems out here that the first thing we see in a person is not their body, but their soul.
- Cell Coverage. I spend a lot less time on my phone. I went for two days with 25% charge as my solar charger was not working, so I turned off my phone and went with it. It’s nice to have, but I don’t NEED it. Freedom from the lure of the screen is liberating.
- Wine. I’ve had little opportunity to drink alcohol, and I have to admit that it feels good to wake up feeling refreshed instead of groggy. I think it is helping with my digestive issues as well. I needed to get away from my two-glasses-of-wine-an- evening habit, and out here I don’t even miss it.
- New friends. When you walk for eight hours a day, you meet all kinds of people, young and old, bringing their many stories and life experiences. It’s been so great to actually have real conversations. I’ve met people from all over the world, but also made a new friend who lives 10 minutes away from me! People are open and honest. We look each other in the eye and share dehydrated meals around the fire. There is a very special bond that you form with other hikers. They know what you are going through because they just scrambled up the same mountain you did.
- Kindness. Trail magic is real. Just when you think you have nothing left, down you come to a gap where trail angels are handing out various food options. People give if they have it, and take it when they need it. I often find myself singing from the Grateful Dead’s Box of Rain as it so relates to the kindness I’ve experienced on the trail:
I don’t know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare
And it’s just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
And a short time to be there.”
Gratitude. I’m starting to really appreciate the experiences I am having on this journey, AND I am also really starting to understand how lucky I am to have what I do back home. I’ve been able to watch majestic sunsets, drink cold water straight from a mountain stream, and even spend time in town with my brother who I rarely get to see to recover in his peaceful home. I am grateful for sunny days that allow my gear to dry after a rainy evening, and for the circadian rhythm I’ve been able to live by. I do miss my family though, and my dogs … .and being able to sit down to go to the bathroom. Home is a special place too, not something I need to escape from.
“Maybe you’ll find direction / around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.”
Each mile brings new experiences, new challenges, and new direction. I truly believe nature will show me what to pick up, and what to leave behind—just like that box of rain.
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