Inspiration To Hike Again after an AT Overnight

With all that history of camping from an RV, tenting in the safety of campgrounds, it was still a leap of faith. One that I wrestled with greatly. Reassurance is one of those things in short supply. I for one needed an extra nudge of inspiration and was prone to analysis paralysis.

I did a vlog awhile back where I brainstormed a calorie/expense spreadsheet.

A Drive for Something More

For a long time, I had been at a point of stagnation. Knowing things needed to change and feeling powerless. Call it cultural indoctrination or social pressure, it doesn’t matter. I’d managed to get past 40 and still hadn’t yielded to the whole idea. The 2,500-square-foot house, two-car garage, 2.3 children, an inescapable job with an implacable boss, and unbalanced debts demanded by culture was an abhorrent concept. One that I nearly bought into and the thought still triggers an urge to vomit.

I repaid all my debts and breathed the fresh air of a free man. Not long after that I sought therapy. The trap was still closing in. I’d never made any plans beyond getting free. My obligations were settled and my every fiber craved release from the machine by any means necessary.

Camping, getting out to woods and forests, all helped to find that inspiration. Going fully digital, I started carrying a camera again. I set a goal to take three pictures of interest a week.

Shot with an old smartphone.

Less Was Easier

Steep on the learning was a series of moves. Take some advice: Your friends won’t help you move more than twice if you own a library or free weights. I had both. The journey to minimalism can be easy. One phone call to the right cleaning crew and presto, empty house. I did it the hard way, and it wasn’t completely voluntary. A few tantrums later, a deep breath, and I’m a convert.

One load of many trips. I only got $100 for this pile of saws and nailguns.

I’m not quite where I have one kit for home and camp. But I am down to one carload. I want to learn if I could be content with one backpack. That can be a slippery slope indeed! It has lessened my anxiety simply because I have made peace in the war of consumer greed. It has taken years, and I wonder what my thru-hike will bring to that table.

Tipping Point

Finally, hiking reappeared on the radar. Eyes opened wide, I devoured pictures, videos, and blogs. Wide angle shots of limitless vistas, gritty hikers slogging through mud past white-blazed trees and how-tos consumed hours. And I remembered my hike in the Pine Barrens. I admit to being enamored with the apparent freedom. More so the miles and miles of nobody, no cellphones. Just a pack, a tent, second blaze to the right and straight on until morning. The inspiration was there.

It was a huge escape from a situation where only a few things were going right, and a lot was going wrong. In the end, the dream was winning. Soon we had a family glamping trip when we took some new ideas into the field. I rediscovered my talent for photography. In particular, low light.

I set up a tripod and shot anyone who wanted to play. Pictures for them, experience for me. Model is known as KDubz.

I like foggy shots too, but the moisture is tough on the camera.

Pressure Building

With my job satisfaction plummeting, and hours of glorious trail videos, we just needed to get out there and chase blazes. New REI memberships in hand, an email came through about the #optoutside movement. My family set a date and packed up for a first real backpack overnight. We lived near Harpers Ferry at the time. So a quick trip to see the folks at the ATC was in order.

Armed with the knowledge that the shelter we aimed for had a really bad decline because of intermittent water that may not be flowing, we planned a dry camp. Returning home plans were finalized for a Black Friday escape. A phone call to the Harpers Ferry park service to get parking taken care of was the last step. Then waiting. It was a chilly, blustery day when we headed down the trail from the visitor center parking lot.

Those First Views

I’d been to Harpers Ferry several times, but this was the first time as a hiker. It was my first real steps on the Appalachian Trail. Our packs were overloaded, the usual first timer kitchen sink mentality. But, camera in hand . . .

Jefferson Rock.

Looking down the Potomac.

The hike down the C&O wasn’t too thrilling. Then the switchbacks up Weverton Cliff were interesting. The heavy pack was heavy until we got to that first real overlook.

Weverton Cliff view.

It was still foggy and hazy, but it wasn’t a letdown nor did it lessen the impact. We had lunch before hiking up the blue blaze back to the AT. While still tired from the climb, I was honestly rather refreshed and ready for more. Everyone else was pretty done, but it was more miles back to the car at this point than to the shelter. We took a short break part way there to hang out with this guy sporting an amazing splash of color.

Marbled Orb Weaver.

Shortly afterward we walked into the shelter. Dropping our packs at the table, we walked around like tourists and looked through the log book. We were out to try the tents but still thought the shelter might have been kinda cool to sleep in too. The night was cool and we learned our sleep system wasn’t worth the weight we were carrying.

The Next Morning

Even though the sleep we got was poor, there was a clear sunrise waiting for us.

My first AT sunrise.

Then when we had gotten back to the cliff view, the haze was gone and you could see for miles.

Weverton Cliff, with Harpers Ferry in the far distance.

It was a long, painful walk back to the car. Gear had to be taken out of packs and added to others. Grateful legs stepped onto the bus once we were back in Harper’s Ferry proper. But one last look back from where we came.

Looking down the Potomac, Shenandoah entering from left, AT foot traffic along the railroad trestle.

I knew I was coming back, maybe SOBO the next time. Park pass in hand for unlimited parking, I would be day hiking both directions. I had a long way to go. I needed to rebuild my legs after a long time of relative inactivity. But with views, critters and other things like that virtually around every corner, it’ll be a piece of cake.

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