Random Acts of Creeping
This past year I stalked six different strangers and they never knew it.
I discovered their strengths and weaknesses including who couldn’t start the day without coffee, learned about their charities, their families and even got to know their friends, some of whom I also started creeping on too.
Or in other words, I became an unabashed blog subscriber and vicariously followed the footsteps of this past year’s class of thru-hikers. It was part of my pre-trip mental prep and it was all good.
Beginning in March, I started searching TrailJournals.com, first looking for women who appeared to be about my age and shared similar life experiences (i.e. grown children and leaving a partner behind back at home) and were posting daily entries rich in details and observations. I trailed behind three women, two of who finished.
I also followed a man who was not Scott Jurek, but practically flew along the trail. He was from Wisconsin and had a great attitude, but I soon realized this was not going to be a pace I could achieve or wanted to emulate. I ended up only checking in from time to time just to see how fast he was going. His posts started out full of information, but dwindled over time to weekly mileage reports. He also finished.
My other two muses were 20-somethings who began their hikes around my intended start date. Their reports provided a different perspective to my empty-nester demographic posts. One finished after needing to skip up to Katahdin and the other stopped blogging.
I’d creep on them every morning over coffee from the comfort of my screen porch. In spring, I read about the rhododendron budding throughout southern mountains while I smelled the lilacs and lilies of the valley blooming in my backyard. I watched torrential rain form puddles in the driveway knowing they were also creating muddy ponds that turned the AT shelters into roofed islands. I felt the weight of humidity of the mid-Atlantic states during a week of particular oppressive August temperatures here at home. And as the leaves began to turn in fall, I worried about which of my archetypes were going to make it to Katahdin.
From more than one thousand miles away, I silently celebrated their victories, felt their frustrations, mourned their unexpected departures and posted encouraging notes in their guest books from an equally unfamiliar stranger.
From each of these hikers, I read about weather, bugs, trail conditions and social life, learned about good (or in their opinion, not-so-good) hostels and hotels and—what was most important to me—a sense of pace and place.
I miss my morning routine now that “my people” have finished their trips. It remains to be seen whether or not my daily creeping and armchair hiking ends up doing me any real good, but my world is infinitely larger for having “known” this very fine group of random strangers.
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There are some SOBOs about halfway done for your stalking pleasure 🙂
I can’t count how many I’ve followed for the past three years! I thought I’d get to head out this coming spring, but life happens, so maybe in a couple years, I’ll get to go. Meanwhile, I’ll follow the bloggers!
I, too, followed many people this past year. One couple & one single more than the others. They all finished & I nearly cried when I saw their finishing posts on ig.
Yes! How I’ve felt the past two years reading thetrek.co 🙂 Well written!