The Best and Worst of Long Distance Hiking
Posted from Bears Den Hostel at mile 1002
My friend, Nancy Camden, asked me awhile back about a Best of and Worst of list for this hike and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Here’s my list….
1. The epic adventure of it all– it was exciting to be a part of something so big and so challenging.
2. The people– We met so many kind and generous people who helped us out along the way. They gave us rides, put us up in their homes, and offered encouraging words.
3. The joy of the ordinary– a soft bed, a hot shower, a fresh meal, all of these simple things feel so much more wonderful when you have done without them for days on end. We appreciate all that we have so much more.
4. The music of the woods– We heard so many wonderful sounds in the woods, some of which we never hear at home, like the barred owls and the whippoorwills. I loved falling asleep to the sounds of all the insects and frogs and birds in the woods.
5. The joy of accomplishment– It feels so incredibly good to accomplish something, especially something really difficult. It feels so good that it can be addictive for some people. Luckily, I don’t have an addictive personality!
6. The beautiful and breathtaking vistas– that we would never have seen without walking up all those mountains!
7. Growing closer– There’s nothing quite like spending 24/7 with your significant other to bring you closer (or tear you apart). We survived the challenge as “Team Church”. We were in it together for better or for worse. If either one if us couldn’t make it, we’d both go home.
8. The simplicity of it all– When you are backpacking, life is reduced to the barest of necessities: a tent, a sleeping bag and mat, a few clothes, food and water. Life is reduced to the barest of functions: eat, sleep, walk, go to to the bathroom, repeat.
9. The slow pace and the quiet of the woods– There is nothing fast-paced about the woods. You can only get from point A to point B by putting one foot in front of the other. And there’s no TV –no guns, no wars, no violence. Peace.
10. All the calories you can consume! With long distance hiking, you can eat anything and everything you want and still lose weight! How often do you get to do that?
1. Coping with the weather– Our worst enemy was the heat and humidity, followed closely by torrential rain. The weather changes everything. Even an easy trail becomes difficult in the face of stifling humidity or days of rain.
2. Coping with the bugs– The worst offenders were the gnats and the black flies. We didn’t have them all the time, but when we did, they were awful. We were also plagued at times, with horse flies. Oh, and there were the spiders with their annoying webs that were strung out across the trail every single day and stuck to us like glue! We only had a few ticks, but they never became imbedded–hopefully because we had all our clothing treated with Permethrin by a company called Insect Shield.
3. Sleeping sticky– Even though we wiped down in the streams or springs when they were available, and even though we wiped down every night with Wet Wipes, only soap and water can really break through that sticky layer of sweat that accumulates everywhere. The end result is, you stick to your mat and your sleeping bag and yourself! Not fun!
4. Being sweaty and smelly and greasy for days on end.
5. Having achy, sore feet every single day for months at a time. I never had a single blister, but I did have a few toes that were less than happy with the entire walking arrangements.
6. Coping with inconsiderate hikers who leave their trash behind at shelters and elsewhere.
7. Always having ‘chores’ to do at the end of a long, hard day when all you really want to do is collapse on a couch and drink a cold beverage!
8. Trail food. Trail food isn’t inherently disgusting, it’s just that it’s not fresh food and it’s just that it’s the same food every single day. It tastes good once or twice but not 500 times in a row!
9. Coping with the daily grind of hiking for months on end.
10. Coping with homesickness–missing friends and family and the comforts of home.
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It surely looks like the good far outweighed the bad! There is nothing like a beautiful vista to lift the spirit and give me a sense of well being. You will carry them in your mind for a long time.