The Mind Preparation of Trail Preparation
14 Days until Springer Mountain.
So I worked my last dinner rush and we had our last night out in Chicago. A final blowout before I really try to get on track and get into the mindset of what the next half of a year is going to look like for me. Because honestly, my ability to buckle down and focus has been getting diverted lately just by the demands of normal life. The last night was a blast, and the change in gears has proven more of a success than I expected.
I’m writing this from my older brother’s house in Minnesota. My first home base for a 12-day stay in the great white north. I’m from Minnesota and had to return for a few things before the hike; my veterinarian is here, my sports medicine therapist is here, dog groomer is here, had to cancel my gym membership, and drop off some documents at the taxman. Coming here all of those errands were secondary conveniences to be peppered in around time with family and friends. As circumstance would have it, much of my family had planned vacations in unison with this first week of my time here, or are otherwise swamped with work or obligations. Alicia isn’t joining me here until a little later.
While I’m beyond excited for them all to arrive, I’m finding myself eerily content. I’m eating on a shoestring budget, walking dogs, being productive, and making sure to knock out at least ten to twenty miles a day without overextending myself too much. I’ve only just told some of my friends that I’m here and I think it was healthy for me to hold off on that and revel in my aloneness for a bit. I know I’ll have plenty of time to live within the echoing silence of my own thoughts this year. But this is proving to be the perfect intermediary between the chaos of heavy traffic, hustle-bustle, hard drinking, and eating like crap in Chicago to the complete removal of background noise in my head that I will soon experience as I succumb to the tranquility that the wilderness offers. Just living out of my backpack with nothing on the schedule except hoping it doesn’t rain and maybe there’s room in the next shelter.
I fear that a more abrupt transition may have been jarring and added a new level of difficulty to what will already be an arduous venture. This was something that was actually pretty unforeseen. The expectation was to pack in as much visiting with family and hanging out with friends as possible and hope that the impending start date served as motivation enough to get focused. But after my first day of just kicking around the streets and sidewalks of Mahtomedi, Minnesota, it was clear that the calm is what my soul needed most. This whole time I’ve assumed if I achieve comfort in knowing that I have the right gear, enough money, balance in my relationships, and other tangible metrics, I’ll be ready to hike, and in hiking I will achieve mental soundness. It’s apparent now that going into the trip with a slightly heightened feeling of peace could be as important as anything in my pack. Except you know, water.
Today I’ll alert the rest of my friends as to my whereabouts. Family is all coming home from their respective corners of the country. I’m anticipating something of a return to the chaos. That’s good. It’s about balance as most things are. The chaos defines the tranquility and gives it value. Just as the tranquility does for the chaos.
I’m very grateful for this week as it has turned out to be entirely vital in getting my mind right. When asked in past weeks if I’m ready for the hike, my answers have been somewhat nonchalant and deflecting; “Am I ready? Gettin’ to that point where I have to be!” or “I guess we’ll find out!” The gift that this week has given me is the confidence to answer that question with a resounding affirmative. My head is on straight and I can’t wait. Which way to Georgia!?
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