Transitioning to Trail Life
The Appalachian Trail is hard. Harder than I ever would have imagined. Although I have read many blogs, stories and books on trail life, it is still something that is hard to grasp until you live it yourself. As you may know, the first week was hard for me. I had problems developing a daily routine with making and breaking camp. My equipment felt all wrong. My shoes were 1.5 sizes too small and my pack hurt my hips. Also, I didn’t know how to deal with unique challenges such as it being so cold that your tent wouldn’t unbuckle to put back in its bag. One night there were mice in my bag. My filter had broke one day after leaving town and I wasn’t sure how to filter my water. Each day seemed to challenge me in a new way.
However, I still love the trail. I physically feel stronger from the daily “walk in the woods” and am now feeling mentally and emotionally strong as well. I feel that I am better able to problem solve with each day’s unique challenges and am also able to appreciate the beauty in whatever the day will bring.
I am feeling less awkward as I stumble into camp at the end of the night. When I first started, I was unsure of myself and felt that everyone would laugh at my feeble attempts at bear bagging or even setting up my tent. I thought for sure that I would be seen as an outsider that didn’t quite measure up to the standards needed in order to be on this journey. However, you soon notice that everyone is as awkward and as self conscious as yourself. Instead of fearing the ability to do something, I now feel confident that the others on the trail are there to support me and not silently judge me. (Seriously, the people I have met on the trail thusfar are awesome.) I look forward to camp and wonder what new and familiar faces will be there to spend some quality time with before heading to bed.
My trail life is vastly different from my everyday life. I love not worrying about how I look and I love spending minimal time on what clothes I will wear or how to style my hair. I have one daytime outfit, one nighttime outfit, no makeup, and only a comb to unknot my hair. I love not having tv or internet. The only entertainment we have is each other’s company and the unique talents among the other hikers. We sing songs, we talk about life, and sometimes we are even blessed with a musical instrument or two. The trail community is strong and I feel like you get to know people quickly since conversations are more focused on one another and void of other distractions. I used to obsess about my weight and how I look and now feel complete and unconcerned over these petty things.
It is amazing how your body adjusts to the outdoors. I have never been a morning person, but my body is now in rhythm with nature and not the world around it. After a hard day’s hike, I eat dinner, watch the sunset, and head to bed before it gets too cold. I then rise with the sun and see its beautiful colors illuminate the land. I have been waking up earlier and earlier and just recently was up at 6:50am and on the trail by 7:50am. For people that know me well, I know they wouldn’t believe it. I feel refreshed in the morning and no longer need coffee or alarms in order to rise for the day. It is a beautiful thing to be in tuned with nature rather than living in the world of distractions, lights, and noise.
As for progress, I have about 200 miles completed. Each morning I still struggle with focusing on miles completed rather than quality time on the trail, but hope to overcome this hurdle by my next entry. Some days I wake up stressed that I am not completing enough miles- I have always been a task orientated person in life with lots of to-do lists and love checking off my progress one task at a time. However, that type of thinking is defeating on the trail. Some days I carry my guide pages and mentally tally each landmark I pass in order to determine how much progress I am making. But the days I am happiest is when I put the guidebook away, pray for God to guide my progress for the day, and hike until I feel ready to call it a night. I know it may seem silly, but it is actually a hard concept for me to live on the trail.
I know this is not a typical entry, but I figured I would focus on the mental and emotional journey thusfar. As for the trail, it is beautiful. The trail leading up and away from Clingmans Dome has been my favorite stretch so far. I loved seeing the vegetation of the trail change from browns and reds to the lush green forest that surrounds the highest peak on the trail. Plus, the views of the rolling mountains in the Smoky Mountains was enough to take my breath away.
After two days in town filling up on salads, candy, pizza, and moonshine, Smoky Bear and I will be back on the trail tomorrow. I look forward to seeing what lessons the trail has in store for me as we move through this next stretch!
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