Weeks 14 & 15: It’s a Five O’clock World When the Whistle Blows
A few years ago, I was working as a lower level manager for a tech support call center in northern Kentucky. My work load would shift depending on the month, but at times I had as many as 60-70 people reporting to me, sometimes as little as 30. I had a wide variety of things I was responsible for the but in addition to my regular work I took the time to meet with more experienced employees going over mentoring and development activities, sometimes mock interviews, reviewing their resumes, or discussing different management techniques. I loved being able to develop these folks but the job had its downsides as well. Doing payroll paperwork, time in meetings, and keeping track of multiple developmental plans, I’d sometimes find myself working as much as 70 hours a week. My diet took a severe hit. I’d drink several pots of coffee a day to stay awake, then come home to eat junk, I remember more than once a meal of frozen French fries toasted in the oven, served up with a half gallon of ice cream. I’d then drink half a bottle of bourbon to counteract the coffee enough for me to get some sleep.
Eventually, it culminated in a night that I was sitting up, mentally preparing myself for a meeting the next day when I began to feel a sharp pressure in my chest which increases slowly until I felt like someone had reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. I dropped to the floor and struggled for breath. I then had the joy of spending the next few days in the hospital hooked up to all kinds of fun machines.
All of this is to say, I’m a long time workaholic with some experience in bad job situations, so I find it funny to say that while exhausting, hiking is the most stress free job I have ever had.
It’s definitely a job though, with its own patterns of a work day and week. In fact, I can actually say it’s my current profession since I ran out of my own money a while ago, now paying my way using funds raised through my Facebook page (hey look, shameless plug: Facebook.com/madmonkonthetrail) Having now ventured a good distance into Virginia, I can say that my Trail life has fallen into a routine. Gone are the days when I’d wake up each morning considering what mountains were coming that day, or how I’d measure my afternoons by mountain vistas, because the Green Tunnel has swallowed most of the day. What I see in the morning is very little in difference from my afternoon.
This isn’t to say, however, that the Trail has gotten boring, far from it. I’ve found myself thrilling to the small things of the Trail, literally! I make it a point to regularly stop and look at flowers blooming along the way, and stepping aside to smell them when possible
I’ve also learned to love the bugs of the Trail, from lightning bugs and moths to a huge variety of spiders. I enjoy looking down at the ground and watching for the random movements that clue my dull eyes to something interesting hiking with me.
There’s been several days of rain this past week, which has had its downsides, but a definite benefit is that spiderwebs are covered with dew, allowing for some gorgeous beauties, like ice sculptures of the forest. Sometimes I can spot the sculpter inside, sometimes not, but they’re always worth a gaze.
Salamanders are also a gem to spot. Often they’re too shy and too fast to catch much of a glimpse,but I can’t help but get excited whenever I do see one. They come in so many beautiful colors, and their comparative rarity makes them feel like a treasure when I do happen across them.
Moths have been hatching lately, so some afternoons have involved walking through clouds of them as move down the Trail. Occasionally, one will land and I find myself simply staring at the delicate structures of them, from what looks like a white fur coat ruffle to the long and intricate feather like antennae.
Of course, there’s still the occasional dramatic day, and I stay to soak it up as much as possible. In one case, this was literal when I came to Dismal Falls. I pushed a long day the day before and the day after, specifically so that I could spend an entire afternoon swimming and gazing at the falls. I met a wonderful couple who were camping there, Charles and Levonne. Levonne had stage 4 MS and Charles had a stroke, so the two of them left their old lives behind to drive across the country in a completely unplanned road trip, simply going wherever it occurred to them would be a fun place to visit, all their belongings in the back of their car. I was impressed to meet these fine folks who were living a life on their terms of refusing to be defined by their hardships. And it was all the more touching to be able to tell clearly just how in love with each other they were.
The Trail continues, and I’m feeling more and more that this is definitely the place I need to be for the moment. I think back to Georgia and it feels like a different life. I can’t imagine being somewhere else, but I’m slowly trying to transition to thinking about post trail life. I quit my job and moved out of my apartment to do this. Who will I be when I’m done? Where should I live? What should I do? I think about people like Charles and Levonne, and I remind myself that the options really are open, but I want to find a way that my life can help and bless others, lifting people up. I just need to decide what that’s going to look like. Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of time to decide. Until then, I have mountains to climb.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.