“You’ll Find All Your Edges”

It’s safe to say that people who embark on absurd undertakings are looking for a meaningful experience beyond the surface-level features of it. Of course you have to love the outdoors to spend six months living in and walking through the woods, but if nature immersion were all you were after, let’s be honest: you’d find an easier approach.

But no. You go big: quit your job, move out of your apartment, leave your significant other behind, abandon comfort and security, and worry your parents half to death.

Obviously, you’re after something more. One friend, when I shared with her my plans, said, “Oooh, you’re going to find all your edges.” As in, I assumed, what I’m capable of, what I’m not, where my fears and insecurities stop me from living life, how to finally push past them. What I’m learning now—before setting a foot on Springer Mountain, is that these edges are not very soft or comfy!

No, I didn’t expect them to be. I also didn’t expect to start finding them here in my posh apartment before my hike even starts!

What do I mean?

Well, there is a LOT to do before leaving your life behind half a year. Approximately none percent of it is fun: cancel magazine subscriptions, notify credit card companies, figure out health insurance, find storage for your furniture, move it there, make property management arrangements (i.e. find a tenant), get your family relationships in order, try to see all your friends, plan a going-away party (okay the last two are fun).

Then there’s preparation for the hike itself: the planning spreadsheet for mail drops, daily mileage, and hostel stays; gear purchases; gear returns; shakedown hikes; first nights out in the woods in 15-degree weather; progressively longer conditioning hikes with a progressively heavier pack; endless trips to REI; endless online forum browsing and researching and discussing and deciding; and food dehydrating, rehydrating, and experimentation. Those bits could theoretically be fun, but given my personality, mostly they’re overwhelming and sometimes they’re stressful to the point of paralysis. Anxiety, anyone?

But wait! There’s one more edge-provoking activity: Because I have knee issues, another part of my conditioning prep is a diet. Yes, the pack will still feel heavy, but whatever weight I can take off now will only protect my knees. (And before you point out that I will lose weight on the hike itself and might want to keep a little padding in anticipation, I will say, that’s really a sure thing only for dudes—women’s fetility-protecting metabolism kicks in and hoses us for thru-hiking weight loss.) So I started one of those Beachbody programs, 21 Day Fix, last week, and while I’m happy with the results already (losing weight and strengthening up!), I have drunk almost no alcohol, eaten very few carbs, and ingested zero added sugar for almost two weeks now.

You might know, intellectually, that sugar, alcohol, and carbs are numbing substances, but giving them up for two weeks drives that point home in what might be called an especially EDGY way.

The weather is slowly, slowly warming up. On a day hike last weekend I was able to wear short sleeves and sit for an hour in the sun drinking Starbucks Via (not as bad as I’d feared) and making my first fire (with a lighter, but astoundingly satisfying nonetheless). My gear assemblage is slowly, slowly taking shape—the list of things I still need to buy is almost empty. My last work project is progressing at a pace that tells me I’ll finish it in time.

Long story short? Shit is getting real! This is happening. I am starting a thru-hike in 40 days.

This knowledge is quite different from the knowledge that I’m starting a thru-hike this year. Or the idea, last year when I made the decision, that I would do it next year.

Oh, baby. Combine the tangibility of a start date so near with the not-numbness of a few sugar-, alcohol-, and carb-free weeks? I got one word for you.


Have you found yours yet?

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Comments 5

  • Claudia and Andrew Carberry : Mar 3rd

    I know what you mean! I’ve had the past month off work to prepare for our thru, and it’s much harder than I thought to put everything on hold and leave! Slowly getting there though, I just keep telling myself to ‘do the next right thing’.

    • Mathina Calliope : Mar 3rd

      Oh I like that very much–“Do the next right thing.” It’s so simple and nothing short of absolute truth–what else CAN you do anyway? Thanks for the thought!

  • April : Mar 4th

    After reading this post, Matti (with no e!), I don’t know which part I’m most impressed about- but I’ll have to say that going without alcohol for the past two weeks is a major one! I look forward to reading more as you find your edges on the trail.

    • Matti : Mar 4th

      Thank you!

  • Bob Rogers : Mar 4th

    I’ve still got a year but my edges will be much softer I think. I don’t do nor understand the anxiety thing very well. I would be very anxious to start but that’s the same as waiting for a vacation. Come on already, let’s get the show on the road!! Once I have a plan I don’t usually second guess myself. It’s full ahead flank (more than full speed ahead). If something goes sideways, readjust and keep going. Damn I need to get off my butt and get started on the house!!

    Congrats on the first fire; late bloomer or is this a girl thing? The first fire I remember was at about 5 when I set the side yard on fire. Luckily I grew out of the pyro phase.


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