Every Meltdown, a Milestone
Alright, so here we are—about a month behind schedule and a full couple hundred miles into my hike (and about 550 miles into the entirety of the trail itself) but life tends to pull us away in the strangest directions and at the most inopportune times. At least I’m here and now.
Out on the eastern trail, I was known as Lazy Tongue for my inability to adequately enunciate any words when I had smoked some good medicine at the end of a long day of hiking. Out here they call me Meltdown. I have had at least one every day. Though, to be fair, in those days I have been paced by a tramily who started at the Southern Terminus (and approximately 400 miles before I jumped on at Wrightwood), I nearly had Frontier lose my bag (I strongly believe this to be every thru-hikers’ worst fear at the beginning of the journey), and after hiking up the frozen-over trail of Baden Powell (which warranted at least 50 meltdowns), I hiked a 26 on my second day (which had me at zero meltdowns until I found myself entirely lost and I was forced to have about six) and, truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
This trail life is a strange phenomenon, an immersive community to be apart of. I spent the better portion of the Appalachian Trail making solemn vows up every mountain that I would never (EVER) step foot on another thru-hike again, only to sit on top of each of those mountains to make similar vows to return. It’s like externally experiencing symptoms of manic-depression, every (melt)down is followed by some seemingly innocuous boost up (like crying when a stranger on the road hands you a PBR or when a trail angel takes you under their wing) all of this while your body breaks down and builds back up stronger than before. I’m not saying anything most long-distance hikers don’t already know. It’s what brings us back to these conditions where we are robbed of modern conveniences and what brings us back to willingly forfeit modern comforts in exchange for a months-long commitment—an escape from the 9-5.
These next few posts of mine will be for the aspiring hiker, the ones who find themselves asking, “Can I do this?” Allow me—as the laziest thru-hiker—to say you definitely can. Hell, if you’re reading up on blogs you’re several steps ahead of where I was anyway. I have some answers to your follow-up questions as well, because they were the same questions I had. Some of them I probably should have asked and had to learn the hard way. Other questions I asked and still had to learn the hard way (lazy and stubborn, so there is hope for you, aspiring hiker). For each blunder I’ve made in gear selection, every experimental adjustment, and for all the turns toward improvisation, I have a kernel of wisdom to share. For those out there who have anything else to add on, feel free to leave comments to help me better shape my attempts at guidance. Any specific questions people want addressed feel free to reach out to me through comments or my contact information posted on my bio.
W.J. (Meltdown) LaRocca
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