Wondering about Wonderland
Greetings! It’s been a while…. a long while. Maybe it’s because I got rejected for a John Muir Trail permit everyday for 6 weeks straight last year. Maybe it’s because I fell victim to the robotic and routine style of everyday life again. Maybe it’s because I didn’t hike 20 to 30 miles a week last year like I did before my thru. Maybe it’s because I haven’t felt a sense of major accomplishment even though I achieve all of the goals I set for myself. Maybe it’s because post trail depression took a strong grip on my neck and hasn’t let up long enough for me to feel normal.
People are still in awe when they find out what 2015 consisted of for me. They still ask me a million questions, even those who followed my journey. Where did you sleep everynight? In my tent. Did you ever shower? When I went into town. Did you see bears? Well, there was that one time we picked up our tent fully intacted and moved it to pack it up because we were being stalked by a bear in the middle of the night. Did you carry a gun? No, I’m safer in the woods than I am in a Walmart parking lot. How did you prepare for such a hike? There is really no physical preparation. It’s 95% mental, the only physical part in my opinion is putting one foot in front of the other. Did you ever want to give up? Well, there was that one time while climbing up the Mahoosuc arm at dusk that I threw my trekking poles and sat down in tears so mad and frustrated at myself for actually wanting to give up…. and then I looked over at a rock face and saw that someone inscribed “Fuck the A.T.” with a trekking pole and just started busting out laughing at the irony. After that, I ran up that damn mountain.
I could go on and on about post trail life, but I will leave that for a later post. The point is, I spent all of last year feeling like I was lacking adventure and feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t until earlier this year while at work that that feeling somewhat went away. I was doing my normal work shenanigans when a familiar face walked through the door. I had to stop in my tracks in disbelief. Many people say they will keep in touch post trail, but someone actually kept his word and just showed up to say “hi” and catch up. It was Perk from New York who I hadn’t seen since Virginia on our thru. He was passing through the area and decided to stay for a few days. He even got a hike in with us.
It wasn’t until catching up with Perk that I realized last year really wasn’t that bad. My life had just gotten to the point of having too high of standards for itself after the A.T…. and everything seems like it has to compare somehow.
I started to fill Perk in on what I’ve been doing and how I’ve been handling myself. While listing off everything to him, it surfaced that I did have accomplishments and a lot of fun last year….
Hooter and I returned and completed a section that we yellowed in order to make it to Trail Days on time. We picked the coldest time of the year and turtle backed on Roan Mountain, but had a blast.
On Hooter’s birthday, we got the trail forever engraved on us. This is a very meaningful tattoo that I will never regret. I chose my foot because my feet led the way.
Of course, we made it to the 2016 Trail Days festival. We got to catch up with old trail family and walk down memory lane. It was the last time I used “Appalachian Trials” before it changed to “The Trek”. I also got to work with these goobers.
Later on in the year came time for me to pay the trail back for all it has done for me by returning to a session of Rocky Top Trail Crew… only this time, trail crew was unlike any of my prior sessions. I didn’t realize I was going to be a part of helicopter drops. You know those stairs that we either love or hate? Well, the lumber to make them has to get to the trail somehow. Seeing a helicopter drop hundreds of pounds of mulch and lumber in a tiny clearing is an amazing experience and makes you appreciate all of the work that goes into the trail even more. Everyone who loves the trail should try to help out with trail crew at some point. It’s an experience you will never forget. You can find the perfect trail crew for you and read the blogs on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website:
Hooter and I finished the year with a trip to Gatlinburg to drop off donations for the fire victims and observe the damage. It was such a heartbreaking disaster, but the trip gave me hope. To see the community working so hard together to rebuild to area and the support that so many were giving gave me so much needed faith in humamity.
I think it was at that point that we decided we needed hardcore nature therapy again. We vowed that we would hike again and remember how much we appreciated the healing powers of mountains. And we are doing just that. We vowed to complete our own challenge of #52ofcraiganddrew, which consists of 52 different hikes for us in 2017. We celebrated our 2 year trailiversary on Springer Mountain just 10 days ago. It was different, but it had not changed.
I did a lot of thinking on that mountain. I thought about how last time I was there, it was so easy to just continue walking north. I thought about how heavy my pack was that day and laughed at myself for having the unnecessary weight. And the reality of our next goal to accomplish finally started to kick in… What is our next goal?
Lottery systems suck, but I believe they are necessary to minimize impact on trails. On March 23rd, I submitted an application for The Wonderland Trail. I did not take it seriously or get my hopes up due to my mishaps with the JMT last year, but little did I know, I would literally win the lottery just 15 days after they started processing the permit applications. I got the golden ticket for the 93 miles of absolute beauty that circles Mount Rainier! And. I. Am. Terrified!
Why? I didn’t get the trail name “Sarge” for nothing. I’m a take charge kind of person. But here’s the problem. I earned “Sarge” on The Appalachian Trail. I was thoroughly educated, knew exactly what to expect, had already walked many miles of it, and could tell you anything about it. I dreamed of the A.T. for the majority of my life. This…. The Wonderland Trail, is like a sensory overload to me. Hooter and I are going to the complete unknown for both of us. I can read all of the books I want, but I have never even been to this part of the country. Why does the mileage of 10 to 16 miles a day terrify me?
We started the A.T. by stomping out 15 to 20 miles a day. So, why is this scary? Why do I feel like I am asking the same questions a novice hiker would ask? I figured out why on Springer Mountain. The A.T. never really put me out of my comfort zone. I could be at any point from Springer to Damascus in 5 hours or less. It was always convenient to me and I never really had any questions before starting my thru. I think this is also why I have not had closure and have been down in the slumps since my return. The Wonderland Trail actually gives me butterflies and makes me nervous. I need this. I need that feeling I had when I left for college and had no idea what to expect. I need that feeling I had the first time I signed an apartment lease or bought my first brand new car. I need that feeling I had the first time I saw that positive sign on a pregnancy test… odd, but your get the point. I have vowed to thru hike a trail each year, even if it is not 2,200 miles. And I have a feeling that the mystery of the unknown for me and that sense of accomplishment I’m going to feel on that last 16.8 mile day is going to be a game changer. I need this and I am doing everything I can to mentally prepare myself.
My apologies for being long winded, but being down in the slumps causes one hell of a writer’s block and I had a lot of catching up to do. Until my next post, happy trails and here’s to Sarge and Hooter taking on Wonderland in 2017!
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