“I would walk 500 miles,” goes the chorus of that one song by the Proclaimers. “And I would walk 500 more.” It continues on to say something about collapsing at some poor sucker’s door, which I think is appropriate.
Because I went that far. And when it wasn’t enough, I went and did it again. There is still trail left, but not a whole lot, which is good, since I’m ready to be done.
Not too long ago, I went back and read my posts from start to finish, and I think it’s interesting how my focus changed, and how those changes show through.
Starting out, all my challenges were physical, and my days revolved around misery management. It was always a question of how hard I should push myself that day, as I had to balance the need to build strength against the risk of hurting myself. That wasn’t so hard to deal with, since I knew that I would get my trail legs eventually. It was simply an exercise in patience.
As I moved north I obviously got stronger, and the challenges shifted toward those posed by the trail itself, by the rugged terrain I was moving over. However, as tough as the trail got, it was always beautiful, and hiking with a group of friends also helped to keep me motivated.
Going south, the hike became more like a job. I’d wake up every day to the same routine, something that is only possible with deep familiarity and practice. That isn’t to say that I stopped enjoying it, only that I stopped needing to think about it. I’d glance at the guide, note the tough looking climbs and the location of the water sources, and just start walking.
And now I’ve come full circle back to misery management. I’m strong, sure, stronger than I’ve ever been, but winter has happened and it is cold. The short days don’t help either, since getting out of my sleeping bag is mighty unpleasant, and the temperature plummets immediately after sundown.
Again, this is not to say that I’ve stopped enjoying the trail. It’s just that I won’t miss having to start the day by slapping the ice off of my tent, or having to hike a half mile before I can feel my toes. My diet has also been pushed to new heights of absurdity since I now need to find the calories both for climbing mountains and for staying warm. I am also really looking forward to not eating like a stoned nine-year-old does my shopping.
This thru-hiking thing is really hard, and not because of the amount of physical exertion. It’s the knowledge that I could quit at any time that makes it difficult. I could just stop at a road, stick out my thumb, and be on a bus back to Baltimore within a day. It’s a challenge of willpower. Of focus. Of tenacity. Of pure blind death-grip pig-headed stubbornness. Apparently I’m good at that. I wonder, on the colder, wetter days if there isn’t something wrong with me, but no harm no foul, I guess.
Total Milage: 2052.1
Miles Remaining: 137.1
I’m almost there, AT. Mules could take lessons. You don’t even know.
Praise the Sun, source of warmth and light. To clarify, I don’t want more energy from it. The changes to the weather would be much harder to deal with than a wobbly planetary axis.