Some may call it 'reentry', others 'reverse culture shock', others 'getting back to reality.' What ever one calls it, I can say it's a shake up of the senses. The TV's flash splash at every juncture. Speakers vie for attention of the ears. Horns honk to the unaware like me. Creatures of upright stature, all shapes and sizes, jockey for position. A reversal of getting away from this all of modern living that happened 5 1/2 months ago is taking place. My head doesn't know what to do. I'm already missing the simplicity of trail life. I'm caught in a whirling mass of sensory overload. My ears long to hear the chatter of a squirrel. A long time ago I wanted the presence of of traffic's hum to lull me asleep.
Staying true to exploring the country, I am taking the train out of New England. To be honest and open, I didn't plan on getting this far. I didn't plan on finishing. Stastically less than one in five complete the Appalachian Trail each year. I figured I'd be in the other four not be the one who finishes. Can I say I'm successful at failing? I planned something so huge I knew I wanted to do but didn't think it was possible.
I initially wanted to see how far I could hike. Then, I wanted to see who's inside this shell I've become. I wanted to push myself beyond myself. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience something beyond. Yes, I backpack and hike often but, never to this extent. I can head out and come back as I please. Once on the trail reaching Mount Katahdin became more then a mark on the papers I presented to everyone. Reaching Mnt K became not a destination but a starting point. When I worked in the 'Glades ( winter of '91 & '92) I'd stare at the horizon and think 'what's on the other side for me?' Mnt K's became that new horizon for me.
The day I climbed that mystical philosophical mountain couldn't been better. A hard climb that I danced up. The wind reminding me of the unseen challenges. The mist clouding the view showing me the beauty of the challenge upon arrival. The summit, not ideal, nor clear as others wanted that day. For me, perfect for my ending and new beginning.
With not having plans to leave New England, I winged it. From the AT Lodge in Millinocket I caught a shuttle to the bus, fom there into Boston. In Boston I had a 15 hour lay over so I asked around and got a number for a local hostel, Friend Street Hostel near the Garden's. Now, I'm on Amtrak headed West.
Winging it is possible for the AT, though not recommend. There are great resource planning materials on WhiteBlaze.net I recommend downloading Baltimore Jack's resupply guide, updated in 2007, a bit old, it's close enough. For mileage hikers check AWOL's Guide. For landmark hikers get the set of maps from the ATC. I used a combination of all. I also did a lot of reading on TrailJournals.com and read personal blogs now like mine.
Getting experienced with your gear and knowing how you hike will be the best preparation you can do. It took me a while to refine my gear even while on the trail. It didn't help that I swapped out major components right before I left.
This extra time I'm spending on the train is giving me time to sort out the experience. I've met a lot of folks some who have no clue about the outdoors to those who are well experienced. Swapping stories and talking with them is helping me to figure out what is expected from others. It's helpful to know which stories help me tie this trek into relatable clips.
I am reading comments on this site and within my social media content. If there is something someone wants me to expand on please drop me a line.
I want to give a special shout out to some for their encouragements along the way in specific settings. First to Hobs who found me at a hostel near Harper's Ferry. He came out and gave me a pep talk when I seriously considered getting off trail for knee issues. He encouraged me to do whatever needed to keep going forward. Thanks to him I am looking at my summit photos as well as my trail family's. Next to Jenn, who kept a wall map at work and tracked my progress, keeping the team up to date on how far I've gone. Ross, also from work, who let me know he followed closely. For the Van Clan, who adopted me in prayer and provided some encouragement along the trail - Oreo's have taken on new symbolism. My parents of course need a shout out too, just cuz.
Literally there are to many one of encounters along the way that propped me up when I was down to name them all. Some of these became stories I tell, others already fades away.
Over the next few days I'll stare out the window, try to catch naps, and review what I think are important highlights.
I can't believe I failed at failing. Now that's a huge confidence booster. What's next to take on? Jokingly to Jimmy, who was doing a sweeping video interview, "the CDT in'19." Hum?