Matt HealeyWednesday,22 May 2013

The Snap:

I headed back to the Appalachian Trail on May 12th. This involved a flight back to Asheville and a ride from my sister to Allen Gap on the 13th. My next big break away from the hike will be on June 6th.

The Download:

The hike has been a lot of fun and I have met great people. Overall, I am very pleased that I am doing this. But that does not mean that there are no downsides. One of them is the time spent off trail. Unlike many of the thru hikers, I get off trail for longer periods of time. Most thru hikers will take a “0 Day” every few weeks. I take “0 Days” – plural. The first of these was in Ashville, where I got off of the trail for 4 days to visit my sister and her family. My wife also came down, so I got to see her. The second of these just ended. I took 8 days of to come back to New York, so I could meet with the builder who we are buying a house from.

The difficult part of taking these breaks is getting back on the trail. It presents both physical and mental challenges. The physical is the easiest to deal with. When you are out you get into a rhythm. Your body becomes accustomed to the demands of hiking 13-18 miles a day. Muscles get toned,  metabolism accelerates, joints and feet adapt to the walking. Getting that back takes a few days. It is painful, but not bad.

The other challenge is mental. As I have written before, the mental part of this is the most difficult part. Being away from family and friends for as long as I am is hard. This fact hits you like a ton of bricks every time you have to get on a plane and fly back to the trail.  It will make you question why are you doing this in the first place. You are leaving every one you care about, and the comforts of home, to walk through the mud and up and down mountains while being swarmed by various types of biting insects — all while wondering if you will be attacked by a bear or bitten by a copperhead or timber rattlesnake. Add to this the bland diet (and not enough calories) of raman noodles, couscous, pop tarts, and instant oatmeal. On what planet does this even make sense? And yet I do it. For fun.

Now, there are reasons. The trail is, for me anyway, a once in a lifetime event. I am grateful for the people whom I’ve met, and the experiences that I’ve had. But that does not make getting back on trail any easier.

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Image Credit: Flickr

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