After 5 days on the Appalachian Trail, I’ve come to some realizations/discoveries:
- Thru-hiking is a completely different animal than just hiking. I thought I was a strong hiker…until I started on my thru-hike. The terrain is tough, but hiking takes on a whole new meaning when you are out there day and night.
- Looking for the white blazes is like an Easter egg hunt. They are far and few between in Georgia. It’s a good thing the trail is well worn and at least when you come to a crossroads, there’s usually a sign.
- I’ve been refining my hiking technique and have invented names for my different gaits:
- The Funicular Climb – a very slow plodding step used to ascend very steep terrain. This involves stepping up on one foot to transfer weight to skeletal system to allow for a brief rest for leg muscles. It’s actually called the ‘rest step’ or ‘mountaineer step’, but I like my name better. (http://www.backpacker.com/skills/fitness/next-level-the-rest-step/ and http://youtu.be/y5cFBkuMpmE)
- The Fast Funicular – used for moderate slopes, this step is the same as above, just quicker.
- The Green Giant – used for level or slight downhill terrain. This is a long quick stride that resembles someone trying to run, except without running. Think of it as trying to step over a puddle, just repeatedly.
- The Leap of Faith – used for somewhat steep to steep downhill. I use this with stepping off of a moderate plateau (or rock) when going downhill. In order to not break my stride or sometimes unintentional due to forward inertia, I’ll take that big potentially disastrous green giant step and hoping I land safely.
- The ‘I’m on a mission’ Walk – similar to the ‘Green Giant’ stride also used for slight to moderate downhill. This is a wide gait used to get downhill quickly and usually involves pounding of the feet and results in high impact to legs and feet.
- The Slug – used when you are totally spent and your legs seem to be defying you and won’t move. This is a slow, sloppy step that can resemble a drunk stumble.
- There’s no such thing as privacy on the trail. Anytime I have to pee, there always seems to be someone there. How the heck does this happen anyway? 2,180 miles of trail and someone has to be within line of sight of me when I have to pee
- I’ve mastered the art of the mobile changing room using a poncho. There’s no privacy at shelters. However, since I’m debating ditching the poncho, I’ll have to master the art of changing in my sleeping bag.
- ‘Cold’ takes on a whole new meaning on the trail. When you think you’re cold, think again. In the civilized world, there’s heaters, warm buildings (and even cars), blankets, and clothes available to you. On the trail, you’re constantly wet whether it be from rain, drizzle, fog, or sweat. Any drop in temperature (and lack of movement) results in a chill to the bone that is extremely hard to get rid of. On the trail you only have what you can carry, so better hope you keep a few items dry and the items you have are sufficient enough for the temperatures you encounter. I should have spent the money and bought another sleeping bag rated for colder temps. Luckily, Joe’s leaving the trail and I can use his.
- There’s no question about a thru-hike being a physical feat, but it’s been said that it’ more mental. It’s true. When you’re spirits are down and you’re mentally drained, the physical aspect becomes that much more challenging. You’re body won’t do what your mind won’t allow. Positivity is a necessity when thru-hiking. Consider it a piece of survival gear.
- People are assholes. I knew this before coming out here, obviously, but there’s no exception out here. It’s a miracle more people don’t have bear encounters on the trail. There’s some who don’t follow the rules. They don’t hang their food, they don’t keep food and trash out of the shelters, and they don’t pack out their trash. I’m diligent about following the rules and I’m at risk for a bear waking me up and mice having a party in my pack/bag because others don’t follow the rules. I’ll be tenting it rather than sleeping in a shelter where possible.
- 2,180 miles is a LOT of miles. I still have 2,148.3 miles to go.