1. Get my license back
2. Get a job, save money.
3. Join the cycling and triathlon teams and be involved OR Join an intramural team and goof around
4. Study hard. Study really hard
5. Embark on an adventure every weekend. Be independent. Be alone. Be happy.
The problem with last year is that I was trying to live my life the normal way. I thought that my college experience should be just like everyone else’s. But I am not normal and I do not want my life to be the way everyone else’s is.
I want to come back every Sunday with a new story to tell my friends. I want to not only remember every weekend but let every one be more adventurous than the one before it. And I want my stories to be ones that I can tell my children with pride.
I do not want to limit my enjoyment of life in college to the couple hours of triathlon training each day. I want to bike into West Virginia, sleep in the woods, bike to the highest peaks, sleep again, and return the next day. I want to kayak down the New River for a two day trip. I want to hike deep into the woods and sleep under the magnificent unhindered light of stars.
I have a severe disorder. It is called itchy feet. It is not that I am never content where I am; it is just that the world is too big to stay in one place for too long.
Hiking the Appalachian trail is perfect for me right now because I am always moving. But what happens when I return home? I know what life was like when I sat still. When in school, I will have less than 72 hours to explore and I need to do just that. Beyond those 72 hours I’ll be trapped in the small dorm room for sanctuary and the small campus for entertainment.
I know there are others just like me who want to explore. I know there are others who think that crowding into the smallest space that possibly fits us all is not how we want to continue our experience here.
No it will not be hard for me to go back. I will not do something just to say I did it. I am in the woods for a reason. Honestly, I still do not know what intrigues me about it and why I am so happy out there. After two months, that question remain unanswered. It may be that way forever.
Yeah I enjoy sitting on a toilet and not having my entire body itch. I will miss my comfortable bed and being dry and warm. But something about the past two months has changed everything. I feel on track now. As opposed to last year, where I feel I regressed, my life has returned to a progression.
Tonight, I once again walked away from watching “Marley and Me” the beloved dog reaches his life’s end. I do not want to be reminded of loss. A man on the trail put it to me as we appreciate the time we had with them rather than fueling over the loss. I’ve suffered through my time of mourning for the late Maggie Cobb, but now I have Ruby and Lola Cobb and I’ll enjoy the smiles they bring me thinking about or witnessing their antics.
So I watched Wall-e, a movie so complex that on my thirtieth time watching it I still found new metaphors and themes.
The world is a mess right now. The safest place on earth is away from the next person.
Will I make it to Georgia? I don’t know. Will you live to be 100? The chances are similar and the ability to predict the answer is equally impossible. I am in New York right now, or at least close, and I like it here. It is a beautiful state and I am enjoying it.
Sure Connecticut has its ups and downs, literally. But none of the ups are too high and none of the downs are too low.
The leaves are in full change, the world is in full change, and my life and my attitude are both following close behind.
Will I get to Georgia? I don’t care.
A man approached me, discovered I was a thru-hiker and told me “Man, you may not live long, but you are living hard, and you are doing it right.”
He was over sixty, breaking down, and realizing that he had never been on an adventure. Essentially his life had never been an adventure. It was plain.
So I may mess up. I may find sometimes the lows are too low and the highs get me a court date of April 10, 2009.
Clear skies, Connecticut countryside, my two feet, and everything I need to survive is on my back. No I am not bored. No I am not lonely. And no, I do not envy you. I am content and I am alive.
When I arrived at the shelter, I asked everyone what temperature rating their sleeping bag was. These hikers out for a couple days were unprepared but after hearing ratings of twenty and thirty I figured they would survive at least. We were all about to camp at 3,500 feet in open air. It was in the twenties when we all rolled in to camp and I knew nothing was going to prevent that temperature from dropping into the teens at night.
They all pulled out their trash bags, space blanets, four pairs of socks, whatever they had to insulate them. A couple went so far as to even leave their unlaced boots on in their sleeping bag and put their feet in their packs.
And sure enough, they all were miserable and they all struggled to sleep. And sure enough, we all awoke to clashing of sleet hitting the tin roof around midnight. And the next morning we all had mixed feelings about the beautiful couple inches of snow on the ground.
I guess I should have expected this. Winter thru-hike plausible? Maybe. Winter thru-hike sensible? Probably not.
No one jumps out of the woods and screams the answer to me. The sky does not clear to show a universal truth. The woods do not hold any answers and will not help someone who believes it does.
I walked into the woods to escape everything that was jumbled. In the woods, everything is quiet. Despite the constant chatter of red squirrels and birds, the whirr of the wind and the splatter of the rain, the world is quieted. I walk, and I walk. I speak very few words and I would truthfully be content with saying even less.
The answers have been there all along but I was not ready to hear them.
My life has been a trip, so far. I grew up in the same house I sit here typing this in the sense that the walls are constructed of the same bricks and the doors of the same wood. But those walls protect something completely different and represent a family that will never be the same as it was. My dad led me into little league baseball and soccer and coached several of the teams whose colors I wore. My mom cooked me dinner every night and washed my clothes. I went to a public elementary school with many of my neighborhood friends.
But at some point everything became a progression. Everything went from stability to rockiness to change. My diet became unhealthy and my emotional and physical health spiraled away. With the introduction of running to my life, the physical health returned. Soon I found myself winning competitive triathlons and wearing red, white, and blue.
But still yet, the trip continued. Paranoia consumed me and my heart raced from anxiety in addition to the stress of exercise. Soon the anxiety attacks that plagued me as a kid returned. It took my coach telling me I need to take control to realize the disaster consuming my mental state.
The page flipped and sure enough another chapter ensued. This time I dropped everything. With this chapter, everything needed to be realigned. So I have quieted the world around me to listen for the answers that have been in me this entire ride.
But the man we call Cuppa Joe believes he has the answers. He tells me his philosophy and while I agree with him completely, I am not ready to get things right. I do not think I need to be wealthy beyond meaning or poor beyond security or prude or wild, but the test for that has yet to come. Yeah and I bet I will fail a bunch of tests before I get it right. But that is why the trip is so thrilling. Now its time to go get some more things wrong.
I once again left town too late but I think this time it’ll be my last. From here on, I walk in daylight.
A few minutes into my five mile trek to the shelter, snow flakes began falling. Soon the flakes turned to a flurry as the forest became less and less dense. With a wall of trees on either side, the forest is easy to navigate but with trees twenty feet apart on top of lack of brush and fallen branches, the task becomes a little tricky. So as visibility dropped and the already sparse white blazes began to blend with the snow falling, the trail became less and less recognizable from the rest of the woods.
It is not bad when I get lost when I know which side of the trail I wandered from. But it this situation, I would wander from the trail and upon realizing I was in fact off the trail, have no idea which way I came from. Usually I can just turn around or turn left or right knowing I would hit the trail. But the truth was that even if I knew which way to turn to hit the trail, I would not know it if it were under my feet.
Just to juice my body up with even more adrenaline, something large with padded feet runs off from the trail in front of me. Who knows, it could have been a five hundred pound dog. But honestly, I think I would prefer a bear.
So I led my mind wandering in attempt to distract myself from the reality of the situation. But then what better than the blair witch project to pop up in there. Never, ever, ever think about The Blair Witch Project when walking in the dark in the deep woods alone. Never.
Another crummy day with every mile an absolute struggle. The mud did not get any better but the rain stopped. I hiked up to Stratton Mountain hoping to witness the magnificent 100 mile view that inspired the creation of the Appalachian trail. But it was not meant to be. The 24 degree air had frozen any precipitation onto the steps of the 50+ foot fire tower and the mountain was completely fogged in.
I watched the skies clear off when I was less than a mile down the mountain and the temperature rose quickly as the sun shone. I guess the joy of a thru hike is there will always be another view.
I am really struggling to get my legs under me right now. I think I over did it with the past few days and the twenty a couple days ago. Today I did seven and yesterday I did three. I love these shelters though. This one sleeps about twenty people with a loft and six bunks. The one yesterday had a wood stove that I let burn the entire night.
The Vermont mud seems to be getting worse and is driving me insane. That could possibly be the problem with getting my legs moving. I can’t achieve any sort of rythm with the mud. And to extend the extra effort of pulling my feet and poles from the suction of the mud may be draining me.
The constant rain kills any sort of inspiration I have to hike. I guess it is the reason I and this beautiful world are here so maybe I should appreciate it more. I just wish it could sprout from the ground like plumbing rather than falling onto me. Maybe in heaven, right?
I left Manchester way too late after being unable to pass any restaurant without stopping in for some food. I hit up a pizza joint, a donut shop, an ice cream shop, and most importantly, the grocery store before I departed.
The lady who drove me to the trail head increased my fear of hitch-hiking, not because of murder or kidnapping but just plainly their driving. Yesterday the man who drove me into town helped me realize to not look over at the driver when you talk to him. Maybe he thought he had some sort of track underneath him but even after repeatedly driving on the gravel shoulder, he continued to look over at me. And his vehicle was far from a five star crash test rating, unless the standards were lower back in the seventies when it was made.
So today I kept my eyes on the road. Turns out I think I’d much prefer tuck my head into my lap and assume the fetal position. The seventy year old lady kept turning onto the wrong side street and rather than turning around in someone’s driveway on the side street, stopped in the oncoming lane and backed up. I sat looking into the deep fog covering the four lane highway, waiting for Death to drive a semi into us. Its a truly a wonder that lady is still alive.
And I cannot forget to mention the man who slams on the brakes only to back up to me and says when I am throwing my stuff into the back seat “I would have picked you up back there but I was sipping my beer.” I cannot say for sure if he was tipsy or not because I’ve seen people drive like that and I have seen some weird people who act like that. The catch was that I would have guessed he had been drinking even if he had not told me.
After running out of dinners I hitched into town at 6:00p.m. not having a clue of where to sleep. Immediately the pizza joint attracted my attention and moments later a 16″ pie was on the table in front of me. Sure enough, a few moments after that an empty plate was on the table in front of me. Its a funny magic trick that thru-hikers can pull with mass quantities of food.
A food challenge that a fellow hiker wants to attempt with me is the Vermonster. Its something like twenty scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with brownies and fudge and all that good stuff. I must say, the thought of that much cream in my belly makes me cringe. The half gallon challenge in Damascus, VA is much more manageable, despite the record for emptying the carton being well below ten minutes.
The Godzilla in Dalton seems a worthy opponent for the garbage disposal pit of a thru-hiker. A twelve egg omlet loaded with peppers and sausage on top of a plate full of home fries and other good fillings. Despite the thirty plus hikers to attempt the Godzilla, I can count the number of completions on one hand.
I have begun creating new challenges for myself. One seemed undaunting yet ended disastrously. A dozen jelly donuts did not feel too rough but after glancing at the profile map of the next mile of hiking I realized this challenge should have been left for a day off from hiking.
I know I need to step the pizza size up to eighteen inches and ten pop tarts and an entire box of cookies is no longer a challenge.
My hunger is not curved and my metabolism only is getting higher with the cold.