Category: Post AT ’13

Regret Away!

Regret Away!

Personally I think the line “live with no regrets” is a bit silly. You’re going to have regrets no matter what you do, because you’re never going to get it completely right – even when you do.

So really, shouldn’t we phrase it “Don’t let your regrets rule your decisions?”

I bring this up after talking with a friend of mine. She’s a bit paralyzed by decisions she’s trying to make because she wants it to come out “perfect.” Personally, I gave up on “perfect” awhile ago and have been striving for “not having things on fire.”

I think it’s more realistic isn’t it? Things are usually fixable, or at least manageable if they go terribly wrong. Spending time and worry and anguish over trying to get something “perfect” when instead you could spend that time actually Doing.

No one is dead, pregnant or in jail. Pretty much everything else we can fix.

I heard this one growing up a few times and took it to heart more in the last few years. I’ve changed – gone from a meticulous planner to letting more things just “happen”. It hasn’t always been easy, and I still revery easily to a worrying, planning control freak, but I’ve been much happier accepting that things just happen.

You’re better off doing something than worrying over the results unduly. Putting something in motion always is better than standing still – soldiers learn that from day 1. Applies to you’re daily life as well.

Sometimes things are beyond your control though. That was a big discovery that I had to live to learn. I’ve always been a fixer – how can I make you feel better, what can we do to make things work out. I went into social work because of this, and I found that in the end, the only thing I can TRULY do is myself.

The line “I’ll take care of you if you take care of me” has about 8.47 million results on google. That’s a lot of people who think that’s the right way to go about things. Personally I’m more in line with the following.

I’ll take care of me and you take care of you

4.2 million results for this one – about half. You can only really make yourself happy. You do the best you can too – because you’re not perfect and the situations aren’t perfect. But you’ll act the best you can, and you’ll have regrets and wonder “what if.” That’s fine. Just don’t let them rule you.

PS – I’m not advocating not helping others when they ask for it, nor am I saying turn into a selfish, narcissistic prick. I’m saying don’t neglect your happiness.
Unless you’ve got kids. Because once you have kids, you give up your rights to go have fun – you have responsibilities to someone else who is entirely dependent on you. The end.

Waking Walking Dreams

Waking Walking Dreams

I had a long discussion this evening with SingleGirlHiking about the Great Eastern Trail (GET), a 1600 mile long trail from Alabama to New York.

The pull is great. It is strong.

I justified it in my mind as well. The flu study I’m in the running for would pay for 4 months of hiking without any problem. I could be the third person ever to hike the GET on foot (no yellow blazing, no skipping for this one…). I could escape again to the wilderness and walk. Be free and whole again.

It’s a strong feeling. Being whole like that again.

I’ve felt good about myself before. In college I felt like I belonged, felt loved and accepted. I was loved and accepted, with many friends. They felt like family.

But out on a trail, I feel Whole. It’s hard to explain. Everyday I felt born again, every person I met never questioned who I was, or what I was doing. There wasn’t judgement on how I lived my life. My actions spoke for who I was, and nothing more.

I romanticize the Trail life quite a bit. I know I do. I remember how terrible the climb down the White’s was when I almost died. How it never stopped raining in the south for days. The feeling of dampness and wet that never went away no matter how much sun you got. The hunger and disgust when you had nothing but chicken ramen to eat that night. The pain of a 25 mile day.

But I have never felt more alive. More complete. More myself than I did out there. I had purpose and drive and love. Love for the people around me, the trees that grew over me and the smell of dirt and pines.

I can smell that freedom now when I close my eyes. I may be physically sitting in a basement in Virginia, but when I close my eyes I am in Maine or Tennese. Vermont or North Carolina. New Hampshire. I smell the pines, feel the dirt, pine needles below my feet. Feel the wind whistle around me and carry the scents of the forest while it tugs on my hair. It is as real to me in my dreams as it is to someone standing there.

Because I’m still standing there in those places. They never leave me. Even when I’m sitting in a basement in Virginia, crying a silent tear. Because of where I am, instead of where I am meant to be.

Forever onward
Forever onward
Friends Keep Going

Friends Keep Going

Sometimes you need a little extra push to make it.

Ron Haven was far from home, but wanted us to all know we were still in his thought.
Ron Haven was far from home, but wanted us to all know we were still in his thought.

There’s no shame in that. We all need a little help, sometimes more than a little. Help can come in all different forms, shapes and sizes. You may not even realize it’s help until far after the fact. But however it comes and finds you, it helps you to keep on going.

Ron Haven, of Franklin, NC Budget Inn fame gave a little help at the PA/NJ border. He’d given material help down in NC, shuttling us all around town to the grocery store and buffet in his mini bus from the motel. He told stories and gave advice, made us laugh and helped us to remember to be happy – that while this was difficult it wasn’t something that had to make you miserable.

So when I saw his business card slid into the visitors map at Delaware Water Gap’s Sunfish Pond, he reminded me that even people we met only briefly were still thinking of us, pulling for us to finish. We had never left his thoughts. We were his friends and he was happy for us.

Why do some people keep going when other get stuck in a rut or are unable to complete? The AT is full of this question – some people get off after 10, 20 or 40 miles. Others make it to 500 and leave. More still find themselves close to the end and remove themselves from the Trail. Few actually finish.

Sometimes it’s not a question of want or desire to complete something – there are things that can stop one from finishing far beyond your control. A girl I knew in TN/NC (actually we stayed in the Budget Inn together…) named Genie made it to Damascus and found she had stress fractures in her Tibia. She tried to rest it for two weeks and came back, only to have it fully fracture and took her off the Trail. She had done 1000 miles of the AT as a section in 2011 and was determined to finish. She’s going back out there again this year.

But for most, the decision to leave is a mental one. The reasons are as varied as the people who leave. Some are tired, angry, sick or just plain exhausted. Some built the journey up to something it wasn’t and now upon realizing the truth can’t handle it. Others found what they were looking for and decided that was enough.

The people who stay though, who keep going always have that nagging thought in the back of their head. “I’m here by choice. I could go home anytime.” What stops them from going home?

Some are just stubborn people.

Like everyone else out on the AT, Ron Haven had his quirks and stories. Stories were that he was a former wrestler turned businessman turned county commissioner. Perhaps he was just a guy who owned a motel and learned that the hikers needed help – and started helping. Maybe he really was Jack Black’s second cousin. His history didn’t really matter to us – what mattered was he was there. And like everyone I met onthe AT, Ron Haven made a bigger impact in the small amount of time I was near him then most people in my “real world” back home.

 

So keep going friends. When you feel as if the world is too much, the miles are weighing you down, just keep going. Left foot. Right foot.

 

Because any day out here is a better day then one in the office.

You Put The Load Right On Me

You Put The Load Right On Me

For hikers, our packs our the center of our lives. We carry every single thing we have in our packs, and how much you like your pack can make your hike a wonderful thing or a terrible time.
I was talking with a very good friend of mine who is on her way to the Philippines in two weeks, and she asked my advice on her pack choice. She could either take her older external frame pack, a massive 80 Liter item, or a smaller internal frame 70L. She’s not really doing much backpacking, it’s more for base camp haul in/haul out – but she’s still worrying about it quite a bit.

So we talked about it – hikers can talk for hours about their gear. My biggest piece of advice when it comes to packs is to put all your stuff in it, and see how it carries the load – in other words you do the opposite of what comes naturally, which is buy the bag first and fill it up.

I hiked with a Granite Gear Blaze 60L pack in 2013 for over 2,000 miles. By the end of the trail, the back plate had broken completely once, was shattering a second time, it had a hole in the main compartment and water bottle web was completely gone. But it got me to the end, and I still use it today.

More trustworthy then the girlfriend
The spine is cracked as well in this picture

This pack took me all the way to the end. It never let me down completely ever. I didn’t always treat it as well as I should have, and it didn’t always treat me well either, but it was good. It shared my adventures and came with me everywhere.

Something my friend said though made me think.

I use the same logic when picking a mate. I see how they fit in my life and how they carry their load.

True statement. Finding someone to share your life with, and picking a backpack out are similar things if you think about it!

  • Packs carry your life when hiking long distances. Your mate carries your heart. Both are capable of damaging you if they fail in their duties.
  • Packs can be flawed of have a defect, just like your mate. When your pack breaks, you try and fix it – always carry your needle and thread, duct tape. Make-up sex and long conversations are the equivalent I think in relationships.
  • Packs can come with guarantees, showing how much the company is willing to stand behind their product. Your mate can come with a guarantee too – in the form of a life-long commitment to you – either via marriage, another social contract or just a promise.
  • You get to pick your pack, the same way you get to pick your mate – out of hundreds of other options. Some feel good, others don’t and you never really know if you’ve made the right choice until a hundred miles in.

In the end though, people out preform packs in one major area – they can grow and change. They may get worn out with you, but they don’t get thrown away – not really. Not the good ones.

But then I don’t throw out any of my packs either – I’ve sent a few off in Viking funerals, but I’ve never tossed one.

I have too much respect for my pack – broken or not

 

“Your eyes always change color”

“Your eyes always change color”

I’m wearing my hiking pants
They smell like the last fire we shared.

I’m wearing a shirt
That went 2000 miles

I’ve got a hat on
That still smells like Maine.

Its snowing here and I’m walking in the woods.
Missing things I can’t get back.

You exist only in memory now.
I’d give anything to go back.

 "Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

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