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Jtrobertson2013
01-16-2019, 00:52
I've been seriously thinking about the Appalachian Trail and all it has to offer. I've always enjoyed camping but I've read a lot about how a long distance hike, in this case the AT, has changed people. I'm mostly interested in how people have found themselves, redefine who they are, work through their inner demons, come to terms with the good and bad that came into their life.... we can't run away from these things. We all have to eventually face them. The good and the bad... forgive but also appreciate.
I'm not interested in hiking to Maine. I have responsibilities...
But I can take some time here and there to do this...
I see a long walk in my future coming soon. Alone or not, it's going to happen.
Just thought i'd share.jtrobertson2013@gmail.com
44501

Feral Bill
01-16-2019, 00:56
Nice photo. There are several books of varying quality based on people finding themselves on the trail. A Google search will dig them up.

4eyedbuzzard
01-16-2019, 07:25
Wherever you go, there you are... Sometimes it's good to get away and think, and take a look around from a different vantage point. Life looks different from other angles. Often we find we are not getting to where we want to be because the trail we are on leads elsewhere, indeed sometimes nowhere.

4shot
01-16-2019, 08:26
From what i have seen,regarding the "transformative' aspects of a LD hike, I think that may be more true for the younger crowd who may or may not have achieved anything yet in their lives I think they may regard a thruhike of CDT, AT, PCT, etc, as the first time they have set and reached a significant goal outside of perhaps academic ones. For the older crowd (I was 50) you have already been there/done that in terms of dealing with challenges. obstacles, ups and downs (no pun intended). Therefore, a LD hike isn't viewed as much as an "achievement" or "life altering"as it is a wonderful time spent doing what one enjoys. Again, this is just an opinion...I am sure others may feel differently.

Gambit McCrae
01-16-2019, 09:09
IF you walk the trail, it will change you. For me personally, it has changed me to enjoy things that once were not enjoyable. It has taught me to not take things like time for granted and to appreciate small things. Its also taught me that no goal is too big. Most anything is possible.

ScottTrip
01-16-2019, 10:21
The AT will change you in many ways. Some you don't realize until you get back and your family and friends notice things are different. Most all the changes are good. I did the trail when I retired at 56 so you are never to old.

Lone Wolf
01-16-2019, 10:28
i found myself hungry and thirsty a lot

soilman
01-16-2019, 11:21
I did my first long distance hike when I was 21. When I came home I found that I appreciated many of the simple things we take for granted, like running water, a warm place to sleep, etc. But over time that appreciation faded. I don't think the trail changed me, but a seed was planted and a love for the AT grew. I knew I would come back someday and do a thru. Which I did over 30 years later. I met many younger people on my thru hike. One was taking a break after 3 years at a university. She didn't know what she wanted to do and had changed her major several times. She realized this was expensive and hiking the trail to figure out what direction she wanted to take in life was a lot cheaper. I asked her the last time I saw her in MA if she figured out what she was going to do. She said she hadn't even thought about it. I finished the trail with fellow who just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He had received several job offers before graduation but did not know if that's what he wanted to do. After finishing the trail he went back home to work in a bus station.

"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sleepy the Arab
01-16-2019, 11:39
Fellow I hiked with in 2001 summed it up nicely: "I hiked the trail for some answers but all I got were more questions."

Puddlefish
01-16-2019, 12:37
I'm in the third distinct phase of my life. 1) Golden childhood, friends, education, family, competition, striving, success, failure, picking myself up and improving, raising children, loving every second of life. 2) Decades of deep depression and poor health. 3) Recovery.

Let's talk about my recovery, starting at around age 48. I was spending 18 hours a day wasting my life in front of a computer screen. I had difficulty standing up, my knees were trashed from college sports, it hurt to move. I couldn't even walk. The trail was never a goal of mine, rather it just kind of developed as part of my recovery. My recovery started with a single "leg lift" from my computer chair. Then another, and another. I gave up delivery food, and fast food, lost a little weight. I built up the muscles around my knees, so that they hurt less and eventually could support my weight. Then I started walking around my dumpy apartment, then I bought a cheap bike and ventured outdoors. Then the bike was stolen, and I regressed. Then I started it all over again, and walked a tiny bit more each day and walked around my dumpy town. I couldn't even afford to hike at my local state park. I just trudged around pretty much hating the trudging.

Eventually I improved my financial situation, and moved away from my dumpy apartment in that dumpy town. I moved to a tiny house/cabin in the woods. My road walking was suddenly a tree lined gorgeous road. That helped a lot. There's a local trail system at the end of that road, even better. It took me months to climb up a 700 foot hill without pausing. I'd much rather have been water skiing or snow skiing, or playing football, or baseball, but all those fun things were firmly in my past and way out of my budget and social situation. So, I got a half decent pair of hiking shoes, and I found I was starting to enjoy it. I eventually conquered all my local trails, and started finding easy 3,000 footers, and would do one a week. The kind where you drive halfway up the mountain, and hike the second half. Then I found I could manage the moderate ones.

Then I started thinking about backpacking, and actually tenting out in the woods, and actually socializing with people again. I was thinking about the Long Trail, but that's up in New England, and us New Englanders don't always actually chat with each other, and the Long Trail seemed like a supply/planning nightmare for socially recovering me. I found this website, got all kinds of amazing advice about tenting, camping, planning, guides, resupply, transportation, trail etiquette and equipment. I slowly bought equipment and trained with weight, and in spring of 2016, I started north from Springer. It just seemed like the right time, and the right step in my recovery.

Was it transformative? Did it cause a massive change in me? Hard to say. It was more a chicken or the egg situation. In my case, it was a tool, that I was using to keep in shape, and be more social. The AT served that purpose admirably. I loved every step of it for the two months I was on the trail. I eased into the social scene, being social some nights, and a stealth camping hermit on other nights, I could interact with people at the level I was comfortable with. Getting into great shape, enjoying the scenery, climbing stronger and easier, were all great benefits of my hike.

I'm not easily inspired. I chuckle at motivational posters, I scoff when movie directors are blatantly trying to "inspire" me. True stories of real people overcoming adversity inspire me, but only for a few minutes, or days at most. If I want to stay inspired, I have to put in the effort on my own, especially when I don't really want to. So, time to step away from the computer and do something productive today.

Leo L.
01-16-2019, 14:09
Great story, PF.

Being out of the house, be it adventurous travelling or real outdoors, in most cases is enlightening, in some ways. Not always one can see immediately for what good it is, but many times the real purpose comes up later.

Over the past decade or so, I got deeper into solo desert hikes. At his time, I had zero problems, a loving family, a house our own, enough income, etc.
The hikes were adventurous, funny, sportive, demanding, and seemed to be the perfect counterpart for my office/computer job.

One specific hike, on the first evening out I realized I had forgotten my spoon, so all the tasty Travellunch for the next 10 days were useless. My only other food was loads of bread, some cheese and a handful of candys.
I think it was this detail of the missing spoon that gave the whole hike a very specific turn or kick.
During the following endless and very tedious hours and days of hiking through the desert, absolutely alone, my brain started kind of a new program to work over and over again.
Death came to my mind, not as the ultimate horror of dying a terrible death in the middle of the desert, alone and completely lost, but as a natural end of life, any life, even my life.
After days munching over this, I finally accepted death as a very personal event that was to come, not actually welcoming it, but accepting it as a fact that just has yet to be fulfilled sometimes.

The hike turned out fine, several more hikes of similar ways followed and this specific meditation about my personal death always stayed in the back of my mind.

Two years later I was diagnosed Cancer (a pretty serious one).
All of a sudden I realized how importand it had been that I kind of got-to-know my personal death already. Not that I had made friends, but had accepted that it is present, has always been and will ever be, throughout my whole life.
This had made my time during the treatment much easier, I could immediately accept the fact that I was totally cornered, that there was no whining and asking "why me".
It was clear from the first moment that I had to accept and fight. I survived.

Death is part of ones self, so in that way I had found (part of) my self.

Slo-go'en
01-16-2019, 16:04
One specific hike, on the first evening out I realized I had forgotten my spoon, so all the tasty Travellunch for the next 10 days were useless. My only other food was loads of bread, some cheese and a handful of candies.

I've lost or forgotten a spoon several times. Easy enough problem to solve. In some cases I find a couple of sticks and make chop sticks. Or find a piece of wood to carve a spoon out of. Mostly it ends up more of a shovel, but it's better then nothing. I do note you were in the desert, so maybe making something wasn't a option due to a lack of wood (or a sharp knife?). Glad you managed though.

Leo L.
01-16-2019, 16:28
Mentioned the forgotten spoon just because it was a possible cause to shake me enough to wake up the Meditation.

Sure I managed to carve a spoon the next day.

Deadeye
01-16-2019, 16:41
I didn't think I was lost

RangerZ
01-17-2019, 15:14
I agree. After I got home from my half hike, I asked my wife if she thought that I had changed. Her answer was a fast "No".

I have already had successful military and civilian engineering careers. Our children are grown, well educated/employed/married. I have already been through all of that.

I wasn't looking for personal growth but to enjoy the change from what I had been doing for 30-40 years, see part of America and a return to some of the challenges of my younger years. I do have a greater appreciation for all that we have as opposed to the just the 30 pounds on my back.

I wasn't looking for nor did I expect a conversion on the road to Damascus.

Dogwood
01-17-2019, 16:43
Solvitur ambulando...absolutely.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
― John Muir, The Mountains of California (https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3026154)

“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”
― John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty...places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”
― John Muir

:sun

Deadeye
01-17-2019, 16:51
"I got something stuck in my shoe.”
― Deadeye
:)

RockDoc
01-17-2019, 17:23
I've been hiking the AT since the 1960's and I think that you can get benefits from section hiking, preferably at least a week at a time. In fact, my approach, hiking philosophy, etc has developed over the decades. This is good, and would not have happened if I had completed a thru on my first time out, and then never returned (as is typical).

stephanD
01-17-2019, 17:42
The story of the spoon is very interesting. On the trail, such a trivial and, for the most part, worthless item can make the difference between a cold meal and a hot meal. Definitely gives you a perspective on all the "staff" we need, or we think we need, to be happy.

Slo-go'en
01-17-2019, 21:54
I can see how doing a long hike could be beneficial in helping someone get over emotional issues. Just the change of environment and being away from the triggers helps. After a couple of months on the trail, you'll likely have a whole new perspective on life and how to deal with it. That's the real magic of the trail. The root problems might not have all gone away, but your better able to deal with them constructively.

I never found the need to "find myself". What I found was I enjoyed the hiking and camping. Then without much conscious effort, I sort of fell into a life style which made doing a lot of hiking possible.

I hike to loose myself. I like getting into the hiker Zen state where the mind is effectively free of thought as the inner voice is quiet. The hiker zombie shuffle as I like to call it, stumbling along in an endorphin haze with maybe a little Vitamin I mixed in. Isn't that really why we hike?

evyck da fleet
01-17-2019, 22:38
The trail isn’t a magical place where people find themselves. Maybe a few do but it’s largely a social hike where people form trail families. Those who hike it to escape from something usually find they’ve brought it with them.

The changes are mostly subtle not life altering. Most people I met enjoy their home life and returned to it much the same with either a confirmation or a slightly different perspective of what they value.

Emerson Bigills
01-17-2019, 23:14
I was 58 when I did my thru. I had finished a 37 year career in business, raised two children and was pretty comfortable with how I felt about "things". When I got home after 140 days, I didn't think I had changed much if any, within 6 months I realized I had. I think all for the better.

I was much more open about people "different" than me. I wasn't a bigot beforehand, but we all spend most of our time around people we work with, family, neighbors, church members, etc. You may think they are diverse, but we gravitate toward ones like ourselves.

On the trail there is not selection process. Young, old, well educated, naÔve or simple, wealthy, poor, fit, fat, straight, gay, hot girlfriends, bad marriages, etc. What I found was that out there, we all had the same goal. We all had the same things on our back. The trail was the same and the weather treated us all the same. No one had a bigger house, a nicer car, a bigger paycheck, better clothes, a bigger title with a corner office. We were all the same and I'll be damned if we didn't get along great. People really can be really good when we strip away the things in modern society that divide and separate us. The feel good folks, were not just the hikers, but the people in many of the towns/hostels seemed to have the same positive, helpful attitudes.

I'm not certain people find themselves out there, but I do think I found something out about other people.... and it was good.

I also think people who spend that much time out there and face so many challenges, come away with a very quiet confidence. Not just about the trail, but about the ability to deal with life in general. I was not lacking in self confidence when I left home, but I do not worry about things anymore. I have a belief that I will find a way to deal with whatever happens. I think it comes from the fact that on a thru, every day is the same.... but every day is different. It's amazing that you can deal with all of that with only a backpack of tools.

Just my personal experience.

Deadeye
01-18-2019, 10:07
I'm not certain people find themselves out there, but I do think I found something out about other people.... and it was good.

Nicely put.. the whole thing

illabelle
01-18-2019, 17:20
Haha!
https://scontent.fbna1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/49947744_2036971126398292_922562449809342464_n.png ?_nc_cat=1&_nc_ht=scontent.fbna1-1.fna&oh=54c4ff7f8789b44629488067251fb13a&oe=5CCC2058

martinb
01-18-2019, 18:45
If anything, hiking the AT (or any long distance trail) is going to show you what is really important in life.

BoogieForth
01-19-2019, 16:39
Donít worry about anyone elseís experience. If you feel compelled to do this, then do it. Your feeling is not wrong. Itís very old. Itís very ignored by current society. And you are right to feel it. Go with it, and get what you can from it. But expect nothing. It will give you what it will, and what is right for you.

KWColorado
01-21-2019, 16:43
Anatta....

jdbarnettgums
01-21-2019, 22:13
I was 58 when I did my thru. I had finished a 37 year career in business, raised two children and was pretty comfortable with how I felt about "things". When I got home after 140 days, I didn't think I had changed much if any, within 6 months I realized I had. I think all for the better.

I was much more open about people "different" than me. I wasn't a bigot beforehand, but we all spend most of our time around people we work with, family, neighbors, church members, etc. You may think they are diverse, but we gravitate toward ones like ourselves.

On the trail there is not selection process. Young, old, well educated, naÔve or simple, wealthy, poor, fit, fat, straight, gay, hot girlfriends, bad marriages, etc. What I found was that out there, we all had the same goal. We all had the same things on our back. The trail was the same and the weather treated us all the same. No one had a bigger house, a nicer car, a bigger paycheck, better clothes, a bigger title with a corner office. We were all the same and I'll be damned if we didn't get along great. People really can be really good when we strip away the things in modern society that divide and separate us. The feel good folks, were not just the hikers, but the people in many of the towns/hostels seemed to have the same positive, helpful attitudes.

I'm not certain people find themselves out there, but I do think I found something out about other people.... and it was good.

I also think people who spend that much time out there and face so many challenges, come away with a very quiet confidence. Not just about the trail, but about the ability to deal with life in general. I was not lacking in self confidence when I left home, but I do not worry about things anymore. I have a belief that I will find a way to deal with whatever happens. I think it comes from the fact that on a thru, every day is the same.... but every day is different. It's amazing that you can deal with all of that with only a backpack of tools.

Just my personal experience.Great writing!...I expect similar in my sobo July! Thanks!

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk

shelb
01-21-2019, 22:51
I find peace... relaxation... just chilling as I walk and think. I also love how much I appreciate the small stuff in life - like showers, hot water, WATER! - fresh food, kind people... I could go on and on!