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  1. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traillium View Post
    I interpreted “insular” as meaning “within oneself”, i.e., how I prefer to be. “Isolated” connotes “away from others”, and I saw that as being more of an external action, something that I may not have much control over.
    When I hike, I often spend a lot of time in internal conversation with myself. I am insular. I am focused inwards.
    When I’m out on the trail, at other times I feel isolated and without the opportunity to reach out to others. I feel isolated — yet I wish to be connected with others.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Yes! This is what I meant. I didn't feel like civilization was keeping me out. I just felt like the hike was keeping me in. A small distinction, perhaps, but it seemed significant to me.


    As for the OP's point about the woods causing anxiety, I am not from an outdoorsy family. On my first few overnights on the AT in 2016, I was solo, with new unfamiliar gear, and it was my first time sleeping outdoors. I planned those hikes near my hometown in VA to coincide with thru season, so I was never alone at a campsite, and I found I wasn't nervous at all, despite all the people who called me crazy for doing it.

    My first nights actually camping alone were last year, on my shakedown hikes in VA in late March/early April before flying down to Georgia for my thru. A couple nights there were some early Nobos, but I spent three nights completely by myself. The first was hard. I was paranoid about bears or serial killers or whatever, and I was cold, which only served to keep me awake longer to experience more of the paranoia. But eventually morning came, and I was totally safe and fine, and it was a bit like flying alone for the first time. Intimidating in theory, until you realize it's exactly the same as doing it with company except better, because you can do exactly what you want, when you want. I enjoyed the next couple nights alone, and I thought that I would stealth camp alone a lot on my thru-hike whenever the bubble felt too crowded. But, you know what they say: best laid schemes of mice and men and all that. I ended up meeting the now-boyfriend in the very first week, so I think I only solo stealth camped once in the whole thru-hike. No regrets though, haha!

    But I feel very comfortable in the woods now, and I wouldn't hesitate to section hike outside of "the season" again, knowing that I do enjoy the solitude just as much as I enjoy hiking with others. People have a lot of reasons to go backpacking, but mine don't really include socialization or isolation. I don't mind people or a lack of people. If I'm in the woods, physically wearing myself out, seeing beautiful things, existing in the elements, and taking the time to be quiet and reflective, I'm getting what I came for. Doesn't matter if I'm alone at the campsite or one hiker among twenty.
    A.T. 2018 Thru-hiker
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  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by superfly-SY View Post
    You were at Hawk Mtn in 1973? I was there 1986-1988. Spent 84-86 with 3/75 at Benning.
    I was in class 9-76. Looking at my notes, we ran a recon to Hawk Mountain shelter one night. I was out on security.

    I’m an engineer so I’m only a tab bearer; believe me, I’d like to have worn a scroll. I think that there is now an engineer captain on the regimental staff.

    I made a pilgrimage to Camp Merrill before I started my hike last year. It was between cycles and I surprised the SDNCO when I walked into HQ and asked if I could tour the museum.

    RLTW

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  3. #43
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    I have a different perspective, which sort of lines up with yours. Civilization isn't bad, it is good when it is done right. Problem is, we don't do it right most of the time. I digress on that point to continue with this... You are right, man is not an outsider when he is in nature, he is truly home. The built environment is an extension of the natural environment. The problem is that it is now possible to almost completely separate oneself from nature and believe that it is normal or even good. It isn't. We suffer profoundly when we separate ourselves from nature (aka nature deficit disorder).

    When I'm "in the woods" I feel more at home than I do when I'm at "home" and that is partly because I'm in the environment which produced our race, with it's increased level of negative ions, tree phytoncides, pinenes and other turpenes, natural light, cleaner air, etc. Even if one didn't want to, those things would contribute to a profuoundly higher level of feelings of well-being. A shelter doesn't equate one to one with civilization in my estimation. It is a structure normally built with natural materials by other humans who realize that it is a good thing to have adequate shelter (a basic human need) every few miles out in the boonies. Manfred Max-Neef did a good job pegging the truly essential human needs a few decades ago. He trumped (don't anyone get triggered) Maslow in that regard, because he focused not only on needs, but broke them down into categories of being, having, and doing, and also identified human needs satisfiers and violaters. A lot of what modern "society" offers is really violating our human needs.

    Isolation is a tricky term. How broadly or narrowly should one define it? It has a negative connotation at this point in time. But I know what you're getting at. Maybe you mean solitude. Most people who gravitate to trails are looking for something that resembles solitude more than isolation, and I can get solitude in the woods with a few others who are out there seeking the same things. Who suffered through the ascent with me to enjoy the views at the summit. It's still solitude to me because I'm with kindred souls. Walking itself reduces rumination and increases creativity and problem solving, and walking in nature elevates that to an n'th degree.

    "In town" we do get wrapped up in pursuit of more than needs. We are susceptible to satisfying a lot of wants. That isn't bad in moderation, but we take it too far.I think that a long hike or other nature immersion tamps those things down and shows us what is truly needful. I can carry everything I need for my survival and relative comfort in a pack that weighs less than 35 pounds, including several days worth of food. If I was a better forager and hunter, I could extend that without going back into the built environment.

    Solitude (isolation) has a profound effect on me. While there are some who have phobias about being out in nature, for a given amount of time, there are historically explainable reasons for that, too. Back in the day, to go out very far into nature meant you were entering the domain of large predators, and if you didn't know how to deal with that, there may not even have been a carcass to find. My forebear Christly Garlits was one of the guys you used to call in Western Maryland if you needed a mountain lion or bear tracked and killed. On paper he was a farmer, but he spent most of his time in the woods, and had plenty of hearth fire stories to tell about his exploits tracking and taking vengeance on the large critters that took a child or some livestock. Nowdays most of the large predators are few and far between and we can get out and enjoy our trails without too much thought given to being tracked and eaten.

    I have friends who refuse to leave their comfortable surroundings, including their spas and manicurists, and the thought of a mosquito makes them ill, but I don't spend too much time with them. I'd rather be out there hiking, even if I do cross paths with the occasional black bear. If I ever ran across a catamount or grizzly, I may well leave a couple of Hershey kisses in my boxers, but the chances of that happening in my neck of the woods are astronomically low.

    Quote Originally Posted by superfly-SY View Post
    While I continue to gather stories for my writing project, I have come across some interesting concepts. One is how differently being isolated from the "real world" changes or affects people. I am also considering how "civilization addiction" (I made this term up, not sure if it is a thing or not) causes anxiety, or even fear in many people unfamiliar with the natural world.

    For myself being isolated was cathartic, and allowed all the crap I was dealing with to get dealt with over time. As you all know, 2200 miles of walking provides ample opportunity for inner reflection. The trappings of society and convenience certainly encourage us to become dependent upon such things that are a matter of life and death, electricity, phones, grocery store on demand, permanent residence, ease of transportation and assistance 24/7 for anything we need or want. All that changes after a few weeks, or even days on the trail as we adjust our sense of need and want.

    I felt much more at peace in the woods, and still do. Going very long without a hike is tough on the spirit and I get restless and stressed. Yet as I drive north on the interstate to the Whites of NH and I get that first glimpse of Franconia Notch and Mt. Lafayette it all melts away.

    How did the isolation affect you? and do you have any anecdotes of someone you may have taken hiking that experienced fear or anxiety about being in the woods?

    Have a great day!

    sy
    Hiking is the best teacher, it grades on a curve.
    AT miles: 255.5 / Total miles: 905.27

    Author of "Hiking Into Trail Days"



  4. #44
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    I can’t say I felt isolated on the AT. I had lots of solitude during the day by design but camping near water source/shelters meant there were always people around. Then you add in day and weekend hikers, hikers who keep you connected by playing music or talking on their phones at shelters or as you pass them. And when I head into town there’s often a ride, a shower, a television on at a restaurant. Plus the internet for bill paying and checking in at home. It really is a series of section hikes.

    if someone did feel isolated and anxious it would be easy enough to join a trail family and camp at shelters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by superfly-SY View Post
    As you all know, 2200 miles of walking provides ample opportunity for inner reflection. The trappings of society and convenience certainly encourage us to become dependent upon such things that are a matter of life and death, electricity, phones, grocery store on demand, permanent residence, ease of transportation and assistance 24/7 for anything we need or want. All that changes after a few weeks, or even days on the trail as we adjust our sense of need and want.
    Your describing being on vacation , which is possible for a short period ONLY because of those things.


    Yeah, we would all like to be on vacation.

    Our forefathers didnt see it as romantically. They had to actually live in it, scrape an existence out of it. Surviving weather, wild beasts, hostile people, their own lawless people, famines, droughts, etc. Its called civilization....it is 100% necessary for humans to survive...we have never been good at surviving alone except for short periods. We are woefully unequipped for our natural world, relying on our oversized brain , shared communication, and teamwork to survive. That we can survive at all for limited time..... is because others experiences has been distilled into knowledge, recorded, and distributed to us.

    What you like, is that trail life is simple. Eat, sleep, walk. Dont need to worry about anything else temporarily. ...while on vacation. Vacation.


    While you may eschew the trappings of civilization, you are 100% a product of it and 100% dependent on it to survive. Even the trail is a construct of civilization. Try walking thru mountains without one.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-02-2019 at 05:40.

  6. #46
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    ^ This reminds me of the movie Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson is a writer who dreams of life in the 1920s, which he imagines as an artistic golden age. He thinks modern life is too fast-paced, too superficial, etc. While visiting Paris, he is magically (drunkenly?) transported back in time to the 20s and meets many of his idols from literature and art and falls in love with a woman... only to realize that she is nostalgic for the 1880's, and she believes that life in the 1920s is too fast-paced and superficial. At one point they go back in time even farther and discover that those people are nostalgic for even earlier eras. Owen Wilson concludes that "real life" is always complicated and busy and messy, even in what we imagine were "simpler times", because humans are complicated and busy and messy.

    I always think of this movie when I hear people yearning for "the good old days" in whatever context, but I hadn't thought of it related to backpacking. It's true though. And I think that's why a lot of thru-hikers quit when they are physically and financially capable of finishing. The "vacation" part wears off, and it starts to feel like a job, and it starts to feel like "real life."

    I've experienced the same when moving overseas. Living in Madrid or Casablanca or Singapore sounds magical, but unless you're rich enough for self-indulgent Eat Pray Love-style travel, you still have to work. And after a few months, the daily grind in Europe or Africa or Asia can feel remarkably similar to the daily grind at home. (But different and exciting enough that I still love it! And for me, the same goes for hiking.)
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  7. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by KnightErrant View Post
    ^ This reminds me of the movie Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson is a writer who dreams of life in the 1920s, which he imagines as an artistic golden age. He thinks modern life is too fast-paced, too superficial, etc. While visiting Paris, he is magically (drunkenly?) transported back in time to the 20s and meets many of his idols from literature and art and falls in love with a woman... only to realize that she is nostalgic for the 1880's, and she believes that life in the 1920s is too fast-paced and superficial. At one point they go back in time even farther and discover that those people are nostalgic for even earlier eras. Owen Wilson concludes that "real life" is always complicated and busy and messy, even in what we imagine were "simpler times", because humans are complicated and busy and messy.

    I always think of this movie when I hear people yearning for "the good old days" in whatever context, but I hadn't thought of it related to backpacking. It's true though. And I think that's why a lot of thru-hikers quit when they are physically and financially capable of finishing. The "vacation" part wears off, and it starts to feel like a job, and it starts to feel like "real life."

    I've experienced the same when moving overseas. Living in Madrid or Casablanca or Singapore sounds magical, but unless you're rich enough for self-indulgent Eat Pray Love-style travel, you still have to work. And after a few months, the daily grind in Europe or Africa or Asia can feel remarkably similar to the daily grind at home. (But different and exciting enough that I still love it! And for me, the same goes for hiking.)
    I tried communicating your thoughts to my born and bred Nar Jarwzee parental units assuming moving to Santa Barbara area(Solvang) was Eden on Earth because they stayed there for a wk on a vacation.

  8. #48
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    ...While you may eschew the trappings of civilization, you are 100% a product of it and 100% dependent on it to survive.
    As long as there's a Starbucks and egg white spinach and feta wrap available I'm good to go.



    Even the trail is a construct of civilization.

    Wait. Isn't the AT the exact 30" wide tread the Native American Indians traveled?


    Try walking thru mountains without one.

    I have, many times. It's freeing yet often a demanding situation in some ways. Other ways it's less demanding. Now, if I can only find that misplaced foldable Ti spork, Mini Bic and DCF tarp.

  9. #49
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    I got snowed in on Hawk Mtn for five days. Storm was so bad even the helo's couldn't come get me.Was left to keep the CP up while every one else went in for Thanksgiving. Went through about 1/2 ton of pyro entertaining myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenlight View Post
    I have a different perspective, which sort of lines up with yours. Civilization isn't bad, it is good when it is done right. Problem is, we don't do it right most of the time. I digress on that point to continue with this... You are right, man is not an outsider when he is in nature, he is truly home. The built environment is an extension of the natural environment. The problem is that it is now possible to almost completely separate oneself from nature and believe that it is normal or even good. It isn't. We suffer profoundly when we separate ourselves from nature (aka nature deficit disorder).

    When I'm "in the woods" I feel more at home than I do when I'm at "home" and that is partly because I'm in the environment which produced our race, with it's increased level of negative ions, tree phytoncides, pinenes and other turpenes, natural light, cleaner air, etc. Even if one didn't want to, those things would contribute to a profuoundly higher level of feelings of well-being. A shelter doesn't equate one to one with civilization in my estimation. It is a structure normally built with natural materials by other humans who realize that it is a good thing to have adequate shelter (a basic human need) every few miles out in the boonies. Manfred Max-Neef did a good job pegging the truly essential human needs a few decades ago. He trumped (don't anyone get triggered) Maslow in that regard, because he focused not only on needs, but broke them down into categories of being, having, and doing, and also identified human needs satisfiers and violaters. A lot of what modern "society" offers is really violating our human needs.

    Isolation is a tricky term. How broadly or narrowly should one define it? It has a negative connotation at this point in time. But I know what you're getting at. Maybe you mean solitude. Most people who gravitate to trails are looking for something that resembles solitude more than isolation, and I can get solitude in the woods with a few others who are out there seeking the same things. Who suffered through the ascent with me to enjoy the views at the summit. It's still solitude to me because I'm with kindred souls. Walking itself reduces rumination and increases creativity and problem solving, and walking in nature elevates that to an n'th degree.

    "In town" we do get wrapped up in pursuit of more than needs. We are susceptible to satisfying a lot of wants. That isn't bad in moderation, but we take it too far.I think that a long hike or other nature immersion tamps those things down and shows us what is truly needful. I can carry everything I need for my survival and relative comfort in a pack that weighs less than 35 pounds, including several days worth of food. If I was a better forager and hunter, I could extend that without going back into the built environment.

    Solitude (isolation) has a profound effect on me. While there are some who have phobias about being out in nature, for a given amount of time, there are historically explainable reasons for that, too. Back in the day, to go out very far into nature meant you were entering the domain of large predators, and if you didn't know how to deal with that, there may not even have been a carcass to find. My forebear Christly Garlits was one of the guys you used to call in Western Maryland if you needed a mountain lion or bear tracked and killed. On paper he was a farmer, but he spent most of his time in the woods, and had plenty of hearth fire stories to tell about his exploits tracking and taking vengeance on the large critters that took a child or some livestock. Nowdays most of the large predators are few and far between and we can get out and enjoy our trails without too much thought given to being tracked and eaten.

    I have friends who refuse to leave their comfortable surroundings, including their spas and manicurists, and the thought of a mosquito makes them ill, but I don't spend too much time with them. I'd rather be out there hiking, even if I do cross paths with the occasional black bear. If I ever ran across a catamount or grizzly, I may well leave a couple of Hershey kisses in my boxers, but the chances of that happening in my neck of the woods are astronomically low.
    I love this!

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    I have not seen this movie, but it sounds fun. To be clear I am not suggesting we go back to a simpler time, but am looking at how disconnecting from the daily grind can be therapeutic. Another commenter called it a vacation. I think we go on vacation to do just that in most cases, I could be wrong. But immersing ourselves in trai life may be a different experience. Perhaps more like a retreat, in the purest sense of the concept.

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    He gets extra pts for mentioning nature deficit disorder, negative ions, tree phytoncides, pinene and other terpenes, natural light, cleaner air, Maslow and Manfred Max-Neef's essential human needs all in one post.

  13. #53

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    I always felt like I fit in, in natural surroundings. I was in Boy Scouts for years in my youth too. If you really want to get a reality check bring some of your entertainment electronics out into the great wilderness and see how plastic and fake they become to you.

    I agree with a lot of what Thoreau said on his experience of nature; and we are probably in one of the most plastic and electronic dehumanizing environments imaginable.


  14. #54

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    I always felt like I fit in, in natural surroundings. I was in Boy Scouts for years in my youth too. If you really want to get a reality check bring some of your entertainment electronics out into the great wilderness and see how plastic and fake they become to you.

    I agree with a lot of what Thoreau said on his experience of nature; and we are probably in one of the most plastic and electronic dehumanizing environments imaginable.
    Yeah, you're right and we did it on our own.
    All these plastic/electronic environment.
    But are you ready to refuse from all the benefits it gives us?

  15. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by superfly-SY View Post
    While I continue to gather stories for my writing project, I have come across some interesting concepts. One is how differently being isolated from the "real world" changes or affects people. I am also considering how "civilization addiction" (I made this term up, not sure if it is a thing or not) causes anxiety, or even fear in many people unfamiliar with the natural world.

    For myself being isolated was cathartic, and allowed all the crap I was dealing with to get dealt with over time. As you all know, 2200 miles of walking provides ample opportunity for inner reflection. The trappings of society and convenience certainly encourage us to become dependent upon such things that are a matter of life and death, electricity, phones, grocery store on demand, permanent residence, ease of transportation and assistance 24/7 for anything we need or want. All that changes after a few weeks, or even days on the trail as we adjust our sense of need and want.

    I felt much more at peace in the woods, and still do. Going very long without a hike is tough on the spirit and I get restless and stressed. Yet as I drive north on the interstate to the Whites of NH and I get that first glimpse of Franconia Notch and Mt. Lafayette it all melts away.

    How did the isolation affect you? and do you have any anecdotes of someone you may have taken hiking that experienced fear or anxiety about being in the woods?

    Have a great day!

    sy

    Is your writing project going to be a book? That's cool. "Isolation?" I kind of like being by myself, so I never feel isolated. I am a future AT thru-hiker...never thought about doing something for that long. Most of my climbs last a day, sometimes three days, depending on the elevation. My longest hikes lasted almost three months and I SOBO sectioned 5x by myself...that's about 5,000 miles. My hiking partner wants to thru-hike the AT...a dream since his childhood. I still prefer to do the AT in sections, but a thru-hike is looking mighty tempting. Even when I thru-hike, I know I still want to be alone. When I was doing my sections, the first time I did spend more time in the towns just to check them out, and to see what sort of resources they offered. That's part of the "knowledge" I can give back to the hiker community. I do a LOT of recon. I saw a recent vid from a very popular vlogger who was surprised by the amount of rocks in PA. I was surprise by the statement...it's called "research" which I don't think some hikers do before they get on the trail. My "research" comprises of me physically going there to look at the situation to reading reports or picking up the phone and asking smart people what gives. My last two sections, I went right through, with just resupply points on route and showers wherever I could get them. When I was a kid growing up in Maine, I went into the woods everyday since we had no TV. I also read a lot too and would bring books into the woods and read under a tree. We also foraged for wild mushrooms. I am still an avid reader and read almost every subject including scientific, exploration, history, language, etc. I mostly connect on an individual basis. I write emails to a lot of authors, writers and subject experts. I also connect a lot to national parks and park ranger stations though phone calls. I am always asking tons of questions about this or that, plants, regulations, etc. I am also an introvert...not a bad thing...but I can't really follow a lot of campfire "chit chat."

  16. #56

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    Well, I'll bite, and I have experienced actual isolation. When I was 44 years old, I hiked the second half of the PCT a month ahead of the normal thru-hiking season and went days at a time without seeing another person. I didn't even see a thru-hiker until close to the end of Washington. I did it solo so I camped and hiked alone for 3 months on that one trip. I usually hike and camp completely alone on my various backpacking trips, anyway, but my hike of the second half of the PCT was the longest period of time I spent alone in the wilderness. Of course, every 4 or 5 days I'd stop in a town and resupply like any other hiker. I tended to stay at trail angel homes or stealth camp near town rather than get hotels. I did as much eating as I could, like any hiker, but even in town I was pretty alone.

    I found that after a while I felt more at home in the wilderness than in a town. I felt more at home and safer and more relieved once I was about 5 miles away from town. 10 miles away and I felt safe. I didn't feel safe in town. That's where all the bad people are! They aren't out in the wilderness. There's nobody out in the wilderness.

    I also had this weird sense that there's this other world over there that I don't belong to anymore. I belong to the world of trees and creeks. I'd peer at the other world of cars and roads and think how strange that world is! I don't belong there.

    The water on the trail affected me deeply. Jonathon Ley described this feeling really well when he wrote that "nobody ever loved a faucet." Water was life. A clean spring or lake or creek was life. To see living things in the water did not make me think the water was dirty, it meant the water was alive. When I arrived at a mountain town near a lake and saw that people had lawns (fertilizers and pesticides), and roads around the lake (oil and other pollution), and that it all ran off into the lake, I felt horrified. How could anyone live their lives that way and not feel horrified by what they were doing to the water in the lake? I felt really uncomfortable about it. Water is life and city life makes people okay to murder the water without even knowing they're doing it.

    I'm not usually a lonely person, but I did sometimes feel loneliness. I would sometimes talk to the birds on the trail. It bothered me that they would just yell out alarms at my presence or fly away. I wanted them to be my friends because I was lonely. I kept a journal. Thinking about what to write during the day and then writing it at night made me feel less lonely. I would go to town and re-write it all in a blog and that also helped me feel less lonely because my family would read it. When I wasn't thinking of stuff to write, I often had ear worms. Songs would get stuck in my head. Sometimes words would get stuck in my head. This would drive me crazy. I also started carrying a book with me. I rationed out an hour every night to read my book. I looked forward to it. These days I listen to audio books, old radio shows, podcasts or dreamy instrumental music.

    When I did this hike, people were only just starting to use smart phones on the trail. I brought a flip-phone as an after thought. I was glad I had it, but often I would pretend that it didn't work in town so I didn't have to make any calls. I liked being alone.

    One thing that surprised me was that I slept as well on the trail as I did at home, which is to say that some nights I slept great and others I had insomnia, just like in regular life. Even if I didn't sleep well I could still put in a full day's work on the trail, so it didn't really matter. Insomnia just makes the night really long. I slept a lot better in my tent than I did indoors. I stopped ever sleeping indoors after a while on the trail. Instead of hotels I'd stealth camp near town. Instead of inside a trail angel place I'd pitch my tent on the lawn or wherever. It was hard to adjust to sleeping indoors after the hike ended, too. Years later, it still bothers me that the window doesn't open over my side of the bed.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  17. #57
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    Isolation? I didn’t have a chance to find out. I brought my wife and dog along...

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    The internal conversation you have with yourself is the normal state of solo long distance hiking, and you need to get along with yourself to make this work. That might sound weird, but it isn't really. Different people have different conversations internally. Some people hike to get past things that aren't going right in their "real lives", and they find that the trail can help. I am the exact opposite. I need to leave things in a good state back home to enjoy myself on trail, or I dwell on my problems constantly while walking. This is a very individual question and I'm not sure that the experiences of others will be that useful in predicting your own response to isolation or being away from the "real world". For me, however, the answer is clear: I do well with isolation when my life is going well overall. When things aren't going well, I don't enjoy myself. The trail is no "escape" for me.

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