Saturday, December 14, 2019

Appalation Trail: The Stories A Little Hiking Speed Chart Can Tell

I was thinking about how I was feeling while I was on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, most of my memories were positive before Harper's Ferry, WV.  I started wondering if I could link my feelings with how I felt physically.  I decided to look at a plot of my average speed figuring the better I felt physically, the faster I moved.  This, of course, is not perfect since terrain also affects hiking speed.  Below is a chart of my average speed on the AT.
The first twelve hundred miles of my hike my average remained fairly steady between 1.5 and 2.5 MPH (2.4 to 4.0 km/hr).  There is even a slight upward trend between the third week of June and the third week of July.  Then the bottom drops out.

The left blue line is when I arrive at Port Clinton, PA.  It's after port Clinton when the rocks really became bad and Rocksylvania earned it's name.  I expected this drop since the terrain really slowed me down but I never expected the drop to last.  I kept waiting for the terrain to get easier and my hiking speed to go back up.  This chart tells me it never did.

I think the left blue line is also when I started to lose my enthusiasm.  The difficulty of the terrain and the time I'd spent on the trail began wearing on me emotionally.  Several things happened in this section that hurt my morale.  I got separated from people I liked.  A reunion with someone I'd met in my first week fell through and never happened.  A reunion with a Camino friend never materialized. I began making bad decisions about where I should stop. This, combined with the damn rocks, slowed me down and made for some darker feelings.

The right blue line is when I reached Lincoln, NH.  The White Mountains caused my speed to drop once again.  This was mostly terrain but I was also feeling my body not recovering.  My legs often felt just as bad in the morning as they'd felt the night before.  I didn't expect the terrain to get better for at least one hundred and fifty miles into Maine and I doubt my speed would have ever recovered to what I was doing before Port Clinton.

So there you have it.  To the left of the left blue line I have happy memories.  To the right of the left blue line my memories grow darker and more dreary.  To the right of the right blue line my dreariness combined with a more physical breakdown.  Love what a good chart can do to explain things.

One last thing.  Below is a picture of my custom insoles.  The left is one I wore on the AT, the right one is a new one for comparison.  While the worn out insoles didn't cause me any problems, I think I should have gotten new insoles in Harper's Ferry.

AT insole on the left, new one on the right.


Sunday, December 01, 2019

A Holiday Season Two-Fer

It's the first of December and both of my Christmas Cactuses have a single opening bloom marking the official start to the Christmas season in our house.

The first bloom I noticed on our kitchen window sill.
We knew it was coming so, on Friday, I put up the Christmas tree and lights.  The Wife added ornaments today.  On Saturday, when the weather cooperated, I put up lights, wreaths, and laser lights outside.

The other bloom in my larger cactus.
I haven't decided about the big balls in the oak tree.  We will see when the wind we are having dies down.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Spiritual Healing On ... And Off ... The Appalachian Trail

The passing of my Camino friend Gv three Novembers ago today affected me deeply.  The depression I sank into led me to end my first Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt after only a week.  My 2019 AT attempt was another try at the spiritual healing I was seeking.

The path to healing.
The Appalachian Trail did not give me the healing I was looking for.  For six months I ran the events of my two Caminos and of late 2016 over and over in my head.  Spiritually, along the one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four miles portion of the trail that I hiked, I oscillated from comfort and melancholy but in the end I felt little change.

Then I came home.  In 2011, on my first Camino, I met a woman on her second Camino.  We talked about searching for epiphanies along the way to Santiago de Compostela.  She said something that stuck with me.  The epiphanies do not come while you are going through your ordeal.  They come after you return home and have time to process what you've gone through. 

It's been two months since I returned from my second AT attempt and I now realize that things have in fact changed.  Before the AT, when thinking back to my time with Gv on the Camino, my thought were always grey and a bit sad.  I realize now, after my six month walking meditation, that now my thoughts of those times are filled with smiles, laughs, and all the good times we had being pilgrims.

I still miss my Camino friend and the sadness of her passing will never totally go away, but now those feelings take a backseat to the happy moments we shared and I am a better man because of it.   If that isn't spiritual healing, I don't know what is.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a fun filled and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

The Wife and I will be spending it at my Mom's house.

Enjoy the feast!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Book: Mark Lawrence's "One Word Kill"

Publishers sometimes give away free e-books.  I have read a few of these books and have found them a bit shallow but good enough - a piece of literary fluff.  My latest read, Mark Lawrence's "One Word Kill" is an example of a free piece of fluff.

The book follows a teenager diagnosed with cancer who encounters a future version of himself.  This meeting appears as if it should be impossible.  The book uses the infinite universes version of quantum theory which makes it impossible to change your own past but, in the book, the characters discover they can change their past while ast the same time realize the impossibility of this fact.

The book was entertaining.  It was also the first book of a series.  I'm curious how the author makes the impossible possible but I'm not sure if I really want to continue this series.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads because it was entertaining though I wonder if I'm being too generous.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Travel Magnets ... Appalachian Trail Edition

I picked up some travel magnets as I hiked north on the Appalachian Trail.  I finally finished scanning and uploading them.  They can be found in the Travel Magnets tab at the top of the page under the picture or you can click this link.

On my way North I ended up collecting thirteen magnets.  There were a few places, such as Dartmouth, where I forgot to even look for magnets.  This happened mostly north of Harper's Ferry, WV when my brain wasn't quite connected with reality at times.  Also, a lot of the small towns I stopped at in the north were not connected to tourism in any way so magnets were nonexistent.

There was a fourteenth magnet that I bought at the Nantahala Outdoor Center but I think I accidentally threw it away - D'OH!

Here are a few of my favorite:

The Appalachian Trail symbol.

An interesting Lantern from the Franklin, NC area.

I like this saying quote.

I like the bears.

I still like the bears and I adore the night sky
which I saw much too infrequently.
For those who are wondering, I did not carry these magnets with me all the way to New Hampshire.  Some were mailed back home and others were taken home by the Wife when she met me in Harper's Ferry, WV.

Since we are running out of magnet space, I think I will build a small magnet board for my Camino and Appalachian Trail magnets.  It will go in the den with all my other treasures..

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Yeah ... I'm Still Here

I would have never guessed that I would be posting more often while on the Appalachian Trail (AT) than when I was home.  The last month and a half since I returned has been relatively quiet so I have not been inspired to write about the mundanity that I have been living. Not that I've been not having fun, mind you, but it just hasn't risen to the level of being post-worthy.  So, to fill everyone in on what I've been doing I am merging all these non-post-worthy stuff into one single post.

Firstly, I have been healing.  Aches in several parts of my body have slowly faded, disappearing one at a time over the last month and a half.  The last thing to go away was the lump under my right knee - the result of me diving off the bridge near Pinkham Notch.  I was surprised that it took over a month and a half for the swelling to finally go down.  I must of done more to it than I'd initially thought.

Along with the aches and pains, I went to the dentist to get some trail related damage fixed.  A wisdom tooth and a filling cracked when I was in Virginia, the victims of some particularly hard trail mix.  The wisdom tooth has been extracted and the cracked filling will be repaired next week.  Later this year a crown will be put on another tooth broken somewhere along the trail.

Finally, in the health department, I order a new set up orthotic insoles.  My old ones didn't fair well over the one thousand eight hundred and ninety four miles of the AT I hiked.  I should have replaced them in Harper's Ferry I think.

Secondly I have been catching up on my entertainment.  This means binging multiple television shows across four streaming services.  My binge threshold apparently is a bit low and I can only handle one series before I need a break.  This has slowed me down a bit but I am slowly approaching the end of my list of things to watch.

The Wife and I have gone out to see a couple movies since I've been home.  The first was a documentary about Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame and major civil rights figure.  The screening was sponsored by the local Notre Dame Alumni club.  The second movie was a compilation of short subjects filmed by local Nebraska and Iowa filmmakers.  It was interesting.  As you can see, the Wife and I have eclectic tastes.

I also have caught up on my video games and other brain wilting entertainment.  Sometimes you just have to submerge yourself into something mindless, vapid, and entertaining.

Lastly, I have tried to get back to walking.  This has turned out to be a harder exercise in self-motivation than I expected.  All the walking I've done in the past couple years has been in preparation for the AT.  With the AT behind me I have to struggle to get myself out of the house and on the sidewalks and hiking paths.  Since My return from the trail I have walked only twice.  The first was 3.2 miles (5.15 km) - it was shortened by rain and I didn't have my rain gear with me. The second was 6.45 miles (10.38 km).  This was my target distance and my legs felt wobbly when I got back to the car.  I guess my body is still recovering from my hike ... or it may be because I have been mostly sedentary since I've returned home.

That's about it.  Not really that thrilling of a November so far but that is what I am going for right now.  I just want to settle into my home with the Wife and Iago and soak up everything I have missed since April.  For now, that's good enough for me.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy All Hallows Eve!

Wishing a happy and safe Halloween to my family and friends.  Stay spooky my friends!!!

Happy All Hallows Eve to everyone!!!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Sixth (Second) Caminoversary

Today is the sixth anniversary of the end of my second Camino.  The Camino was talked about often on the Appalachian Trail.  Everyone seemed to either know about it, wanted to do it someday, or had already done it.  All I can say is the Appalachian Trail is a totally different animal from the Camino.

Fisterra sunset in the clouds.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Aches, Pains, And Promises

Not my hat but I agree
with the message.
Sixteen days have passed since I got off the Appalachian Trail (AT).  My body is still aching and suffering from various pains in odd places.  Both knees are sore when I bend them and my legs are shaky when I go up and down stairs.  My right calf still has a lump from when I dove head first off the bridge.  My left elbow still stings from hitting stone when I slipped and landed in the creek.  My left big toe, which became infected as a new toe nail was growing in, still hurts with a pain similar to an ingrown toenail.  Lastly, for some unknown reason, the muscles across the top of my back ache.

The strange thing is that many of these issues didn't bother me as I was hiking.  They all manifested full force once I'd quit.  It's like my body was saving up the aches and pains for when I was done.  Fortunately some of the discomfort is fading.  I am considering going to the doctor for the big toe and the lump on my calf since they are not getting much better.

The discomfort I am feeling just proves I made the right decision to quit.  Back in 2017 before my first AT attempt I listed reasons why I was doing it.  Those reasons were the same for this attempt as well.  The first reason - the physical challenge - turned out to be a bit beyond my capabilities as my continued aches and pains attest.  I'm sure I would have hurt myself more seriously if I'd pushed on.

The mental challenge of the AT was, in many ways, more difficult than the physical challenge.  I think my final decision came not when I physically couldn't do it but when I lost the mental struggle.  The isolation I felt in the last month and a half took a hard toll on my psyche and chipped away at my will to finish the thru-hike.  Being out of touch with the 'real world' has lead to some shock on returning home.  I've forgotten things that I did everyday for years.  I'm having to relearn my domestic life.  It's an odd feeling.

As for spiritual healing, the AT is not the Camino and the healing I sought eluded me.  I did work through some personal questions I've been struggling with but I didn't find all my answers.  I think some questions can never be answered to our satisfaction.

The last reason was to keep a promise I made to my friend GV.  I had her picture in my pocket the whole way and I am sure she would understand my decision to end my attempt.  I'm sure she would be impressed with the effort I put in this time and I have no reason to be ashamed as I was last time.

This AT thru-hike attempt ended quite differently for me.  I am not embarrassed.  I have few regrets.  I am not ashamed.  I am a bit disappointed but I am in a much better place than I was two years ago.

I'm ready for the next adventure, whatever that may be, as long as it's not a six month ordeal like the Appalachian Trail.