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.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Photograph: "Sun-Clouds-Silhouette - From A Bus Window"

The view from my bus window as it pulled into Boston on my way home from the Appalachian Trail.

"Sun-Clouds-Silhouette - From a bus window"
by Bruce H.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Appalachian Trail: The End Of An Adventure ... (?)

My 1,893.7 mile path.
I called my first Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt in 2017 a failure.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, and full of regret.  This time I am disappointed but I'm proud of what I did accomplish and have few regrets.

The AT was not what I expected.  My body gave out.  I expected that I would get stronger and have greater stamina the more I hiked.  This seems to be far from what happened.  It seems I peaked physically after the first couple of months then plateaued before declining after Pennsylvania.  Some of the decline was due to trail conditions (i. e. rocks) but I saw little improvement after the trail conditions improved. It was a bit demoralizing not to be able to do longer days like I could earlier on the AT.  The result was my plan, which assumed me getting stronger, was too aggressive.

Next I was also surprised by my interactions with other thru-hikers.  I was hoping for a more social experience with a group of new friendships that would last for years.  That is what I got out of my first Camino.   Why would the AT be any different?  It was different.  I met many people and formed fleeting friendships but they were always a bit superficial and never ended with any long term friendship.  Sometimes it was my fault for not trying harder to participate in social situations but when I'm exhausted I often become quiet and self-isolating. This often made my hike a lonely one especially after the midpoint when the number of thru-hikers thinned out.  This can drag on a person's mental state.

Lastly there was a lack of physical contact.  During the almost six months on the trail the only physical contact I had with another human being were fist bumps (the traditional thru-hiker greeting), the occasional hand shake, a massage I paid for in Waynesboro, VA, and a hug I got from George.  This can also drag on a person's mental state.

Not everything was bad.  The parts of America I saw along the way were beautiful and varied.  While parts of the trail are the proverbial green tunnel, where there were views they almost always made me pause to take it all in.

The people I met, even if for a ephemeral moment, were always wonderful.  You rediscover that there are incredibly nice people out there looking after you.  Your faith in humanity is bolstered with every encounter.

So, why did I quit when I was so close?  It was the unexpected aspects of the AT that forced me to quit.  Me not getting stronger meant I had to add more days to my plan which pushed my arrival at Katahdin to after the mountain would close for the winter.  This was exacerbated by the shortening of the days reducing the time I had to hike.  The lack of social interaction started to push me towards depression (they say hiking helps depression ... not necessarily for me, I guess).  Spiritually ... well at times my spirit was curled in a ball rocking back and forth in the corner.  All these things were often balanced out by meeting milestones that boosted my spirit but they all reached a critical mass near the end that overcame any high I got from reaching another milestone.

Now that I'm home, I have decision to make.  Do I return and do the last three hundred miles?  Obviously the thru-hiker title is out of the question now.  If I did come back and finish it I would be a LASH (Long Ass Section Hiker) which is not a bad thing.  The problem is I know what is waiting for me in southwest Maine and I have to decide how much of a masochist I am.  The mountains of Maine are said to be similar to the Whites in difficulty.  I guess my decision will hinge on how fast bad memories fade.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Another Year For The Wife, Another Happy Birthday!

I want to wish my wonderful wife a very Happy Birthday.  Her support while I was on the Appalachian Trail made my achievement possible.  The last six months were hard on her but she never wavered in her encouragement.  For that, and so much more, I Love her deeply.

Happy Birthday!