I learn more about long distance hiking almost everyday. In the process of planning to do the Appalachian Trail I am on a constant hunt for information. Coming across a great bit of information is like finding a puzzle piece that fits.
Not only does the planning keep me excited about the trip but it keeps me hunting for those bits of information. I try to note the things I learn, or copy the Internet URL. I hope to retain all the bits and pieces I've been gathering. I have a couple documents that are constantly evolving and being updated with equipment lists, recipes, financial goals, and just thoughts and ideas. Being that it is over a year away from going all this is almost certainly unnecessary. But I have all these ideas, all the time! I have a burning desire to hit the Trail. At times I get depressed just thinking about how long I have to wait, but at the same time my spirits are buoyed at the thought of finally deciding that I will go. I live once. I am young(ish). I am childless. I have the financial ability to save for this with hardly any negative consequences beyond losing 6 to 8 months of pay. I am healthy and I have the drive. To let this confluence of fortuitous alignment pass by without jumping on it would be regretful. I could wax philosophically about letting life slip away... but I won't!
Everyone is so supportive too. It's amazing how anyone in my life that I've spoken with at any length agree wholly I should go. Maybe there is a spark of passion in my eye? I certainly feel more alive just thinking about it. I have read a dozen books about other's AT adventures. I read people's AT blogs and WhiteBlaze forum's. Last year I went to Trail Days in Damascus, VA to hang out with the hiker's.
Not only do I love the idea of a trail of such long distance, I love that much of it is in our backyards practically. I've been on bits and pieces of the Trail in NC, VA, WV, MD, PA - every time I imagine a thin thread stretching out before me to the terminus, connected by these white rectangles. An electric thrill runs up my spine. What's around the next bend in the green tunnel? The community of the Trail draws me as much as the Trail itself. I'm not the only one that feels as I do about the Trail. I want to meet the people. I want to spread good feeling to those that don't know about the Trail. Lead by example to weekenders and section hikers, both of which I currently am.
I love the weekend trip that I go on. But there always seems to be a huge ticking clock in my mind. Longer trips, 10 days or so, the clock becomes almost silent by day 3 or 4 but then returns with thunderous noise by day 8 and 9. Being absorbed with time is something I am eagerly anticipating getting away from. I know there will be a schedule, but it seems like it will be a much less involved and demanding schedule. My worries will be boiled down to: move forward, eat, drink, watch the weather.
I have read where some authors relate the Trail to a pilgrimage, some view it as a coming of age story, other's are looking for answers, or trying to beat a record. I am doing it for love, and removal of the things that breed dissatisfaction. On any given day I find myself angry and bored more than anything else. Mad at the car in front of me, short-tempered that the electronic device isn't as fast as I want it to be, annoyed that a loved one isn't giving me the attention I self-centeredly crave. Or bored, letting my mind melt into the inane TV I try to avoid, or the StumbleUpon site I'm clicking or the computer game. Or I nap out of boredom. I am only really happy when I am around friends, family, and loved ones and I am happy when I'm hiking, pushing myself to do something strenuous, either alone or accompanied . I'm tired of being angry. I'm sick of being bored. I go on this sabbatical to try to find a meaning deeper in life. I know a deeper meaning exists, just from the last paragraph - family, friends, loved ones, and strenuous labor give meaning to an otherwise gray dull life. I go in search of a way to enrich my life. I go to experience life more fully than I ever have.
I began this post with the intention of writing specifically about what planning I have so far done and what yet needs doing. Reading back through I like the direction the post took instead. Sometimes it is difficult to articulate where I am. Mostly I just try to grin and ignore the anger and the boredom. But it is so prevalent, and so disgusting, I need to confront those emotions, try to understand where they come from.