After 3 1/2 weeks of hiking, I’m 343 miles into my 2,190-mile journey.
Next to raising a family, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Mentally, I’m doing much better than I anticipated. Only minor pangs of homesickness. Having social media like this, being able to talk to and even see my loved ones (via FaceTime), and meeting friendly people here helps enormously. Can’t imagine what it may have been like even 20 years ago.
But physically, oh jeez. Tonight I’m resting in a motel in Erwin, Tennessee. But tomorrow I commence an elevation increase of 3,000-plus feet. And some of it will be straight up, not switchbacking. And I confront similar climbs every day, sometimes more than once.
Needless to say, this is exhausting for a 62-year-old man. Forget my marathoning, this form of masochism is far worse. And it’s virtually impossible to replenish the calories I burn, despite what I’m doing right now (being a glutton).
So why am I doing it? Honestly, I don’t think I have the answer yet. Maybe it’s like the soldier who struggles through boot camp. Once the abuse is finally over, there’s an overwhelming self-satisfaction. And there’s a bonding with others that doesn’t occur often in “regular” society.
But I think most significantly, out here, everything is more basic and tangible than in that other society. There’s satisfaction in knowing that you don’t need the same technological and even emotional “crutches.” None of us are totally free, despite kidding ourselves. But these solo, isolated struggles and joys in the wild come closer to feeling freedom than anything I can think of, at least in the 21st century.
Maybe it’s a bit like being a cowboy or whaler in a bygone era…other than this being a temporary life choice (mixed with not a little vanity).
Well, call this my attempt at a sort of metaphysical chapter. Next time I’ll try to bring it down to earth and discuss some of the people I’ve met and sights I’ve seen.
As always, thanks for following my crazy American odyssey.
P.S. Of the dozens of hikers I’ve met, only four or five, when I tell them “Omoo” is Polynesian for “rover” as well as the title of the second book by my favorite author, have asked who my favorite author is. And all but one were older than me. People just don’t read anymore in this world of constant visual bombardment.
O, Herman, the indignity!
9 thoughts on “Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 2”
You’re doing great!
These photos and comments direct from the trail are fabulous, Pete! Sorry I didn’t comment on the last post you did, I was crazy busy at that time.
Don’t feel you have to respond to this, I know you have more than enough to occupy your attention right now. Just stay safe and have a marvelous journey!
You never fail to amaze me. Keep up the good work and good attitude Pete. Any idea on when you’ll reach the Mason-Dixon line?
And you said you weren’t going to keep a journal! Hah! You are denying your basic nature. You are a writer, and you just keep on at it. As I think about your epic hike, solo, it reminded me of Dr. Michaela Quinn, Medicine Woman. Remember that show? And do you remember one of her native associates, Cloud Dancing? What was his escape from society? Old CD would go on a Vision Quest. Off to the woods, fasting, poised in the center of a Buffalo skin , waiting for a sign from the big kahuna, Manitou. Peter, no need to fast, and Buffalo skins are heavy. Just keep going, and soak it all up. You are doing great!
Inspiring!! Making me feel like I need to do something similar here in Australia!
Wife and I Camped out with you at Overmountain Shelter Sunday night. Great meeting you. Those were some good Cheeseburgers! Hahahaha. Keep on keepin on!
Yeah, I remember you! A great night, a turning point for me: better hiking, better weather, plus trail magic. Quarters was at the next gap and gave me a ride to Mountain Harbour Hostel for food. What a cool guy.
Thanks for visiting Longitudes, and it was great to “party” with you and your wife!
Very cool Pete. Keep the updates coming. Feeding that inner calling.