Happiness and contentment in life come from the merging of Opportunity and Talent. My Dad had Talent but no Opportunity so could not find a way to learn to play the Violin. I had Opportunity but no Talent -- I lack the physical ability to complete a Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail. I failed to learn this lesson even after numerous section hikes, but in the Spring of 2013, after 41.6 miles hiking in MD and PA, I learned the lesson that Dad had in mind when he told me to "hike the Trail." This Blog is now about the Merging of Opportunity and Talent more than it is about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I still plan to include snippets of the Trail in the Blog. It's about Chasing the Trail of Life. I hope you enjoy my posts.

COMPUTER TRESPASS---RCW 9A.52.110---Computer trespass in the first degree.

(1) A person is guilty of computer trespass in the first degree if the person, without authorization, intentionally gains access to a computer system or electronic database of another; and (a) The access is made with the intent to commit another crime; or (b) The violation involves a computer or database maintained by a government agency.

(2) Computer trespass in the first degree is a class C felony.

This Blog is Dedicated to my Dad. Although he never accomplished his dream of learning to play the Violin, he did construct and play a Dulcimer at an Elderhostel.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Definition of a Successful Hike

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard.  And I've only hiked 41.6 Maryland and Pennsylvania miles of it.

It's hard work.  It is fun, too.  I enjoyed hiking in the rain and seeing how beautiful the shades of green are, how mysterious and other-worldly the woods are, how peaceful it is to be alone with rain-drops falling all around.  It's hard to be walking and slipping up a hill, switchback or not, in the driving rain with 30 pounds on your back, gravity trying to pull you down the hill while you're trying to go up.  It's scary trying to balance your weight and that of your pack on uneven rocks that want to twist your knees and strain your ankles while at the same time, you're thankful that it's not raining yet, because the sky is threatening and you're worried you'll be caught trying to walk on wet slippery rocks.

It's so peaceful to be the only one hiking on the Trail, climbing up a hill, false summit after false summit, stopping to look around at all the downed trees, the piles of rocks, the rocky ridge, the leaves, the hint of Spring, the first wild azalea in bloom.  It's frustrating to be hiking along at a good clip, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, only to find that the 'Trail planners' have decided to take you off the old logging road Trail and send the Trail up a steep incline to the rocky ridge line in order to create a Trail through a maze of boulders the size of 'smart cars' and 'baby elephants' through which you must attempt to locate the next white blaze and then after a quarter mile, descend on a jumble of boulders and rocks back down to that same old logging road Trail until the 'Trail planners' decide to repeat the process.

The Trail is sometimes a river, sometimes a mucky mess, sometimes puddles, and often cold wet feet.  The Trail is a staircase going up and coming down, only the steps have risers as high as two feet.  The Trail is soft leaves and hard rocks.  The Trail is occasionally flat and often cupped.  In one section the cupping was about 2 feet deep, fortunately it was not pouring rain when I walked through that.

You've seen my photos of the rocks.  Those photos do not do reality any justice.  "You have to be there."

The pounding on your feet and knees while hiking on the rocks is unending.  Whether you're a younger person or have more meniscus in your knees, the constant battering will eventually take its toll.  Maybe you're young enough not to feel it immediately, maybe you are able to ignore it, maybe a good night's sleep heals it, and maybe not.  Maybe your feet have good padding or you have thick soles on your boots or thick insoles in your shoes and your feet don't start tingling for a while. Maybe a good night's sleep stops the tingling.  Maybe the second day off the Trail they hurt worse than they did the first day.

The moments of pure beauty are memorable.  The pain and injury are physical.  Zach Davis and others will state that Thru Hiking is 20% physical and 80% mental.  I'm going to suggest that the 20% when injured on the Trail can over power the 80% in a heart beat.

I enjoyed staying at the Shelters and had no problem with Shelter Mice ... Pine Knob Shelter and Ensign Cowall Shelter and Raven Rock Shelter and Deer Lick Shelters and Antietam Shelter and Tumbling Run Shelters ... and I enjoyed meeting the hikers ...
Cheap Chardonnay [who is very generous]
Breeze [Fletcher] and Olympia
Mountain Goat
Johnny Blaze
Foot Machine
Cupcake and ??? 
Skippy and Marsha
Lefty and Hush [newly weds]
Squirrel who changed her name to Tree Rat
Bull [Alex from Raleigh who graduated with all A's and took his ROTC physical only to learn he was 35% deaf and a year later another physical revealed he is now 70% deaf.  He shared the words that helped him hike his first 150 miles in 30 days "Small Steps: Big Achievements" -- He's one inspiring young man!]
Mark and Keith
Slow Step and Short Step
Prairie Dog [Patrick] and his Katrina Rescue Dog, Georgia
Punchy and Long Body
Patricia [and the group from South New Jersey]
The Overseers for Tumbling Run Shelter and their dog, Mocha
[There were other hikers whose names I failed to notate.]

Staying at Free State Hostel in MD and meeting Jenelle and her precious children was a good experience.  Staying at Burgundy Lane B&B in Waynesboro, PA was a total delight.  [Can't brag on David and Margaret enough!]

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not planning to get off the Trail or to quit Backpacking.  I am re-examining my physical abilities including those I think/thought I had and those I actually have.

I had good conversation with a hiker over dinner one night.  I learned from her perspective more about what the Appalachian Trail is really like and how many Sections are much more difficult than most hikers are at first aware of. Some Sections are best hiked 'in season' -- like Connecticut in the Fall and Massachusetts [bugs and bogs] when it's not too wet. There's the account of the middle aged hiking couple who got to the Kinsmans and hiked part way up before they realized the difficulty was beyond their abilities and had to hike back down. They decided then that they would not be able to complete a Section Hike or become "2000-Milers," so they now hike the Sections they enjoy each year and take pleasure in that. I learned that many Hikers who attempt to climb out of Crawford Notch with a full backpack are unable to do so and have to turn around.

I heard accounts about the many AT Hikers who get to Katahdin Stream Campground through the very difficult 100-Mile Wilderness and start their climb up the Hunt Trail to Katahdin only to be disappointed in their efforts because of how difficult Mile 4 is.  They end up having to turn back without summiting.  [See quote from Francis Tapon below.]

The facts are that many many Appalachian Trail Hikers fail to complete a Thru Hike or Section Hike to the summit Katahdin and that most Hikers, most Appalachian Trail Hikers, appear to be unaware of this. We hear about the successes, yet most of those successful Hikers do not clearly describe the difficult Sections of the Trail. I had previously heard about the rebars on Mile 4 of the Hunt Trail to the summit of Katahdin but I had not heard 'the rest of the story.'  The Journals I have read  seem to indicate that Thru Hiking and Section Hiking the Appalachian Trail is 'fun' and 'a challenge' and that all it takes is 'will' and 'anyone who wants to Thru Hike can do it.'  Really?  Or is this the popular perception which disguises the difficult truth?  
Here are descriptions of the hike up Katahdin from three Thru Hikers I found on their blogs:  
I 'googled' "rebar on Katahdin" and the only photos of the rebar were found in this set from a 2011 Hike.  And the Hiker who took the photos did not make it all the way to the Summit.
Where are the descriptive stories from the hikers who were unable to summit Katahdin?  Are they out there?  Do they post online or on Trail Journals?  And if they do, please comment and give me their websites.  Are they members of the Hiking Community?  Or if they were members before their hikes, did they drop out because they were unable to complete their Thru Hikes?  Is there such shame in being unable to complete a Thru Hike or become a "2000-Miler" or summit Katahdin that it causes an AT Hiker to fade away into oblivion?   Is there some kind of unspoken rule that AT Hikers are not to describe the difficult sections of the Trail with an honest appraisal?  And if they did describe the difficult and fear inducing Sections, would anyone listen?  Would I listen?  Is this experience something that each of us must encounter on our own and then make a choice, a decision, a re-evaluation?  Or is this information which AT Hikers need to know before they set out to hike?   Would it make a difference in your hike?   Would it make a difference in mine?

While contemplating these questions, I found this interesting article online.

Hike Your Own Hike On The Appalachian Trail And In Life by Francis Tapon
In many cases, hiking your own hike may mean quitting the hike. Over 70 percent of the hikers who intend to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season quit. Some of them return the next season(s) to complete the sections they missed; thus, they become Section Hikers. However, many who quit never return because the hike wasn’t fun for them. After all, digging a hole in the dirt and squatting can get old after a while.  
Whether you quit after 20 miles or you go the entire distance, the Appalachian Trail teaches you the same lesson: hike your own hike. Hikers ultimately focus on having fun.
And what about Dad's last words to me?  "I want you to hike the Trail."  What did he mean by that, exactly?  What lesson did I need to learn?  My Dad wanted to play the violin but he never had the opportunity although he surely had the talent.  I wanted to Thru Hike the Appalachian Trail but I realize I don't have the physical ability [the talent] even though I have the opportunity.  Dad made a Dulcimer at an Elderhostel, learned to play a song on it, and played in a concert.  What will I do?  Maybe that's the lesson I have to learn.  Dad is teaching me a lesson about opportunities and abilities, about taking the talents I have and using them.  The questions I ask myself are "What talents do I have?"  "What can I do with them?"  "How will I use them to learn my song?"    

As for the "fun" part of hiking -- it IS fun to be on the Appalachian Trail, pained feet and all [however, it is not fun with knee pain].  I want to go back to the Trail and will as soon as my knee is better.  I'll re-evaluate where and when.   I do not plan to be one of the "many who quit never return" group.

I want to imitate the couple who came back down the Kinsmans and decided to hike the enjoyable Sections and take pleasure and joy in those hikes.   Yeah, that's what a SUCCESSFUL hike is all about, isn't it?

"It's not about the miles, it's all about the smiles" according to Winton Porter of Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap, GA.

I went to the Doctor today and he would not give me another Cortisone shot in my knee so soon after my last one.  However, I did receive a methylprednisolone tablet Dosepak to take with meals for the next six days.  I plan to be camping out in the Shenandoah Mountains for a week while taking this medication.  And I'll be learning how to Hammock Hang.  I'm hoping that in a week I can start making my plans to get back on the Appalachian Trail ... only this time, headed South into the rolling hills of Virginia for about a month.  And I still plan to attend a famous 4th of July Parade in Massachusetts. 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Proverbs 4:26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

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