August 17, 2010 4:17 pm
After some time thinking things over, letting things sink in and some debate over what if anything to share about why I left the AT, here it is. As I have been told by friends I did this for myself and I don’t have to explain anything if I don’t want to. I know this. I made this a public experience by putting up this journal as well as through Facebook and in doing so I wanted to explain not because I felt I ‘had to’ but because I ‘wanted to’. In doing so perhaps I can learn a thing or two and of course there’s the therapeutic power of writing.
The final stats…
500 miles. 7 weeks. 10 zero days. Katadihn, Baxter State Park, ME to (just past) Killington, VT.
So here’s the full explanation why I left the trail.
I got sick of it. In between all of the breathtaking views you see in the photo’s is a lot of walking. Sometimes days and days of boring walking. I got sick of walking. I got sick of walking with no new input and very little new to think about.
Ok Not quite so simple…
Not too long before I left I had gone through a break up. To be completely honest I have had some trouble handling it. I can honestly say I almost didn’t make it to the trail and came close to canceling the hike all together because of it. With all the miles of walking and little new input, I thought of almost nothing else and of this person often 12-14 hours a day. With nothing new to think about the sound of my own wheels drove me crazy. I got sick of it and wanted new things to think about.
I had made it a good amount of the way without thinking too much about my art. I figured a break would do me good and I’d just get back to it when the 6 months was up. Sometimes for days all you see is tree’s and mountains and while there’s beauty and inspiration in those, it doesn’t exactly inspire a figurative artist to work:) As I turned to new things to think of, I looked to my art. I thought of how it feels for me to make art. I thought of how it feels to explode onto a piece of paper with a pencil, pastel or a brush. I thought of the fire that burns in me at times when I draw. The fire of 1000 suns. Great, now I started a fire in the woods, uh… how am I going to put that out?;)
I thought of the incredible amount of positive feedback I have received over the last year or two on my art, mostly through my Facebook Page. Feedback mostly all from women who shared their feelings of how my art had helped them to find beauty in themselves by challenging traditional images and ideals of female beauty. I thought of how my art could further be used for healing by exploring projects such as breast cancer survivors and others.
I really, really wanted to make art. I thought whether I would rather spend the next 4 months making art or continuing walking and thinking about things I’d rather not be.
I considered going back…
After being back in NYC for a couple of days I did consider heading back. “Finish what you started dammit” a voice told me. I went to sleep planning to get back to it the next day. It was a rash not thought-out decision. When I awoke and walked to the rest room, the pain in my knee’s and cramping in the arches of my feet told me perhaps I’d better give it a little more thought. I imagine the cramping of my arches will go away eventually, but after almost 2 weeks of very little walking and I wince near to tears every time I have to go up or down a flight of stairs (somewhat essential for getting around in New York City). My knees where in bad shape when I started and I realize now though I may have some long term knee problems to deal with as a result of this hike.
I guess I didn’t have what it takes…
Dealing with your own thoughts and being able to handle the miles of boring walking is as much a part of completing the trail as physically overcoming the big rough mountains. In the end I did not have what it takes to be a thru-hiker. My hat goes off in respect of those who do. It really is an incredible accomplishment. I am coming to peace with this though. I have other things I can do and other accomplishments I can make. I did at least have what it took to make it as far as I did.
No. Not for a second. I have always lived life by the saying “no regrets, only lessons learned”. Some disappointment in not completing yes. Was this really about finishing? Maybe, maybe not. Really though it was about learning through experiences. I love to learn, and one of my foremost goals in life is to learn through experiences. This was most definitely an experience and I most definitely learned many valuable things. The journey is the destination and while this particular journey may have come to an end others are waiting to begin.
What I have learned?
Lots! Too much to cover here, but a few highlights:
1. The people I have in my life are amazing. Your support, encouragement was incredible. Thank you!!!
2. Confidence! This is a big one. I Left NYC with 0 days experience backpacking. Yup, absolutely no experience. Sure I had camped before, but with a car, at camp grounds. Backpacking, living out of a bag for 2 months is a very different experience. I had also never hiked a serious mountain, never anything over 3000 feet and never any serious bouldering. For someone who rarely gets nervous I was a bit terrified before I left. I did my home work, I did lots of it, I was well prepared. I did it, I did it with no problems and encountered nothing I couldn’t handle. I am now much more confident in the things I can tackle in my life, the mountains I can overcome both metaphorical and topographical.
3. I have some other skills I may be able to use. This journal was never intended to be much. Just a chronicle of events. I have received incredible feedback about, the writing and the photography. Perhaps I can combine those skills with my art in use for greater things.
Will I hike again?
Definitely! I still love hiking. While I have some issues with my knee’s to deal with I will continue to hike, I will continue to backpack. I love the outdoors and will continue to love it and learn through it by hiking and backpacking. I think though I will do so in shorter section hikes 1-2 weeks or so.
August 3, 2010 11:34 pm
Time to make art!!! Time to apply the things I have learned and confidence I have gained to other area’s of my life. I will continue to grow, I will continue to explore, I will continue to learn, I will continue to seek out new experiences.
Crossing a state border always feels good:)
August 3, 2010 9:04 am
Ramunto’s in Hanover offers hikers a free slice of cheese pizza (and they have Guiness on tap!!!) . Ben & Jerry’s gives hikers 10% off any purchase. Ugh and you wonder why trail nutrition is so difficult!
The Appalachian Trail passes through the Dartmouth campus here and right through down town Hanover. There are a lack of places for hikers to stay here though. Some hikers stay at frat houses but um…well that’s not for me so I actually spent most of my time at a hotel a few towns away.
Thinking about the value of books the whole time and stopped at the book store to grab a book to read on the way out. It’s titled ” The Goddesses In Every Woman” I actually have a copy of it back in my studio and it seemed silly to buy another but I simply couldn’t find anything more appealing for the weight:)
Hanover makes me miss city life very much. I am sitting on a bench listening to my mp3 player people watching when I am already behind and should get moving.
Vermont is a short walk away. Onward I guess.
August 1, 2010 5:49 am
“Whence come the highest mountains? I once asked. Then I learned they came out of the sea. The evidence is written in their rocks and in the walls of their peaks. It is out of the deepest depths that the highest must come to its height.” excerpt from Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
I have long considered books to be absolutely amazing things. Simple treasures of printed words on paper. Vast collections of our collective knowledge mass produced and accessible to just about anyone that can read.
I don’t have much college education just a couple of semesters here and there. I don’t have anything against going to college, it was always a matter of affordability for me. I just didn’t have the financial means for it. Because I couldn’t go to college I was forced to look at learning from a different perspective.
It was this perspective that made me realize the value of books. I came to the realization that for the cost of a book and a little of my time I could learn the same things taught in a college course. Sure it takes a little more self discipline and you don’t get the same things you might get in a group learning environment, but you can still get the same core knowledge often at a much faster and more efficient pace. You can often do this for very little money with used book stores and libraries.
It was this realization that even after I could earn enough to afford college gave me a preference for self learning. Thanks to books I am self-taught in most everything I do. I am a self-taught artist, a successful computer programmer, a student of history, nutrition, science, women’s studies and photography all thanks to books.
The passage above is from my favorite book and is one of my favorite excerpts ever. I find it particularly relevant as a metaphor for trying to change one’s self. It is out of ones deepest depths that ones highest peaks are born. I also find relevance in this passage and its metaphors as I climb these high peaks and work through the highs and lows of a journey such as this. Of course as well the relations of the man in the mountains in the story.
I am always fascinated by the ability of the contents of a book to seep into your sub-concious. While some things you learn from books immediately take hold in your mind others are ideas planted like seeds that take years to grow.
I first read Zarathustra when I was in my mid-twenties. I have read it several times since. Not too long ago I went back and read it again. I was suprised and amazed to find in the printed words many seeds of the philosophies and concepts I use in my life today but wasn’t sure where they came from.
This trip has reminded me of the value of books. I believe also a trip like this is much like a good book. While some things I will learn along the way will be immediate, others will like planted seeds come to fruition over time.
August 1, 2010 2:44 am
Stone walls such as the ones pictured above are quite common in the woods on the east coast. It doesn’t take a historian to figure out they are fairly old and have been around for quite some time. They are often covered in moss, falling apart and overgrown.
When I see them I wonder about them. I wonder about the people that built them. The people that lived in these woods long ago. I wonder how they lived and what their lives were like. I wonder who they were.
I wonder why they built these walls. At first I thought perhaps they were keeping animals in. People of those times surely kept some animals for food. Chickens perhaps? Cows? In the woods though? Maybe but would such walls wouldn’t be effective with chickens?
Perhaps these were defensive walls. Most are not very high and would not provide great protection. Surely though they would provide sufficient cover against the rifles of those times. I imagined for a moment a minute man ducking behind one of these walls for protection from British soldiers trying to crush our fight for independence.
After imagining reasons of defense or farming logic set in and I realized what I think were the real reasons for these walls. They were more than likely used to mark property boundaries. Nothing too exciting.
I wonder again about the people who lived within these walls. Did they have to walk the 16 miles to Hanover for supplies as I was today? Were they as anxious to get it over as I was or were they so used to such a walk it didn’t bother them much? Are parts of the Appalachian Trail the same paths they walked to town? Would they look forward to a nice big pint of their favorite brew when they got there as I would?:)
It’s funny I never cared for history when I was younger. As I grow older I am fascinated by it. I especially love learning about the people who were in the places I now go long before I am there. Constantly discovering this rich layering of people and history is also one if my favorite reasons for loving New York City so much.
I guess an interest in history comes with age. The realization that our time here is fleeting, that someday others will walk were we have walked and will also wonder of us who were they?
July 31, 2010 2:48 am
“I never expected to make friends out here. Thought I’d be alone.” Brookie said earlier to night. I replied with the same “Totally me niether. Thought I’d be alone.” We both reflected on our little crew, Flora, Fauna, Walker and each other. How fond we had all grown of each other in such a short time and well somewhat unexpectedly.
Brookie is done hiking the trail. It was his plan all along to only do Maine through the Whites. He actually finished a few days back. We had been separated since the Presidentials.
I was planning on taking my time getting into Hanover, New Hampshire when I ran into Walker. He told me that Brookie was done hiking, getting ready to make his big move west and was going to stop in Hanover to catch the gang for one last goodbye.
I contemplated my plan for an easy stroll into Hanover vs a 19 mile day followed by a 16 early to try and catch Brookie. I pushed hard and made it. We had laughs and fun, beers and memories.
Brookie said 2 things that will always stick with me. First he said “Chip, there’s something about you that puts people at ease.” Not sure I have ever heard that before, not sure It’s even true but I like it:)
Second Brookie says he was afraid of heights like me. Says he started climbing (cliffs not just hiking) to overcome his fear of heights. He does winter climbing. Ice and serious climbing including Katadihn in winter. My first reaction was a laugh and yeah I’ll NEVER!!! He went on to describe a winter morning climb.
Brookie described getting up before first light, watching the colors of the snow change as the light broke. He described making breakfast atop a snow covered mountain. Watching the light of the sun as it trickled in on the slope. The colors of the snow as they changed from dark hues of purple’s and blues creeping out of the shadows into deep oranges. The oranges grew into bright reds and yellows as the sun rose over the mountain.
I had hardly ever heard such an amazing description and thoughts of overcoming my own fears to experience something so incredible swept over me. We shall see.
Dan is a warm friendly person who makes you smile and laugh. He had challenged me to expand my boundaries and grow as a person and that’s why I am out here.
Here’s to you Dan. I hope your move west is everything you hope for and more. Thank you for your friendship and for your inspiration. I am truly grateful. Enjoy the journey!
July 30, 2010 3:52 am
Location: Mt. Moosilauke White Mountains National Forest
Moosilauke is the last big mountain in the Whites. It was a bit of a tough hike, very steep at times but the weather was great and it was nothing I couldn’t handle at this point in the trip.
The peak was above tree line and very, very windy but absolutely gorgeous. It was well worth the work and made me a little sad to clear such an amazing and incredible section of the trail. I will definitely be back to hike these mountains again!
July 29, 2010 12:45 am
Thank you everyone. I have received emails, phone calls, texts and word through the grape vine of your support, following of this journal and encouragement. Your feedback has been incredible!
You are all so great. I am truly lucky to have you in my life. You are all with me every step of the way!!!
July 25, 2010 5:24 am
Location: Lincoln, New Hampshire
While in Lincoln waiting to meet up with some old friends I decided to catch a movie. Inception looked good and the timing was right. 6$ for a matinee, if only NYC could be so cheap!
I really enjoyed the film. It was much better than Leonardio Decaprio’s last film Shutter Island. It was a beautifuly layered complex mind puzzle. Just the mental food my brain was craving. I am very glad I took the time out to watch it.
July 25, 2010 3:23 am
Location: Lincoln, New Hampshire
I have had little problem hitch hiking into towns from the trail. Many people who live near the trail are hikers themselves or have family and friends who have hiked the trail.
My hitch into Lincoln was an interesting one. The guy who picked me up had several bumper stickers touting gun rights and various other right wing organizations. I can put aside politics and be truly grateful for the favor of a ride so I got in.
The man who stopped to pick me up was wearing a mechanics uniform. He was sipping on a Budwiser and smelled pretty strongly of beer. One first words after his hello were “You know there are a lot of similarities between being a hiker and the shape you have to be in to be a trained and efficient killer out there on the battlefield. To be able to kill you know.” He continued on “You really have to be in great shape to be a good killer”
Now…I’m kinda thinking though that’s not exactly the first thing you come out with when meeting a stranger. I can be a little bit of a ball buster so I think I know when someone is just having fun with me or being honest. I think this guy really enjoyed talking about killing. Needless to say when he pulled over to stop and buy more beer despite my luck with hitching so far I became a little on edge.
I played it cool but thoughts of a Pulp Fiction back basement kind of scene ran through my head. I frantically started looking for details, the make and model of the car I was in, anything I could take note of should I need to make a police report at some time.
He got back and we drove on to the Hiker hostel. Everything went ok and there was nothing to worry about but I still think it was a strange way to start a conversation!