Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appalachian trail journal Dec. 6, 2009

[Top picture is from March 31, 2000 and the one below it from Dec. 6, 2009, both taken at Raven Rock, near Muskrat Creek shelter on the Appalachian Trail]

I didn't sleep well last night and woke up in a depressive funk. Maybe it was the town food and bad television. Maybe it was the facts of the matter. I was a stranger in a familiar, but forbidding environment, dealing with cold and isolation, and aches and pains. Why do I continue to do this to myself?

But I'd follow my own advice to sleep on a decision to leave the trail. Give it at least 24 hours. Otherwise, I may regret leaving.

After coffee and a ride back to the trailhead, my mood had not lifted. As I hiked and climbed steadily towards North Carolina I replayed everything wrong in my life. Unemployment, stupid mistakes I'd made, lost marriage and other lost loves, and friends fallen by the wayside. But once I recognized this as an emotional funk, it strangely lost its power over me. There's something to be said about removing yourself from a situation in order to gain perspective. Long-distance hiking provides plenty of opportunities for introspection. Its solitary nature can lead to many keen insights, but honestly, for the most part it is mostly a lot of navel gazing. Enough self pity, I told myself. I don't want to be one of those types of persons. The brutal climb out of Bly Gap dispelled the gloom for good.

Above 4,000 feet, the trail is snowy. It's not deep enough to slow me down. It just means wet feet, which, interestingly, is a euphemism for nervousness. But I digress.

I made a series of Year 37 resolutions, including finishing a novel I've started and getting it published, losing 20 pounds, getting another teaching job (and being more selective about where I go), blah blah blah. Just a bunch of boring personal stuff I won't bore readers any further with.

All of these petty concerns were transcended by a sunset view from Raven Rock, near the Muskrat Creek Shelter. One of my favorite pics from the 2000 thru-hike is of Sidewinder standing at this very spot. The view was just as stunning tonight.

In an effort to keep warm, I gathered five bags of leaves and put them on the shelter floor, draped my tarptent over that, and sleeping bag on top of that. Someone left a poncho in the shelter. When I bed down for the night I'll drape that over my sleeping bag and keep it in place with my parka on top of everything. Temps are in the low 20s right now and it feels like it's getting colder. I don't want to sleep in this open, mouse-ridden shelter, but the ground is snowy and there's a dearth of flat spots. I hope this set-up works well enough to keep me warm. We'll see.

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