September 2011

Filling in the gaps: Badger’s Appalachian Trail Omissions (part 1)

Filling in the Gaps

For those who’ve followed my Appalachian Trail journey from the beginning, you may have noticed a couple of gaps in the story.  This has been confirmed by many of the questions I’ve received via Facebook and e-mail.

As I’m currently in the process of writing a pretty kick ass Appalachian Trail book for you all (subscribe to the Badger Book list for more info), I have been reaching into the depths of my honesty bank to best portray some of the mental challenges I dealt with during my journey.  I am doing this in hopes of offering learning lessons to help future thru-hikers successfully complete the AT.  The learning lessons themselves will be in the book, not the posts.

The following are re-worked excerpts from the (currently unnamed) book.   They should serve to bridge a couple of the biggest gaps in my story.

1) Google Giveth, Google Taketh Away

(a follow up from the post: “From Mountain Views to Mountain View)

Two weeks before leaving for the AT, I had managed to score a phone interview with a company I had dreamt of working for over the better part of the last decade, Google.

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Post Appalachian Trail Depression: Advice from Miss Janet

post appalachian trail hiker depression

It was July, 24 2011, a group of 20+ hikers huddled around a large picnic table in the backyard of the Happy Hiker’s Hostel in Glencliff, New Hampshire.  The night’s menu offered home-cooked meatloaf, grilled corn on the cob, mayonnaise-rich pasta salad, coleslaw, homemade buns lathered in liberal amounts of butter, and of course Miller High Life (obviously).  We were shoveling plate after plate of the delicious homemade fare directly into the deepest part of our throats, as if we unlearned the lost art of chewing.  A week of consuming only Ramen has that effect on people.

We were fortunate this evening for the home-cooked meal.  The typical hostel culture leaves a hiker on his/her own to walk or catch a shuttle to the nearest restaurant; the Happy Hiker Hostel is usually no exception.  This evening, however, we were graced with the presence (and culinary skills) of Miss JanetMiss Janet is an Appalachian Trail celebrity.  I remember my first week on the trail, a fellow hiker (who I had never conversed with), came up to me and excitedly said, “did you hear that Miss Janet is hiking the trail this year?!?”

“Are you serious?! …  By the way…who is Miss Janet?”

Apparently that was a dumb question (I’m good at those). A legend of the trail (objectively speaking – she is featured in the documentary “Trail Angels”), Miss Janet has been involved with helping AT hikers since she was only 13 years old.  Miss Janet’s hostel in Erwin, Tennessee was regarded as arguably the best hiker hostel on the entire AT (in competition with over 60 others).  Some hostels are known for their cheap price, some are known for the quality of their setup, Miss Janet’s was known for, well Miss Janet.

That’s why when Miss Janet talks, hikers listen.

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Sensory Underload: Ninety Minutes Inside An Isolation Tank

Because 5 months in the woods wasn’t enough to isolate me from the surrounding world, I decided to kick it up a notch.

While on my little walk thingy, I became a big fan of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.  It served as my social fix when I wasn’t in the mood for actual interaction.  For those who are unfamiliar, Joe Rogan is a stand up comedian/UFC commentator/host of Fear Factor/Carlos Mencia basher.

One of the many reoccurring theme’s on the podcast is Rogan’s fascination with introspection.  In several episodes, he would reference a “sensory deprivation tank” (aka isolation tank/flotation tank) that he had set up in his house.  The tank, as Rogan puts it, “is the most important tool that [he's] ever used for developing [his] mind“.  This, coming from someone who is an outspoken proponent of both psychedelic drugs and marijuana.

Naturally my curiosity was piqued.

For those who are unfamiliar (me, as of 3 months ago) an isolation tank is basically a giant metal coffin with about a foot of salt water at the bottom.  The water is heated to the same temperature as a human body, eventually resulting in an inability to feel the water.  After an individual gets inside and shuts the door behind them, there is only total darkness.  Once the water settles, the only sound you can hear is your own breath.  Because the water is extremely dense – about 800 lbs. of Epsom salt is dissolved into it – a human body, which is made mostly of water, floats very easily.  The theory goes that because there is no sensory input causing distraction to your brain, the mind is left to more freely wander.  Beneficial claims include everything from pure rest and relaxation, to improved health and vitality, to being a shortcut toward enlightenment.

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4 Gross (But Completely True) Appalachian Trail Facts

The following infographic details four gross, but entirely factual, elements associated with the Appalachian Trail.  Feel free to print this out so you can educate others.  Everyone loves facts.

4 Gross but completely true Appalachian Trail Facts

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14 Days Later: Life After the Appalachian Trail

Is this real life?

I’ve been awake for about two weeks now. The previous five months were merely a dream.

You see, reality comes equipped with these little nuisances, we call “responsibilities”. In the dream, there was only one responsibility: “don’t die”.

Over the past five months I have stripped myself of excess. This not only refers to the physical comforts: a wardrobe, electronic entertainment on demand, artificial scents, food that expires, etc., but also all of the artificial bullshit that comes along with it. I wasn’t concerned with schedules – hell, over the last two months, I didn’t even have a watch. There was only day, night, and whatever shades that lie in between.

Today, I’m confronted with the task of re-integration. For anyone who hasn’t spent a half year removed from reality, you may have trouble empathizing with how difficult a task this really is. I’m not asking for your sympathy, I am fully aware how spoiled a lifestyle a long distance backpacker lives.

On a regular basis, I would come across a beautiful mountain overlook, waterfall, boulder field, etc. On a whim, I could stop, lie down, and soak in the day- and I often did. You sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, relax when your lazy, and walk when you have energy. In the dream, you do as you please, when you please. The dream was awesome extract.

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