Appalachian Trail

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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5 Million Steps in 5 Minutes: Badger’s Appalachian Trail Video Slideshow

Badger before and after on the Appalachian Trail

In the picture above, you are witness to what happens when a ginger head lays unattended for five months.  Despite it’s inherent ability to repel women, the beard will remain an indefinite resident of my face.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Over the past five months, I have done my best to paint you a picture of what life looks like on the Appalachian Trail- with words.  Today, I paint this picture with, well, pictures.

The video below highlights some of my favorite pictures taken over the course of my five months on the Appalachian Trail.  I’ve been off the trail for less than a week and this slideshow already makes me feel super nostalgic.  I’ve been told that the AT will leave a permanent emotional mark.  I’m starting to understand this first hand.

Luckily I can tell people the tears on my face are merely beads of reverse-gravity beard sweat.

Quick side notes:

1)  All of the pictures were taken with my iPhone 4

2) The songs in the video below, “The Day is Coming” and “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” are from My Morning Jacket’s latest album Circuitular.  I listened to this album no fewer than 30 times, therefore it has a strong emotional connection to the trail for me – thus my reason for the selection.

3) I saw a total of one rainbow while on the trail (photo included in the video).  It just so happened to appear while I was listening to Radiohead’s album In Rainbows.  Coincidence?

4) The video is actually much closer to six minutes. I didn’t think that “Five Million Steps in Six Minutes,” had the same ring. No need to point this out.

Enjoy.

Update: apparently YouTube is blocking the video because of the songs….trying Vimeo….stay posted.

Problem = resolved.  For anyone who’s interested, this is how you can legally bypass YouTube’s audio copyright block.

Thank You

So, just a couple of days ago, August 22nd, 2011, exactly 5 months and 1 day from my start date, I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Good stuff.

There will be more reflection and insights on my merging back into your crazy indoor universe in posts to come, but as for right now, I need to get to something very important off my chest.

It’s nearly impossible to recall all of the acts of kindness I have been the recipient of over the last 5 months.  Friends, family, and strangers have been absurdly generous throughout this entire journey.   To a weary hiker, receiving a mail drop means much more than the cookies, whiskey, or baby wipes that lie inside.  It serves as a reminder of the people who care and are pulling for you to persevere.  I have been running on a fuel source compromised mostly of your love (and high fructose corn syrup).

And because of this, I want to say  THANK YOU.

The following list of thank you’s attempts to cover all of the individuals who have been instrumental in offering a hand along the way.

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Of Bears and Bullshit

Preamble: This post is both long and un-funny. I am taking a momentary lapse from humor to rant about a subject that I have spent much time consumed in the last 150 days or so. Despite what the proceeding post would imply, I still find fart jokes to be tremendously funny.

Although I joke about the profound truths that have found me along the trail, I have undeniably had moments of clarity. Moments where “life” seemed to make perfect sense.

In the process of being removed from the onslaught of media stimuli, the superficial concerns that plague much of society’s motives (status and appearance mean nothing out here), and the self induced stress that comes alongside a long work week that offers little to no sense of fulfillment- my eyes have been opened to a new “normal”. Currently, my days consist of: walking terrain that could be described as both tranquil and majestic, quiet moments of introspection, cracking jokes with other smelly hikers, and all the other daily human chores (pooping, eating, and sleeping). But of even greater importance than the new culture I have become a member of over the last four months, is the outside perspective I have gained of the society I have recently left behind.

To put it bluntly, there is a lot of bullshit permeating through our lives. Some “bullshit” (we’ll call negative emotions, energies, events, etc), is inescapable: disease, death, serious financial hardship. Most of this bullshit, however, is entirely artificial; of our own creation.

I want to talk about the artificial bullshit.

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Last Lap-itis

I write this from the cement patio floor of a frat house at Dartmouth College. This is completely irrelevant to the proceeding post- but how could I not mention that?

You know that uneasy feeling you get when some significant stage in your life is nearing its conclusion? Maybe you’ve experienced this during your senior year of high school, or college, or before moving to a new city or leaving a job, or the end of a meaningful relationship. You’re still in the midst of it, but once you let your mind wander just a little bit forward in time, you can sense the end. I call this “Last Lap-itis”.

I have a severe case of Last Lap-itis.

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The War of Nutrition

You should definitely pay attention to this post if you are:

1) Planning on doing any sort of extended backing packing trip in the future, and

2) A sweaty individual

You can still pay attention if you are only one or none of these things, but you have less to gain (other than a sense of superiority over Badger).

So in the “Rolling with the Rocks” post, I lightly detailed some of the longer term physical ailments I had been battling. Admittedly, I had underplayed the degree to which I was suffering.

Starting in approximately mid to late May, when northern Virginia was hit by an unseasonable heat wave, I really learned that the Appalachian Trail is a three season sport. The temperatures during this stretch got into the mid 90′s, with the heat index (the feeling outside according to human skin) reaching into triple figures. Although it has cooled off a bit since, our average day has been in the mid to upper 80s.

A little biological background on Badger: I am a sweaty dude (I think it’s all the hair?). After going for a run, I have been questioned on multiple occasions if “I had just jumped into a pool, or something?” No. I perspire the same way I do most things in life, excessively and intensely.

So what happens when you put a 30 lb pack on a professional perspirer, tell him to walk up a mountain, and the outside temperature feels like 100 degrees? Funny you should ask- I will tell you.

Well for starters, a hospital visit.

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A Day in the Life of An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker

Many of my posts attempt to paint broad strokes of life on the Appalachian Trail. Whether it be the social dynamics, the concept of trail magic, or the personal growth that comes from a few challenging weeks- I have a tendency to try and place all events into a larger, overarching theme.

But not every event on the trail fits under the category of a challenge, learning lesson, or cultural oddity. Some days- are just days.

And some days- are just good days.

Allow me to paint the picture of a good day on the Appalachian Trail for you.

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