appalachian trail blog 2011 tag

On Trial: Technology on the Appalachian Trail

Technology and the Appalachian Trail

I recently received the following e-mail:

“Hi, Zach

Considering that you had your iphone with you the whole time, I was wondering if you’d given any thought to how truly disconnected you were?  Or to how truly connected you were to nature/outdoors/the AT because you were listening to music and audiobooks while hiking?  I’m not judging, I’m just wondering what a different experience hikers from 10 years ago would have had with no option for those kinds of distractions or entertainment on the trail.

I don’t know if that was your intent while hiking (I came to the Good Badger late in the game), but was wondering if you’d thought about it.

One day, I hope to hike the AT.  It was on my to-do list for my early twenties, but life got in the way.

Congratulations on finishing, and I look forward to the book.”

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Not only is this a fair point, but I’m guessing some of you have had this same question.   I feel as though this is an issue worth examining because as technology improves, becomes more mobile, more affordable, and universally accessible, it will only become more prominent on the trail, and thus a more polarizing topic.

The Complainant’s Case

The Appalachian Trail is a unique experience.  The physical challenge associated with a half year’s worth of hiking is unlike anything most humans would ever fathom.  But even more unique Read more

[Guest Post] Reunited and it Feels So Good

[editor's note] I am hesitant to post the following essay from good friend Jack Borgo only because I hate to be the second best writer on my own website. I spent the previous weekend in my old stomping grounds, Madison, WI, to watch my football team disembowel the #8 team in the country, and more importantly, to catch up with old friends. Jack was the first person that I met up with. Little did I know he was leveraging my friendship merely to further his writing career. Just kidding. Not really. In all sincerity, Jack, thank you for the kind words. Your enthusiasm for the great outdoors was an inspiration in my undertaking. And, please, keep writing.

Jack Borgo

Jack.

Last weekend I was reunited with one of my closest friends, Zach Davis (aka “Badger” to his trail-mates, “Good Badger” to his readers and “Undeliverable Address” to child-support collectors), at our former education/inebriation grounds at the University of Wisconsin. Though excited for 48 hours of bad beer and worse decisions, I was also pensive.

I knew and loved the pre-trail Zach Davis; a perpetually witty, easy-going Chicago sports fanatic who preferred a coffee-shop and laptop to “wilderness”. This Zach was so ill-equipped for time in the woods that if you asked me to list his Top Skills Essential to Survival in Nature, “an affinity for bandanas” would have been #1. Despite this outdoorsy ineptitude, when Zach told me that he had decided to hike the A.T., I knew his determination and love of exploration meant inevitable success.

However these conversations, coupled with postings on his blog, were also unnerving. For 5+ months Zach would trade his Apple for the Appalachian, baristas for bears. He was embarking on a potentially transformative journey…did the beginning of Badger mean the end of Zach?

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Filling in the Gaps: Badger’s Appalachian Trail Omissions (part 2)

filling in the gaps: badger's appalachian trail omissions

In the first edition of Filling in the Gaps, you learned how Google took a big dump on my heart.

In this edition, you will learn how a mosquito took a big dump inside my head.

For those who have followed along closely with Badger’s journey up the Appalachian Trail, you already know that I battled some pretty debilitating health issues (as many thru-hikers do). In June, I went to the hospital just outside of Duncannon, PA. The doctor ran some blood tests. They all came back negative. She suggested that because the previous week had consistently been reaching into triple digit temperatures, I was suffering from dehydration. She told me to “drink more water and avoid hiking during the afternoon.” I did the first and ignored the second as intense fatigue had me sleeping 10 hours a day.

Three weeks later, not only were the headaches still persistent, they had gotten worse and my vision was starting to blur. Back to the hospital. This time, along with a series of blood tests, I had a CT scan as I was now concerned that perhaps I had a brain tumor. Thankfully, all tests again came back negative. This doctor was more adamant about my symptoms being related to dehydration. He told me to start consuming more sodium and to intake an electrolyte supplement as regularly as possible.

This time it worked.

For a while.

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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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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.

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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