appalachian trail tag

On Health

Remember wayyyyyy back in February when I moved to San Francisco to embark in a new chapter of my existence?  Well much like the construct of Appalachian Trials, this chapter was pithy.  And now, like my favorite movie starring a golden retriever, I’m Homeward Bound (sorry Air Bud).

In many ways, the past nine months has been the most exciting, fulfilling, and surreal period of my life.  I published a book.  People didn’t hate it (including one of my idols).  I’ve crossed public speaking off the “gives violent diarrhea” list, and instead added it to the “am moderately comfortable” file.  Hell, I got to give a half hour Appalachian Trail presentation in front of Tony Hsieh (the CEO of Zappos & billionaire mastermind behind a massive rebuilding of Downtown Las Vegas).

I had the privilege of entrenching myself in a city brimming with culture, technology, ubiquitous intelligence, and world class restaurants.  And my personal favorite, I got to live in an area of the country whose beauty is second to none.  Northern California is hands down the best backpacking country I’ve ever been exposed to; Yosemite, Emigrant Wilderness, Big Sur, Big Basin, Mt. Tam State Park, John Muir Woods, Salt Point State Park….you are immaculate (AT still has a monopoly on my heart-space however).

All this being said, 2012 has been, by far and away the most challenging year of my life.  The sole cause being my health.

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One Year Later

Last Wednesday, August 22, marked my one year anniversary of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. 

In it of itself, that is maybe worthy of a Facebook status.  This post is dedicated to reflecting on where my life, or more accurately, my mindset, has since gone.

I’m Back

When Michael Jordan made this proclamation in 1995, it was without question the two sweetest words any Chicago Bulls fan could possibly hear (and equally as bitter for the other 29 teams – suck it Karl Malone/Patrick Ewing/Reggie Miller/Shawn Kemp).

When I say I’m back, I mean it in the – holy fuck what kind of routine have I fallen into – sort of way.  When I say I’m back, I mean I’m back to working 60+ hour weeks.  I’m back to living in my inbox.  I’m back to sweating the bullshit – the same person who actively acknowledged that everything is the bullshit.

I knew I wanted to write this post – although I hadn’t a clue about which direction to take it (disclosure: that’s my usual formula).  Just before I sat down to open up the faucet of thoughts, my earbuds (which were attached to my iPhone) snagged onto my belt and subsequently yanked my phone onto my bedroom’s hardwood floor and smashed the screen into 100 pieces.  This was after a full day of mundane, administrative tasks and thankless chores (commonly referred to as “headaches”).  Needless to say, if there was a face within arm’s reach, it would have been punched.  The shattered iFriend coupled with the carousel of task oriented thoughts began pushing my internal PSI near the “WE’LL DO IT LIVE” meltdown zone.

It then occurred to me, if you were to take a Polaroid of the August 22, 2012 Zach Davis and contrast it to the 2011 version, it’s clear that much has changed, and I’m not just referring to the majestic fire beard.  The serene, unshakable, and eternally optimistic Badger has been replaced with his easily annoyed twin.

The trail hasn’t bestowed me with the gift of unconditional and unwavering joy.  But it has offered me a worthy consolation: perspective.

When confronted with a challenging day, the pre-trail Good Badger believed that life’s events were out to get him, or at the very least, were unfolding unfavorably.  Like magnets, bad events would seem to attract one another until I was a moving manifestation of Murphy’s Law.  The mental radio was playing 40 stations at once, gradually building into a cacophony of angry static.  And that angry static was the medium through which life was observed.

Today the angry static still has a way of finding this radio, but unlike before, I’ve located the “off” switch.  I’ve learned that life isn’t the DJ; I’m the one laying down the tracks.  And the only way to change the song is to stop singing along, but instead listen objectively.  The space between the radio and the radiohead is the happy medium.

To un-radio-metaphor the above: life doesn’t cause your unhappiness, you do.  My iPhone shattered and immediately my internal monolog responded with, “FFFUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKK WHY FUCK SHIT FUCK NO SHIT NO FUCK WHY”.  After the mini-internal tantrum, however, I was able to remind myself, that 1) it’s not my health (other than perhaps a slight myocardial infarction) 2) it’s not the health of a loved one, and 3) I HAVE AN IPHONE TO BREAK.  The screen on my pocket laptop is now a little harder to read.  They’re called White People Problems because they’re not real problems.  Nobody should feel bad about my smashed iPhone display, myself included.

The moral of the story is that my greatest take away from the trail – that real happiness is a mindset, not a set of conditions – is occasionally forgotten.  I still get pulled into my own bullshit factory.  But unlike before, I now have the road-map to find my way out.  And although it may take a bit to discover that I’ve strayed, this GPS is shatter-proof.

——–

Sidenote: I will be speaking at the REI in Charlotte, NC next week.  If you can, come say hello.

the Good Badger Live, Uncut, Unraveled, Uncensored, Unlocked, Uncle, Unnecessarily Long Title

Hey team,

I ran out of un’s.  If I missed any, feel free to throw them in the comment rectangle at the bottom of this weblog.

BUT THIS POST IS MUCH BIGGER THAN UNS.  This post is about REI, YOU & ME. 

If you live in the Bay Area, you have the rare opportunity to see the Good Badger in front of a projector screen, taking you inside the mind of a thru-hiker, talking about running away from serial killers, and of course, showcasing the half-year evolution of a ManBeard.

Here are some relevant details:

When: Tuesday, August 7th; 7:00 – 8:30pm.  The talk is 60 minutes.  The Q&A is 30, or until someone forces me to go home.  I will warn you, I’m very strong.

Where:  REI – Saratoga. 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose, CA 95130.  They call it Saratoga’s REI.  The address is San Jose.  Your guess is as good as mine.

What:  This is the description REI is using:

“In March 2011, Zach Davis set out from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail-2,181 miles to Mount Katahdin, Maine; he’d never backpacked before. Tonight, Zach will share his perspectives on making a successful thru-hike, including highlights from his new book, “Appalachian Trials-A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail”. As Zach shows images of his journey northward through the spectacular wilderness lands of the East Coast states-Great Smoky Mountain and Shenandoah National Parks, White Mountain National Forest, and more, he’ll discuss the nuts and bolts of gearing up for an adventure of this magnitude, as well as the remarkable impact of the trail on the body and the spirit. If you register for this free presentation at www.rei.com/stores, we will hold a seat for you until the scheduled start time. Seating may be available at the door, even if registration is closed.”

Here’s my description:  Do you want to know what it’s like to walk ~2,200 miles without actually having to doing it?  Ok, come to the talk.

Why: Because you’ll surely get your money’s worth.

Cost:  Free.

If you know someone who lives in the Bay Area who enjoys doing things, can you please pass this along?  Have them tell me you sent them, and I will give them an uncomfortable bear hug in front of everyone.

Also important, if you do plan on going, you must register for the event.  Not only does this get the planner person off my case, but it ensures that they save you a seat.  Win, win.

[SIGN UP HERE]

Also, I’ll be selling some copies of Appalachian Trials (at a discount), followed by my scribbling in your book upon request.

I think that’s all the relevant information.

Truly yours,

Zach

Appalachian Trials Has A New Home

appalachian trials dot com

Hi team,

I just wanted to let you know that Badger’s Appalachian Trail book has its own website.   If you’re so inclined, check it out, let me know what you think, maybe get a book or seven (one for Snow White and six of her dwarfs- Dopey doesn’t get one until he cleans his act up), maybe “like” the page, maybe tweet it, or Google plus it.  Or maybe do none of that.  That’s up to you.  I’m just giving you options.

The new Appalachian Trials website was designed and developed by Adam Nutting of Hiking the Trail.  You should check out Adam’s site because he gives you free gear.

Also, as a little bit of a change in procedure- this website will slowly be transitioning away from all things Appalachian Trail.  There is now a dedicated Appalachian Trials blog that will be taking over that role in due time.  It’s still a bit rough right now, but I promise you, it will eventually be awesome.  And let this be a warning to 2012 thru-hikers, pay attention to this blog over the course of the next couple of weeks.  Just trust me, k?

the Good Badger will return to its regular scheduled programming, which roughly translates to whatever is on my mind for the day.  I may still chat about the AT, but I may also try to get you to move to San Diego.  You just can’t be sure.

Also a little update with the status of the book:

You guys are amazing.  We already have 10 reviews.  That really, truly means a lot to me (as you likely already know).  If you have read the book and wouldn’t mind taking 89 seconds out of your day to share your thoughts with Amazon, that would bring a smile to my face.  Also, I’m hopeful Amazon will soon link the print and e-book page so all reviews feed into one.  ARE YOU LISTENING AMAZON!?!

That’s all we have for now.

Bear hugs,

Zach

3 Learning Lessons from 2011

3 learning lessons from 2011

Holy Moldy Mayo, Batman!

2011 has been a monumental year for Mr. Zach Davis; this is a simple fact.

It all started with a post

January 2011

I was suffering from a fairly severe case of life dissatisfaction.  As is a common scenario amongst the employed population, I was at odds with my boss.  So- I did what any over-worked, under-appreciated, and slightly over-confident employee does to their boss- tells them to shove it.  Unfortunately, in this particular scenario, I was the boss.

So, in search of some life answers, I decided to shake shit up a bit.  Me, the class clown, computer nerd, sheltered son to a highly over-protective Jewish mother announced that he would be spending the next half year backpacking through the woods of Appalachia.  Not knowing the first thing about backpacking, camping, or really anything related to being outside for longer than 9 innings, I was eager to take on the biggest challenge of my life.  And by eager, I of course mean anxious as fuck.

One of two things was going to happen:

1) I was going to find the life answers I was so desperately in search of, or

2) I was going to end up in a bear’s digestive tract.

December 2011

I am happy to report that not only did I avoid #2, I made decent progress down route #1.

And because so many of you have spent so much time with me during this journey, I’d like to share some of the insights that have found me along the way.Read more

Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail

The follow excerpt is taken from Appalachian Trials: a psychological and emotional guide to thru-hiking the Appalchain Trail.  If you’re thinking of hiking the AT, I’ll go as far as to say, it’s a must read.

Deer Ticks are assholes.

I went into the Appalachian Trail with my share of premonitions. Most, turned out to be false.

The crazy hillbillies in the southern part of the trail, just turned out to be crazy nice.  Even if you can’t make out what they’re saying, it’s perfectly clear all they want to do is help.

That black bear that was going to leap out of tree for the sole purpose of eating my face- also turned out to be incorrect.  Black bears are big raccoons; they’re on a mission from God only to dig through trash.  They don’t seem to realize, or at the very least care about, their strength.  Watching a 300lb black bear scamper up a tree because it sees a 130lb female backpacker in the distance is one of life’s great mysteries.

My biggest fear going into the trail, however, turned out to be justified- Deer Ticks.  More specifically, the disease these micro-satans spread, Lyme Disease.

About Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and is transmitted through the bite of one of the aforementioned micro-satans.  Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff joints, fatigue, depression, and the common “bulls-eye” rash. If left untreated, symptoms can increase in severity including permanent damage to joints, heart, and central nervous system, and eventually death.

Here’s why Lyme Disease is a big risk to Appalachian Trail thru-hikers Read more

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.”

————-

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

Appalachian Trail Nutrition Guide: 7 Tips to Avoiding Post-Trail Weight Gain

how to avoid post appalachian trail weight gain

[Editors note: Although this post is geared toward those who plan on hiking the AT or who have recently finished, the truth is, this information is applicable to anyone looking to lose a couple of pounds. This is sound nutritional advice from someone who knows what they are talking about (clearly not a reference to myself).]

Remember the advice we got from Appalachian Trail legend, Miss Janet? Well in that post, we tackled the 2nd issue she brought up: Post-Appalachian Trail Depression (which I’ll be covering in more depth in the upcoming Badger Book).

Today, it’s time to confront the other:

How do thru-hikers avoid gaining weight after the Appalachian Trail?

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[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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