But we’ll get there.
Recently, I have had a case of the post-AT thru-hike blues. We’ve all heard about it on the trail from those you meet who are back out there visiting. You spend 7 months of your life free to do whatever, whenever you want. No obligations to anyone or anything, free from media and other people, and then… it’s over. And you have to go home and be bombarded by friends, family, work, and every day things most people have to take care of like taxes and rent and remembering other peoples’ birthdays.
It’s a strange transition. It’s not an easy one either. And when you feel like you have been re-trapped by the rat race, all you can think about are those days when you could stop and take a peaceful nap in a ray of sunshine or just keep walking if you met someone weird or annoying that you didn’t want to talk to. You could carry a six pack of PBR a few miles into the woods, light a fire, and have THE BEST of times because there’s nowhere else you have to (or want to) be.
Conveniently forgotten now are the endless 1.9 niners where it felt like it was taking FOREVER to find camp on the most washed out trails. Forgotten are blistered and aching feet that are a perpetual part of trail life. You don’t think about how annoying it was to never have cell phone signal when you needed it. You don’t think about sleeping on the hard ground or how there’s no escaping rain no matter what kind of money you drop on gear (sorry!).
Because all of that was worth it in light of what you were getting in return:
The most absolute and blissful freedom you never even imagined was there.
I miss that like I missed my mom while we were away. I miss that like it was a new part of me that had been developing and growing and then abruptly cut out. I miss that like a flower misses the sun in the depths of winter. I miss the Appalachian Trail like a long lost lover, tasted and then gone.
This past weekend (3/4-3/6) was Amicalola’s Appalachian Trail Kick Off event in which hoards of north bounders begin their hopeful hike to Maine from the 8 mile approach trail at Amicalola Falls. So, Treasure Hunter and Artemis struck out to greet the newest members of the AT community.
And we came bearing gifts! On our way to Three Forks Trail Head, approximately 2 miles from Stover Creek Shelter, we stopped by Taco Bell and filled our day packs with 50 tacos.
(The Ingles bag is full of sauces.)
And entered our old stomping grounds in search of hungry NOBOs.
We got on the trail later in the afternoon around 4-5 when we knew hikers would be starting to set up camp. As we passed folks, we asked, “You going all the way?” And we got answers from “That’s the plan.” to “Yeah, right.” to “I don’t know yet.”
Well, would some tacos help you decide?
By the time we got to Stover Creek Shelter, plenty of northbounders had already set up shop and were about to start cooking dinner. We showed up and announced ourselves with a hey, who wants tacos? These startled newbies looked at us like we were crazy, but we started unloading our packs and tacos started disappearing.
It felt great to get in touch with these people, despite a SOBO’s heart protesting how spoiled NOBOs are. (They get all the magic.) I turned into all those people you meet who are back out because they couldn’t stay away. “Don’t get discouraged! This is the time of your life; ENJOY IT!”
It was hard walking away with the smell of campfires rising all around us. The sound of weary people hunkering down on the ground to eat a crappy meal of ramen or instant mashed potatoes. We were those people. We still are a bit.
We are lucky to be able to drive to the AT whenever we can make the time, but it’s not the same as living there and being there every day. This was an incredible time that has been hard to walk away from, but life goes on and other adventures are starting.
And it’s not like we don’t have anything to look forward to AT-wise anyway…
Damascus, VA’s 30th Appalachian Trail Days Festival on May 13,14 & 15th, 2016!
Bob Peoples will be.