Friday, August 16, 2013

well said

I'm currently reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, in which he describes his time hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I'm really enjoying it and oddly enough I keep thinking "I could totally hike the AT!".  What kind of monster have I turned into?  No, I will not be hiking the AT.  Section hiking it at most but not completely thru-hiking the entire trail (I'd rather not give up 6 months of my life to wilderness, 2.5 weeks was enough).  But it's nice to know that I could totally do it :)

Anyway, as I'm sure you've noticed I'm not that great at describing things and constantly felt that I was lacking the correct descriptive terms while hiking (which you are now seeing in my journal entries) but Bryson is obviously well versed in descriptive hiking terms (he did write a book about it after all).  And I wanted to share two passages that I completely identified with.  It's as if they are my exact thoughts...just with better words.

The woods is one boundless singularity.  Every bend in the path presents a prospect indistinguishable from every other, every glimpse into the trees the same tangled mass.  For all you know, your route could describe a very large, pointless circle.  In a way, it would hardly matter...At times, you become almost certain that you slabbed this hillside three days ago, crossed this stream yesterday, clambered over this fallen tree at least twice today already.  But most of the time you don't think.  No point.  Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below.  Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing.  At the end of the day you don't think, "Hey, I did sixteen miles today," any more than you think, "Hey, I took eight-thousand breaths today."  It's just what you do.

 And another excerpt, about being dirty and hungry...

Each time you leave the cossetted and hygienic world of towns and take yourself into the hills, you go through a series of staged transformation--a kind of gentle descent into squalor--and each time it is as if you have never done it before.  At the end of the first day, you feel mildly, self-consciously, grubby; by the second day, disgustingly so; by the third, you are beyond caring; by the fourth, you have forgotten what it is like not to be like this.  Hunger, too, follows a defined pattern.  On the first night you're starving for your noodles; on the second night you're starving but wish it wasn't noodles; on the third you don't want the noodles but know you had better eat something; by the fourth you have no appetite at all but just eat because that is what you do at this time of day.  I can't explain it, but it's strangely agreeable.

Unlike the AT, the JMT does not have towns you can pass through along the way.  There are a couple "resorts" (extremely loose term) along the way where you can camp, pay to shower and pay to do your laundry.  We stopped at two and I definitely went through the transformation he describes above both times.  

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