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[at-l] life after the trail

Michael & Karen asked: "Our apologies if this has been covered already, but
we're curious to know how life has changed for the thru-hikers after the
trail.  Was re-immersion in the work-a-day life difficult to cope with? 
Were you able to return to the life you left behind or did the hike open up
new doors?  "

For a lot of us, reimmersion was difficult.  Many thru-hikers don't go back
to work until December or January, if money allows.  It is hard to handle
the BS of "ordinary" life.  For months the trail was our entire life, now
there is a big hole.  Unless you find something to fill the emptiness, after
the trail life can be difficult.  Flashbacks to the trail are common,
especially when bored.  Worse, there is the secret knowledge of another
life, another reality that makes the ordinary reality seem insufficient.  I
know a world where everyone is doing what they want to do, where there is
real happiness, comradery, peace, beauty, etc.  A place where Life is good! 
It isn't in downtown DC, I'll tell you that!  

When I finished the trail in `88, I never imagined that I would want to do
another long distance trail.  It was good, but it was enough.  I was tired
and ready to go home to good food, clean sheets, showers, and no more
walking.  Two years later, I was ready for another long trail, but finances
only allowed the John Muir Trail (211 miles).  It was beautiful, but lonely,
so I went back to thinking about the AT and wondering, was it really as good
as I remembered?  So in 1992, I went back to find out.  The answer was yes. 
On the trail, life is simple, life is good.  While I know it is possible to
find everything good that I found out on the trail in this other reality, it
is very hard to find them as an all day, every day occurrence.  That's not
to say I was ecstatically happy all the time on the trail.  I hurt, I was
tired, I got fed up.  But I was also bone-deep happy.  That continues to
happen to me every time I go to the mountains.  We have arranged our life so
that as much as possible, weekends are spent out of doors.  For Friday
night, Saturday and Sunday I am totally happy.  During the week there are
good moments - but not the same kind of peace and joy I usually know when I
am in my other world.  That is why Jim and I are planning another long
trail.   For six months, we can be in the world that is our real home.  

During the week, I play the game.  I am a good little employee, but I have a
secret -- I am a thruhiker.  Whether hiking or not, a part of me will always
be more at home in the woods than in the city.  (It took a while to accept
that the city had to be my reality.  I don't like it, but I can find what
beauty there is.)  I am a secret rebel.  My fingers are on the keyboard, but
my thoughts are far away (currently somewhere in Colorado.)  

As I watch this year's group take off for the trail, I ache, wishing so much
that it could be me.  But I also rejoice, knowing that soon (1999) it will

Ginny O.
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