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[at-l] Thruhiking - Attitude and Happiness

Installment 7 ?  -
Again, the only thing I changed was to update the year to 97.
And you're right - most of you don't know Andy.  But the
message is still valid.

Walk softly,

Seems like the 97 thruhikers are starting to sign off. I guess we'll lose
the rest of you over the next month, too.  I was sorry to miss Andy, but
I was on the way north to the AT by the time his message came in. If
anyone sees him on the Trail, tell him I wish him a long, gentle downhill
run all the way to Katahdin - NOT!!!  Seriously, if that's what the Trail
was, none of us would finish it - we'd be bored to death before Damascus.
Tell him I wish him an interesting walk.

I made the mistake of reading my Trail journal last week - and I realized
that I missed something on the last ramble through the rocks. I touched
much too lightly on something called attitude. So what I'm gonna do is
give you 'pieces' of two days of my journal entries and then tell you how
it really was for me. For those who aren't interested - this is the time
to use the "Delete" key.

Tuesday 28 April 92 - stayed at the hostel last night - very little
sleep - too many grunts, groans, snores, farts, etc. Bed springs too
soft so I threw the mattress on the floor. Left in fog/rain. Hail started
at the 2000' level, then turned to snow at 2500' and never stopped. The
bald (Beauty Spot) was beautiful - cold (20's), snowy (4" - 6") & windy
(20-30 knots) - but still wet, so my feet were wet. Camped at the spring
at Deep Gap at 1330. Took 45 minutes to set up the tent - my fingers
were frozen. Socks were frozen when I took them off. Toes not quite
frostbitten, but close. Right knee hurts from the downhill yesterday,
left elbow, knee and ribs hurt from the 3 falls today, both ankles hurt
because of the rocks (the trail's been rough and slippery), somehow jammed
a finger on my right hand, my toes hurt (from being frozen), I'm sore all
over, I've been rained, snowed, hailed and sleeted on for the last 4 days,
my boots, tent, socks, gloves, clothes, pack, food, maps and matches are
wet and I'm 3 days from a shower, a laundromat and a hot meal that doesn't
consist of noodles or mac & cheese or spaghetti. And my attitude is one
notch above whale dung.

>Friday 1 May 92 - I'm feeling good right now. I'm at the motel in Roan Mt,
had a shower and dinner (and ice cream), made a laundry run and got the mail.
And all this after a six-pack of beer while we were waiting for Jersey John.
I've finally managed to dry out my clothes, socks, boots, tent, gloves and
matches - again. And I've got enough pain killer in me that I don't feel the
sore muscles from hauling the pack up and down 5000-6000 ft mountains
for over a month.

OK - there was more to it than that, but that's all you get. This wasn't
my "low point" on the Trail - there's nothing in there that's not "normal"
thruhiker complaints - rain, snow, aches and pains, hunger, cold, heat,
wet socks, heavy pack, etc. But there's another, more important part
that isn't there - partly because I wasn't (and may still not be) accustomed
to writing about emotions. And partly because I wanted to whine a little.
Yeah, we all do that sometimes.

There's a BIG difference in my attitude on those two days. And the only
difference in my situation was that on May 1st I was warm, dry, fed
and didn't hurt(much) or stink (at least not noticeably). The point is that
my happiness centered around "little" things - a meal, a laundromat, a
shower. I didn't need a BMW or expensive clothes or a big house or TV
or (pick your own poison). My "comfort level" had decreased to this point
in just a little over a month on the Trail.

By the time I got to Kent, CT my "comfort level" had decreased even
further. Happiness became a supermarket, a laundromat and a pint of
ice cream - no shower, no soft bed, no meal, no mail.

Many days, happiness became something even smaller - like the view
of Katahdin from Rainbow Lake, or watching the stars march across
the sky the night we camped on Pleasant Pond Mt, or taking the boots
off after a 15 or 20 mile day, or the smell of dinner cooking, or miles
of mountain laurel, rhododendron and azalea blossoms in Virginia, or
a moose feeding in South Pond in Maine. It was even, at least in retrospect,
the sight of the bear at Ethan Pond Campsite eating our food. It was the
people - thru-hikers, Trail angels, week-enders and maintainers that I
encountered. It took me a long time to realize that happiness on April 28
was the softness of the rain as I left Nolichucky, it was standing under
the overhang at a Forest Service signboard and watching the forest floor
turn from brown to white as the hail carpeted the ground, it was the dark,
pregnant clouds that raced across Beauty Spot dumping snow as I came
out of the trees and it was the gradual warming of my toes after I camped
at the spring at Deep Gap. And it was the sunlight on the snow and the red
spruce the next morning as we crossed Unaka Mt.

How do I know those things are happiness? Because they're the things I
remember today. I don't really remember the pain. The rain is only a
to the sunlight - and it carries its own kind of beauty. The hunger has been
satisfied many times over - too many. But the things that remain, the things
I flashback to every day, the things that draw me back to the Trail - and to
other trails - are those things that provided the small moments of happiness
or beauty or love every day. And those moments are sweeter and clearer
because of the the pain and the rain that surrounded them. In 92 we used the
expression "Life is good". It's an expression of the happiness, the contentment
that comes from the many small sources of beauty and pleasure that one
encounters, not only on the Trail, but in everyday life. For those who thruhike
this year, I hope life is as good for you as it was for us.

Some of you don't yet realize that I wished the rain on you, do you ? Just
remember - life IS good - even on the bad days.

After 4 days of rain/hail/snow what will your attitude be? Will you be brave,
clean, cheerful, optimistic, etc? Probably not - I wasn't, why should you be?
But I realized that it was OK for me to be miserable, lonely, cold, tired, wet,
hungry and sore. None of those would kill me. All of them are finite - they
don't last forever. And they make the happiness more poignant, more complete
and more memorable when it does occur.

I just realized that I've said the same thing a couple different ways here. And
I could say it 5 more ways, but if you see it, you see it. If you don't,
you don't.
What is it? Simple - look for the good in every day, every situation. And
find it. There's no day of the AT that I remember as being "bad". There was
something good or beautiful or happy about every day out there.

I won't tell you that I had "fun" out there - but I was happier than I'd
been in
a lot of years. And I still am. I hope it's that way for you, too. But
that's your
choice, because only you control your attitude, and therefore, your happiness.

Go for it,
Jim Owen

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