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[pct-l] Grist for the hiking mill.

(Although this was written to the AT list, I thought it fit here as well.)

I have hiked the entire AT (over a three year period),  several mountains in
Mexico, &  other long hikes,  and have the following to add-to, muddle, &
confuse the on going discussion about equipment/thru-hiking/hike your own

By the end of my first AT section hike (from GA to VT in 93) I had gotten rid
of my tent, every form of water treatment (except drops for those really bad
places), stove, pots, heavy boots, rain gear, sleeping bag, and many other
items which I found I could do without. 

Although in the beginning I was completely involved in the light-pack/
equipment banter, in time, I lost interest and got rid of things not so much
because of weight, but because I was tired of having my time taken up by my
equipment (including buying, protecting, discussing, using, lugging,
repairing, cleaning, & replacing).  I began to want my time as free &
unfettered as possible. 

As I stopped thinking about gear & food & destinations I began to pay closer
attention to the place & the people around me. In time I realized that my
pack weight was more a function of my level of trust or fear than of what I
carried. Or put another way,  when I trusted God to provide my pack was
light,  when I allowed fear to grip me   --when  I saw myself as an island, a
tough guy, me against the trail--  my pack weight rose. I learned, however,
that no matter how fearful & crazy my thoughts became --visions of
starvation, disease,  & dismemberment lurking behind every tree & rock-- I
was always safe. That I always had more than enough. That those times my pack
was lightest (ie, I trusted the most) the most amazing, funny, & interesting
things happened to provide more than was needed and much more than could have
been planned for.   

I choose to spend more time in pray & listening. I choose  to enjoy the place
I was. I worked hard at this & found ample reward. I found so many wonders
along the AT which were hard to see when  my  focus was on getting to a place
or dancing with my gear. It is true that every one hikes their own hike. For
me --like those folks who, just before dying, never wish they had spent more
time at work-- I never regretted  time spend sauntering wide-eyed along the

Instead it is the sauntering which draws me back.  It is this which thrills &
teaches & bonds friendships & reveals joy & wonder. It is walking all day in
a heavy rain while learning  --for the first time in my life and completely
the reverse of  what I had been taught-- that this would not harm  me & was
in fact was full of beauty. It is walking at night though black woods --a
darkness which once terrified me-- and coming out alive, realizing it did not
kill me, as I had so feared.  It is walking day in and day out & finding
myself filled with a feeling of freedom I had not known existed. It is the
soft breeze as I crested a hill with endless blue sky & joy beyond words
which calls me back.  Not what was in my pack or how far I hiked. 

I carried those things which provided what I needed regardless of weight, a
book which weighted  2 lbs, camp shoes, a camp chair (as well as a 1" full
length mat) --I found the chair wonderful for those mountain top/sun warmed
pine needle covered glades/pond edge places in which God is most easily heard
but harder to hear when you can't sit relaxed-- which I have never checked
the weight of, but which, if it weighted as much as my computer, I would take
along for what it brought me. 

For several weeks through VT & NH 93/94 & then in Maine 96 I hiked with Tevas
 and then in bare feet. I enjoyed both. My feet loved both. I never hurt
myself, but then, I was in no hurry. I hiked naked at times.  I laughed so
hard with friends it hurt. I spent quiet time, looking out at the world,
 trying to hear beyond what my eyes saw.  

For those folks who are going to begin in 97 know that what ever you do
     --a week, a month, or 6 months-- is time well spent and there is no
right distance, equipment, or way to do it. If you saunter bare ass with a
shopping bag or have the newest 'best' gear and run from GA to ME,  the only
glory is in the wonder you find inside yourself & in the wonder of the people
you meet. Everything else will fade quickly.  

I wish you a trail just long enough to lose what you claim to know, that you
 may hear voices speaking of joy & wonder.  

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