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Re: [pct-l] Introductions ---

Karl Brandt wrote:
> Thru-hiking was truly the best time of my life. Honestly though, it's
> done something to me to keep me from being happy since. That adventure
> that I loved out on the trail is just missing from everyday life.
> There isn't a day that has gone by since that I haven't dreamed of
> taking off for another long hike.
> I was contemplating doing the AT next year for a while but realized
> that my heart just wasn't fully in it. Instead, I'm going to have to
> be satisfied with as many short trips as I can get in. Hopefully, I
> can find a couple of weeks next summer to do either the TYT or JMT.
> Then in October, a friend and I are headed for Nepal to hike the
> Annapurna Circuit. In the mean time, I'm just going to have to be a
> little stir crazy.
> -Karl

Boy, does that ring a bell!  There is something about long distance
hiking that gets in the blood and creates a hunger that is very hard to
satisfy in other ways. I did the AT in 1988, and swore I would never do
another long hike. Two years later, I was on the John Muir Trail. I
said, long distance is fine, but I don't want to do it alone again. Two
years later, I went back (alone) to the AT to see if it was as good as I
remembered. It was better.  After that, I toyed with doing the PCT, but
my husband, whom I met on the AT, wasn't really enthused. Not opposed,
but it just didn't call him the way it did me. One day we were at REI
and they had a poster of the CDT on the wall.  I saw a funny look on his
face - of longing and recognition, I think. I said, "You know, we could
do the CDT next, instead of the PCT."  "Yes, Let's do it."  We both knew
that was where we were supposed to be and what we were supposed to be
doing.  Next year - after much too long a wait - away we go. 

When I was trying to decide whether or not to go back and do the AT, I
was asked, "Can't you find the same things that draw you to thruhiking
elsewhere in your life?"  I thought about it - a lot. What drew me to
long distance hiking, why I am so happy out there, and why I can't find
the same happiness in my "ordinary" life.  And yes, I can touch a lot of
the same things - being surrounded by beauty, a sense of inner peace,
the joy and laughter of kindred spirits, a sense of belonging, and of
accomplishment in meeting a really difficult challenge - there are a lot
of ways of doing this. The difference is that on the trail it is all
day, every day, not just from time to time and here and there.  Every
morning I wake up to the sound of birds.  Every night I go to bed with
the sounds and smells of the woods.  I am surrounded and filled by the
wonderful diversity  and beauty of the natural world.  We go hiking or
on trail maintenance trips almost every weekend - and for two days I am
totally happy. But then comes Monday morning.  On the trail, there are
hard times, but no Monday mornings - no return to the ordinary. At least
until you finish the trail. You can be as happy as you choose to be -
and if you aren't, well there are other places to go and things to do. 
The choice is yours - and the freedom to choose is yours.

It seems that one way to make the transition after the trail is to find
ways of being challenged - mentally or physically - that compare to the
challenges on the trail.  Find ways of reconnecting with the beauty, the
serenity, the friendships or whatever else it was that made you happy
out there. For many of us, that means hiking other long trails.  For
others it may mean a new career, starting a family, travelling around
the world, etc. Something that can fill your life as much as the
thruhiking did with a sense of accomplishment and wonder.  And sometimes
that means finding ways to do that a weekend or a week at a time - until
the next big challenge comes along.

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