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In late May I received a call from my friend Cara. "We're calling your from REI. Wanna backpack the Appalachian Trail with me and Lorrie next month?" My response was silence. Not what Cara expected from her most-likely-to-be-hiking friend. I'd backpacked -- once. Up Half Dome in Yosemite. It was hard. very hard. I wouldn't call it fun. That was one night. They were proposing 4 nights and 5 days. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE hiking. It's where and when I feel the most sane but hauling everything you need to live changes the experience entirely. That much I did know. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the sisters to opt for camping + day hiking I relented, and against my better judgement and my husband's warning ("What are you nuts? You hated it. You swore you'd never backpack again.") I bought a plane ticket. It was arranged. They would drive from Texas and meet me at my aunt's house outside of Atlanta. We would hike the southern most part of the A.T.
Lorrie was the mastermind. She sent us itineraries, packing lists and links to various sites to purchase hiking poles and the like. I assumed she had done this before. It wasn't until we were on the trail that I learned this would be her first time backpacking and that I with my 1 night some almost 10 years ago was the most experienced. shudder.
In preparation I hiked our local trails slowing adding weight to my pack. 10lbs. -- no problem. I could even still keep up with my Saturday hiking group (they have a reputation for being ruthlessly fast). As the pack got heavier my fear grew stronger. I am not sure I can do this! When the pack fully loaded weigted close to 40lbs, I may have cried. I can't do this! I scaled everything down. Only the bare minimum. One long sleeve shirt, one short sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, etc. I was ruthless. Lorrie would bring the stove and water purifier, Cara the tent, and me the food. I purchased the 5-day meal combo. It weighted 10lbs! With water, food, sleeping bag, clothes, etc. I got my pack down to 35lbs and I boarded United flight 1446 SFO to ATL (via Chicago). It took 20 hours - but that's a whole other story.
Before departing I watched this video.
At minute 3:29: "In our avoidance of discomfort, we may become more uncomfortable." That struck a cord with me and echoed through my head. . .
"The more you need to be comfortable, the more likely you are to be uncomfortable." Nowhere is this more easily experienced than when you are backpacking. However, the more I have considered this more I have come to believe that this is not just trail wisdom. It's much, much bigger than that.
"The more you need to be happy. The more likely you are to be unhappy."
More what? Money, fame, friends, sales, likes on facebook, comments on your blog, shoes, fine wine, fancy cars, bigger house, new clothes, remolded kitchen, praise, vacation time -- the list is endless.
The trail strips everything away. You are down to basics: water, food, shelter. Your most important possessions are your feet and knees. Wants are simple. Basic. Then you return. Back to reality and hot showers, fresh vegetables, a bed. They take on a more sacred role. It's easy to fall into wants disguised as needs. Our culture and economy is based on this. . . but for now (and hopefully always) . . .
The trail lesson continues to ring in my head. Happy is here. NOW. :)
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.