One of the side-affects of being home and necessarily still, is that a lot of the emotional processing I had hoped to do on trail, is happening now instead. I had been kicking a proverbial shit-can of feelings down the road for months in anticipation of this hike. Despite my best efforts to keep it rolling during this hiatus I’ve failed, and it’s leaking shit everywhere.
A big motivator for my hike this year was making sense of my last relationship. Not putting the pieces together mentally, so much as channeling the residual sadness, and anger somewhere. There’s a lot of pain still there, and I had hoped to callus an open wound with miles.
For this reason, I doubt I’ll be writing much until June. I’ll be taking a bus to DC, and from there to Harper’s Ferry, WV on the 5th. My Northbound hike has officially become a Flip-Flop hike.
To hike a Flip-Flop, you start somewhere in the middle of the trail. Traditionally, it is started at the ATC headquarters in Harper’s Ferry. The first leg involves a 1167 mile hike to Mount Katahdin in Maine, then a bus ride back to Harpers Ferry. From there, the next leg is 1025 miles south to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy tries to encourage this route, as it minimizes crowding and overall impact on the trail itself. Much the opposite of my 2016 hike, where I was utterly desperate for company, I found myself wanting much more solitude this year. Two-thirds of the North Bounders have typically quit by Harper’s Ferry, so the trail north of there is pretty quiet. In fact, the contrast was so stark, loneliness nearly sent me home in PA twice during 2016.
The trail is surprisingly flat north of West Virginia into Maryland. This continues through Southern PA, which is mostly farm fields. From an injury/recovery standpoint, it’s an ideal place to return. The Northern half of PA is virtually all highly technical rocky hiking. It’s total bullshit actually, but it’ll keep my daily mileage low by default. When you ascend into New Jersey the trail becomes dumbfoudingly beautiful again.
Then there’s the 500 miles on the northern quarter of the trail I’ve never seen before. I can’t wait!
Until then, I’m going to keep mashing my keyboard with word-processor-therapy till the wee hours of the morning. In true INFP fashion, I can write a doctoral dissertation after every breakup. I’d rather be hiking!