Wednesday, February 27, 2008

These are the times that try men's souls.

Obviously, a thru-hike is tough on the body. Especially the feet, but it's tough on your whole body, and a lot of people physically cannot complete a thru-hike, and often quit when they realize their physical limitations.

An even larger number of people, however, I suspect quit due to the mental and emotional stress involved with a thru-hike.

I write this entry on one of my mentally toughest days on the trail. I woke up under a scumy bridge, surrounded by the smell of piss. The rain had stopped, for the moment at least, but I knew the forecast was for more.

The trail would largely follow a scenic trail along the meandering Suwannee River, but I didn't care anymore. It would just be more of what I'd been seeing for the last few days. Then it would become road walking again, never an exciting thing.

Frankly, I didn't have much to look forward to, and that's never good for one's disposition.

Some of my hardest days, mentally speaking, are the first few days after Amanda leaves from a visit. She's a heck of a lot of fun, and brings much joy into my life. =)

When she leaves, the joy usually leaves with her. I think she sneaks it into her bags or something when I'm not looking.

But seriously, I often spend the next few days wandering around with a dazed look in my eyes thinking, "And why do I want to be out here?"

I imagine all the things I would do today if I weren't on the trail. I'd probably be in Seattle, waking up in a cold room. If it were cold enough, I might turn on the heat a little. Just in the room with the computer, however, since my fingers can't type very well in cold weather and I'd need to type to work on Atlas Quest.

If it were raining, and I vaguely remember the Weather Channel saying something about a big storm hitting the northwest (as well as the midwest and northeast, but that's another matter), I would probably walk to the library during a lull in the rain, or perhaps stop for lunch nearby.

I'd read magazines, and oh how I'd love to read a BuisnessWeek or something engaging.

That night, tonight, I'd probably watch something on television to relax, and if nothing new or interesting was on, perhaps watch a DVD of something.

Instead, here I am. I'm camped illegally in land used by the timber industry. I think there's a papermill nearby. To be perfectly precise, I'm about halfway down Camp P Rd. According to my map, that's at approximately 30 degrees, 18 minutes, and 20 seconds north, and 83 degrees, 22 minutes, and 0 seconds west.

It will likely be the only time in my entire life I will ever be at this precise location, thank God. =)

Miraculously, despite the weather predictions, it did not rain all day, but I still set up my tarp since it could still very well do so at any moment. Nasty looking clouds out there.

It's dark now, 7:43 PM according to my pedometer, and I'm using my headlamp to see what I'm typing. Occasional I slap at mosquitoes or flick an ant off of me.

A few minutes ago, a truck drove by on this dirt road I'm camped alongside. Knowing darned well I'm not supposed to be camping here, I quickly turned off my headlamp when I heard the truck approach, then watched it drive by from behind the bushes on the side of the road.

The truck was something of a surprise. I could tell no vehicles had driven on this section of the dirt road since the rain last night (no fresh prints) and hoped that meant by camping here, no one would drive by during the night or in the morning before I left. One truck isn't too bad, though.

And now I just battled a very large moth who felt that the light on my head was its home.

I'm feeling awfully lonely and alone at the moment. These are the times many hikers call it quits and go home.

I will not, however. I knew going into this hike I'd have my low days, and I'd have high days, and things will brighten up. They always do.

It's 7:51 now, and I just heard the first few drops of rain on my tarp. I'm okay with that, though, since I'm tucked safe and sound underneath it.

My biggest worry is if the wind will shift directions or grow stronger. It's been coming in from the south and I set my tarp up to protect me from wind in that direction. A strong wind will make me drop that side of the tarp lower than it currently is. Annoying, but better than getting wet.

A 90 degree shift in the wind isn't too big of deal--I'll crunch up on the side away from the wind. If it moves 90 degrees and becomes a strong wind, I could have problems. I'd probably take the trekking pole out as a support if the wind is coming from that direction, or lower the rope against the tree if it comes from the other.

The rain is getting heavier now. Perhaps it'll get the bugs to stop bothering me.

Except for a spider that just crawled under my arms as I typed this. I guess he wanted the dry protection under my tarp as well, but I flicked him out into the cruel outdoors. He's got to learn to fend for himself, just like I have. =)

I'll let the ant crawling around on my Waldies stay where he is, though.

Why am I out here again?

I don't mind if it continues to rain all night--I'm already in bed for the night--but I have my fingers crossed it'll stop by sunrise so I can hike dry. The weather forecast predicts more rain tomorrow, so I won't hold my breath, but I'm hoping.

Yesterday too was a rather sad and depressing day, but I still smiled with joy twice. I reached a phone and was able to check the comments people left me on my blog and sent through AQ mail--always fun and encouraging to read--and I got to talk to Amanda who was on a layover in San Francisco. I bet it's a lot cooler there than here in Florida!

Despite the weather and my gloomy mood, there's not much to report today. The most exciting moment was finding a group of Outward Bound folks camping in the woods. I quizzed the first guy I saw, asking how long he was out there (3 days) and which day he was on (2nd day). I asked how his night went (wet and rainy, oh yes, been there, done that) and wished him drier weather in the future.

It wasn't until I had passed several younger people outside their tents with sleeping bags and clothes outside to dry that I realized what a miserable night they must have had. They were in tents, but almost everyone one of them seemed to be trying to dry out. One of them complained to me that they got "flooded," and looking inside their open tent I could see that the floor was completely wet. How did they get SO wet in a tent?! Don't know why, but that amused me.

Goodnight, and good luck.


Anonymous said...

May trail magic come soon.

DC Stones

How about an update on "lefty"? Inquiring minds are wondering........

Anonymous said...

ok, so i can't or don't know how to paste pictures


that is one big smile


that is a string of sunny days

praying for lifted spirits and lots of trail magic coming your way............

and don't forget GA is closing in and soon there will be a SPRINGer in your step :J


Anonymous said...

If you weren't so far away, I'd make sure you got some serious trail magic up ahead.

I hope something happens soon!

Come on, north Floridians! Get out there on the trail and do something nice for the tired, wet man!


Ryan said...

Remember folks, I have about 500 miles of Alabama to do before I even reach Georgia. Georgia is still a LONG way away, despite what you might think by looking at a map. =)

Anonymous said...

Aw, the part about Amanda is so sad, but sweet, too. Aw.

Here's another quote from that same paragraph of The Crisis, and one that certainly seems appropriate for your adventure:

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." Mr. Paine was so right!

***I can't help but notice that your day began and ended with pee-P. Hmm. 8-)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the hard stuff as well as the good stuff. It is very easy to sit in a warm dry home and idealize a thru-hike if you have never been on one. I hope it helps a little knowing we are all sending good thoughts, wishes, and prayers your way.


Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

It sounds like you need a hug. Poor Ryan!

Anonymous said...

It occured to me that you could also have named this post "These are the times that try men's soles"......There's got to be Trail Magic on the way......stay safe.....

Kaaren said...

Here's the dryer days and straighter ways!

Anonymous said...

Ryan! we are all vouching for you...
I can only imagine about the wanting to quit, and wondering..."is this worth it?".
Of course after Amanda leaves, she takes the joy and sun shine of life.(though not on purpose I am sure)
We are praying for you, yes, many more brighter days with some awesome scenery, beautiful people and just plain awesome, peaceful, glorious moments.
May you be blessed as you continue on your way. Sure hope your sleep this night was a very good sleep.
ah...the border I was looking at was Alabama, darn Canadians, we don't know our US geography as well as you.Oh well...that is obviosuly the border I was looking at, must 'zoom out' on the map next time.
take care...
so I guess the Trans Canada hike won't be on your list of life to dos??pilgrims

hmm maybe it's time to jsut plain settle down... :)or no more solos, take Amanda

Anonymous said...

Hey there, GT,
There is no dress rehearsal for life and it sounds as if you are well into your starring role. Comedy, drama, psychology, pathos, humor, endurance....Well done.

Yeah, we miss you at AQ. Wassa's in charge after all! But we'll keep fighting for Marjorie's honor and keeping the Moose at bay as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Grumpy Grinch

Jimmy said...

Tell me again why you are doing this? :)

Anonymous said...

You're doing this for all of us who go about our days following that same routine you mentioned, who are unable to do it themselves.

You're doing this for every person out there who thinks/thought/will think it can't possibly be done.

You're doing this for any future generations of Ryans, because they'll be able to look back on your words and your stories and know that you are the kind of crazy-ass role model they need to get through the hard days.

And you're doing this for you. So that you can look back in thirty years and say you grabbed life by the beans and squeezed them for all they're worth.

The hard days? Nothing in the face of what it all *means*, really.

Wishing you love and trail magic from the snowed-in midwest.

Anonymous said...

We know you can, we know you can, we know you can.....

Anonymous said...

Thinking dry thoughts, and so glad it's not snowing there! Keep your head up and keep on hiking!

Trailtracker said...

Hey Ryan---maybe this will help put what you are experiencing and feeling into perspective---(and this is not meant to be a lecture at all...but just something to help). (I did have to dig deep!!!) =)

At least you are not being shot at. These are similar to the hardships our combat soldiers have been going through while helping liberate the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not meant to be a hard-core political statement, but being the mom of a soldier who is almost at the end of a 15-month/3rd deployment, many of your comments are similar to soldiers who miss even the basics of home---let alone family.

Even the piss-comment applies?! =) One night out on a mission, my son kept complaining to his soldiers the scent of urine was so bad?!

Turned out---wild dogs had apparently pissed on his kevlar vest!!! To further translate---this was a 30-day mission---and vests are not optional!

Next night a BAT landed on his chest---scaring the hell out of him---apparently being drawn to Greg's new "cologne"?!

So, see? Things are not as bad as they could be?! =)

Does that help any???

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Camp P Road? How appropriate a ame after your spent underneath that pee soaked bridge. lol!

I once slept out under the stars on a beach and was awakened in the middle of the night by something heavy landing on my chest and pulling at me!

It was a freakingly huge seabird trying to pull the stuffing out of a hole in my sleeping bag. I almost wet my pants!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers