I see the last post I made on walking the A.T. was the night before I actually stepped onto the trail. Now it is one year later since I completed the Appalachian Trail. What happened in the last two years? An unbelievable most unexpected journey.
Those of you that knew me in my community before my A.T. walk were aware that I was heavily active with all things art. I was busy in the studio making public and private art, and busy with a rotation of exhibitions. My influence in my local art community was extensive. It stretched from non-profit organizations that I organized monthly featured artist exhibitions to establishing a First Friday program in the community, aiding in establishing a public art sector in my city, co-founding a gallery, to meeting with private focused groups. I felt as though I was busy doing everything but perhaps sleeping. I had created outlets for all the creative energy flowing through me, but three months before I set out to walk, I did something that I did not know was possible.
Never in my life have I not been creative in some way. If I eat a donut, I make design bites. If I fold clothes, there is a pattern to the colors. If I talk on the phone, I write down poetic phrases I say and that is all outside the studio. Three months before I set out to walk the trail I turned off the creativity. It seems strange to see myself type these words, I did not even think it was possible. Sure there was the residue of creative juice still flowing in me, as I prepared for the trail, the muscle memory that was on auto pilot, but my mind was not creation active. I was thinking survival.
I was thinking survival, is sort of an understatement. Sure I was preparing to walk two thousand one hundred and eighty one miles that would take me approximately six months to walk through fourteen states walking everyday but a total of seven days. I would walk in extreme weather conditions, from snow, ice, rain, torrid winds, to smoldering heat. Terrain would challenge me with elevations and descents of thousands of feet, over and over, as soon as I was down I would go up, as soon as I was on the top, I would go to the bottom. I knew there was river fording, rock scrambling, swamp wading waiting for me on the trail. I would brave nature of man, animal and self. But in the three months before I walked, the only thing I could do actively everyday was train and food prep. So I trained eight miles a day on a terrain that only changed at the most three hundred feet in elevation. Looking back I almost wonder why I even bothered. But I also dehydrated food, enough to go underground for three years. I prepared baggies of meal proportions (for two sometimes three or four-I thought I would eat a lot) for breakfast, lunch, dinner and three big snacks a day for two hundred and ten days. I stuffed a backpack full of sixty pounds of survival items to carry with me in the wilderness. So I was thinking survival.
Yes, this is all before the trail and now it is almost two years later and you may wonder what happened in between. I will go back to my original statement: An unbelievable most unexpected journey that challenged my existence again and again until I could see the best and worst of me and keep moving in the very basic attitude of survival. That attitude of survival showed me the most wonderful beauty of the simplicity of all that is within us and around us, surviving became living and that was unexpected.
Many of you have asked if and/or how the trail changed me. I think about that question and wonder if I should write a book. How do I describe the pre-trail, post-trail, and of course the time on the trail? It is only in the last few months that I find myself assimilating back to society. In the beginning, I thought this journey would be a fun blog I could share with you, but seeing that my first blog was from the night before I walked onto the trail, and the next post was two years later, it makes me realize what an impact thru hiking the Appalachian Trail had on my life. Turning off my creativity sounds counter intuitive, but I realized I was taking a journey to survive in nature and I could not bring with me an extension of my active working self. That was my journey. I must go alone, in the most pure natural form, to live, only to be.