OK, I’m coming out of my hole.

A solid week ago now, Lentil texted me, demanding, and I quote: “Update your damn blog already!!!” Despite the friendly chiding, I was still preoccupied with my post-AT adventures. And since I had been solidifying these plans for a while pre-Katahdin, I couldn’t just interrupt them to write a blog post, if you’ll excuse my inattention. What were these post-AT adventures, you ask? Well, I was slowly making my way from Maine to Virginia, visiting friends and family along the way, or – as my friend Nicki called it – my Victory Tour.

I, on the other hand, would describe it as a three-week indulgence in overeating, sleeping excessively, moving minimally (often with a book in hand or with eyes fixed upon a TV), and lazily contemplating my next steps. And please don’t mistake the pattern for post-AT depression. Instead, understand that I – as might be surmised from my decision to thru-hike the AT – am a person who thrives on single-minded focus of a goal, and in this case, I chose to single-mindedly focus on an extended period of slothfulness. Where many of my thru-hiking buddies discussed their intentions to maintain the high level of physical fitness inherent in a thru-hiking physique, I boldly and honestly (patient, know thyself) declared that I would return to a lifestyle of sporadic fitness and on/off healthy dieting (…I can only convince myself that I don’t love sweets – to excess – for so long).

I'm smiling because I'm anticipating my impending laziness. OK, I'm excited about hiking Katahdin. But aforementioned laziness is exciting too.

I’m smiling because I’m anticipating my impending laziness. OK, I’m excited about hiking Katahdin. But aforementioned laziness is exciting too.

And truth be told, I truly believe that I’ve deserved my recent stint of near catatonia (dramatic word choice?).

Maine wore me out. In fact, I’m fairly certain that Maine was conspiring to kill me. I mean, sure, there was the section of southern Maine that has a reputation for being challenging and wearying. But don’t let anyone ever try to convince you that the last 100 or so miles in Maine are a cake walk either. (And actually, don’t ever let anyone – anyone! – convince you that any mile on the AT is easy peasy. Each person’s experience is unique, based on many factors including mental and physical state.)

In our attempts to prolong the thru-hike experience as well as to dry out considering the soggy conditions, my friends and I took every opportunity possible to zero and nero in the trail’s northernmost state, including a couple of double zeros. In so doing, we essentially – hindsight is 20/20 – set ourselves up for what I consider as a disaster of an experience for the Hundred Mile Wilderness.

For those of you who do not know, the Hundred Mile Wilderness is the stretch of trail after Monson through which there are no easy “bailouts.” While there are a couple of paved roads, none of them are well trafficked nor lead to easily accessible towns. So hikers essentially have to plan to hike straight through the 100 miles without respite in a town. The theoretical upside is that the 100 miles have a reputation for being easily managable, in particular relative to the southern section of Maine.

Unfortunately, rain can – and did – completely change that.

The day my friends and I entered the 100 Mile Wilderness, we managed to stay relatively dry – if you ignore the thick, warm fog of humidity that saturated my clothes in a layer of sweat. By that evening, the temperature dropped, and the rain mercilessly began to fall. From the cocoon of my sleeping bag, protected under the awning of my night’s shelter, a sense of dread began to suffocate me. See, the forecast was more or less calling for rain for the entire week. The following morning I actually contemplated – and tentatively declared – not hiking on before I managed to steel myself against the inevitability of getting – and remaining – hopelessly wet for the next several days.

Hanging our clothes from a line under the shelter only served to maintain a sense of hope. Of course nothing actually dried.

Hanging our clothes from a line under the shelter only served to maintain a sense of hope. Of course nothing actually dried.

The problem with the rain was not specifically being wet, although feeling like a drowned rat surely doesn’t help morale. Instead, it was the pain in – and disuse of – my hands. I don’t know how many of you have read my early blog posts when I was still in the throes of daunting winter weather conditions (was it daunting? It didn’t seem so at the time but feels so in retrospect.) or if you would even remember my discussions about my hands and feet.

The long and short of it is that I have a condition in my hands and feet called Raynaud’s whereby they become extremely painful and limited in dexterity (and often swollen) in cold conditions, which is exacerbated when they become wet. Generally, it’s nothing to complain about (no “whoa is me” pity party, seriously), but – if I’m being honest here – exhausted emotionally as I was at this point in my thru-hike, the cold, wet weather certainly did not improve the situation.

I don’t want to make it sound like it rained non-stop for the 6.5 days I was hiking through the 100 Mile Wilderness. However, even on the one completely dry, sunny day, the trail was a boggy river, leaving my boots – and aching feet – soaked through.

I spent two glorious hours sitting by this lake drying my feet and boots, only to slosh through deep puddles within five minutes of replacing said boots and hiking on.

I spent two glorious hours sitting by this lake drying my feet and boots, only to slosh through deep puddles within five minutes of replacing said boots and hiking on.

After six months on the trail – through snow, ice, foot-crushing rocks, knee-pounding descents, heat exhaustion, swarming mosquitoes, etc. – not once did the thought of quitting actually cross my mind – cross my heart and hope to die, I swear. For the first time, several days into trekking through the Hundred Mile Wilderness, forever wet and harrowingly hiking among the slick rocks and roots (remember, I’m clumsy and bleed easily), I thought to myself, “I could quit right this very minute. I’m utterly, all-consumingly, stick-a-fork-in-me done with this trail.”

Luckily for me, there was no easy out, as I mentioned above. And let’s be real: I wouldn’t have actually quit. For better or worse, I’m not very good at it. But for the first and only time on the trail, the thought crossed my mind.

I don’t want you all to think I spent my last week completely miserable. Like much of my thru-hike, this last week was marked by extreme contrasts, highs and lows, often changing in the blink of an eye. One minute, I’m edgily hiking in an attempt to push through; the next minute I’m sitting on a beach, awash in gratitude at the sparkling blue lake in front of me. One night I’m shivering and nauseated from hiking in the cold, wet rain; the next night I’m ravenous and overcome with gratitude over my abundance of cheesy rice.

Fortunately, the morning that Lentil and I hiked out of the Hundred Mile stretch, the sun shone down unapologetically, warming the previous night’s 30-something degree temperature into the 60s, as if to say, “OK, you paid your dues. You’ve earned a respite.” We spent that morning sitting in the sun, drying our boots and socks and soaking up much-appreciated Vitamin D. (This was one of the week’s highs.)

The most welcome sight in a week: this poorly-stocked remote convenience store north of the Wilderness. I spent hours binging on snacks, as the prolonged cold weather had made me voracious (shivering burns a lot of calories, right?).

The most welcome sight in a week: this poorly-stocked remote convenience store north of the Wilderness. I spent hours binging on snacks, as the prolonged cold weather had made me voracious (shivering burns a lot of calories, right?).

And the following day, when we – including friends Lentil, Honey B, Vitamin C, Ledge, M-80 and Trooper (and their dog Willow) – summitted Katahdin, we were all treated to equally beautiful weather conditions, which made the previous week more than worth it, as far as I’m concerned.

It was truly an exhilaratingly beautiful day to end my AT thru-hike.

It was truly an exhilaratingly beautiful day to end my AT thru-hike.

So now, here I am, three weeks later. After bouncing from Millinocket, ME to Boston to Burlington, VT to NYC to (various towns in) New Jersey to DC/Arlington, VA to Richmond, VA and finally to Virginia Beach, I sit here contemplating my next move. I hesitate to say too much since my experience on the trail has taught me that life is to be taken one day at a time and that plans can change at the drop of a hat. And I do have a tendency to come up with 1,000 ideas before one sticks.

Keeping that in mind, of course I have thoughts on how the next couple of months/years of my life could play out.

Over the last few months on the trail, I thought – and frequently postulated aloud – that I would like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (the west coast equivalent of the Appalachian Trail) in 2014. However, I’ve decided that the A.T. really did take a pretty significant toll on my body. My knees and feet are pretty roughed up; I’m still going down flights of stairs leading with my left leg to lessen the impact (although I think I’ll be OK to start running again as soon as I get new sneakers). And I have several significant scabs and divets on my legs that have yet to heal. Time to work on a more well-balanced diet and not put as much of a physical strain on my body for a while.

Thanks, Katahdin: Boo boos on both knees, just like when I was three years old – with an underbite and big goggly glasses. At least I got rid of the underbite and glasses.

Further, I would like to take what I learned on the A.T. and make some changes – lightening up my gear and perhaps learning how to dehydrate my own food. And I’m not sure that the six months between now and the beginning of the PCT thru-hiking season will be enough for me to prepare mentally and physically.

Instead, I am tentatively planning to thru-hike the PCT in 2015.

In the meantime, I think I might like to maybe, um, perhaps – gulp – try writing a book about my experience. I’m extremely nervous about even saying that on this blog – as in to an audience – because 1. I’ve never attempted such an endeavor and am extremely intimidated, 2. I know there are plenty of books by A.T. thru-hikers and don’t really know if there’s a marketable need for another, 3. Refer to 1 and 2.

But, what the heck. The worst that can happen is that I do not accomplish that goal and move onto another one. So there it is. For the foreseeable future, I will be trying to collect my thoughts and write a book. If nothing else, it’ll be a good exercise in helping me reflect on this significant life experience.

Other ideas, that have the potential to run concurrently with writing a book, include moving out west in the Spring to work in a PCT trail town or – assuming the Federal government resumes funding the National Park Service (not trying to be political, just practical) – I would love to spend a season working and living in a national park, such as Yosemite.

Mind you, I haven’t completely given up on the idea of returning to the “desk job” lifestyle. I’m just at the point where I’m coming off a 7 month high and want to take that energy and run with it. If I come across a job that compels me (ideas welcome!), I’d certainly keep an open mind. In the meantime, though, I’m pretty excited by the prospects in front of me, so I’m convinced it’s a pretty decent jumping off point for now.

Meandering on,

Jordana

P.S.

1. In the coming weeks, I plan to write several follow up blog posts that might be useful to some of you out there planning a future thru-hike, including an exhaustive breakdown of my expenses and a complete review of all of my gear choices. If you are interested in any other topics, please let me know via comment.

2. Of course there is no right way to thru-hike the A.T., but I would be glad to converse with anyone one-on-one (via email, phone call, in-person if we’re geographically close) that is looking for advice or information, based on my own experience. Feel free to ask me via comment or message me on Facebook (please no “friend requests” unless I know you). Men too; however, women out there, I was looking to talk to another female when I was planning, so I’d like to point out that I’d be happy to discuss any topic specific to being a female on the trail, if you’re interested.

3. Thank you to everyone who left comments of congratulations and support. I was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring.

54 thoughts on “OK, I’m coming out of my hole.

  1. Holy Cow, you are so incredibly inspiring! Not only your fortitude to continue on, but your ability to so candidly share your experiences, both highs and lows during your trek. Thank you for sharing your journey and I think whatever you choose to do in the coming months will be great and if the book pans out and you need an editor…I know of a wonderful editor. Congrats again!

  2. Jordana, first of all, congratulations (again!) What you’ve done is not only incredible and a feat that only a miniscule percentage of people would even consider, it is an experience that is now a part of you. You’ve helped many who have followed you. I’ve learned a lot in preparing to do the Camino de Santiego next year. I just finished cycling from Pittsburgh to DC on the Greater Alleghany Passage and C&O Canal and stopped at The Outfitter in Harper’s Ferry, roughly the halfway point. Each step in the planning phase, reading your blog, talking with outfitters, understanding what it means to be a minimalist, and, as you say, mental preparation, it all plays into a successful journey. Second, your writing is strong enough to write a book, and you have a unique voice, it comes through in your prose. You’re a good story teller. So write it. Read up on querying agents and publishers, write a strong query, and rely on your story. Take your audience from the trepidation about leaving your job and family, risking it all, to do something most people only dream about. And what it has done for your life. Sure there are plenty of books on the AT on the markey, so what makes yours unique? Only you can answer that question, but it’s buried somewhere in all that you’ve shared with your followers. Sometimes you need to sit back and look at it before it hits you. But it’s there, trust me. And remember, It’s all about the story. Good Luck!

    • Jim, thanks for sharing your perspective. However, I’m looking at my AT thru-hike as an opportunity to try new experiences instead of returning to my former life and job in DC (like I’d originally considered).

  3. You are a great writer – I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, not just because it’s about the A.T., but also because of the writing quality and the humorous turns of phrase. If you wrote a book, I’d buy it!

  4. So happy to read you (again) and know that there are more posts to look forward to … and maybe even a book! Yeah :) Congrats Jordana and thanks for letting me (and others) live vicariously through you for the past 7 months. I loved the ride!

  5. I can’t wait to read more about your experience as it comes to your head, and I am VERY interested in your breakdown on costs, etc. If you write a book–I’m buying it! I’m planning my thru hike for 2016! :-)

    • Absolutely. Keep an eye out. I’ll get to that post…as soon as I clean up and store all my gear, get my car washed, and do some other fun housekeeping, back-in-the-real-world things. (I do believe there’s a wine festival and concert in my near future too.) :)

  6. Yes, please write your posts on gear, expenses and any other needed info for a thru-hike. I plan to be on Springer Mt March 26, 2014 and am feeling a little overwhelmed. Good for you for doing the AT.
    Ed

  7. I have followed your blog and just wanted to tell you how inspiring you have been to me. You are a wonderful writer and I would definitely love to read a book written by you!! I can’t wait!!

  8. Before I read your blog I knew nothing about AT hiking. It was awesome to be able to “come along with you” as you wrote about the things you learned, did, and saw. A book that encompassed your experience, feelings and preparation (both physical and mental), will be a great read. I encourage you to give it a go! November is National Novel Writing Month – in case you didn’t know ;-)
    J

    • Jodi, thanks for the feedback! Now having accomplished a thru-hike, it’s hard to get back into the head of the novice I was a year ago…and it’s good to keep in mind as I begin on my book.

  9. I just found your blog and I’m SO glad I did! My husband and I have wanted to hike the AT and we might have the opportunity when I finish PT school before start a “big girl” job in a couple years. Unfortunately it can’t be a thru hike because of his work schedule, but we plan to hike for 2 weeks, go home for 2 weeks, then pick up where we left off. This shouldn’t be too hard because we’ll live in WV/PA/OH. I’ll take all the tips I can get so I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts! The biggest question I have is how in the world do I train for something like this?! Thanks!!

    • Kristina, since you’re talking about a section hike instead of a thru hike, the best advice that I could offer would be to stay physically fit (ie exercise regularly) and most importantly, do not expect to go at the same pace as thru hikers once you get on the trail. I noticed that section hikers sometimes mourned aloud that they couldn’t keep up or – worse – would try and would injure themselves by putting in too many miles too quickly. I can’t emphasize enough that you and your husband should be prepared to Hike your own Hike.

      I trained by hiking with a pack about 3 weekends of each month for the six months leading up to my thru hike. The pack was loaded to 30 pounds (although it ended up being more like 40+ on the trail). And my hikes ranged from about 5 to 12 miles.

      Also, this may sound silly, but I’m serious: as a woman, I would recommend that you actively try not to gain weight. I gained about 10 pounds beforehand, assuming I’d lose it on trail but never did and had that extra weight putting pressure on my joints the whole time. Women are built differently and don’t tend to lose weight on the trail like men do.

  10. Been following since day one! And damn proud of you lady. I like the PCT idea, and would much rather read your blog about it than the book I read by Cheryl Strayed “Hike” You would be great on the trail, but I also like your idea to wait a year, and work near it.

    Looking forward to reading more!

  11. I like the book idea – and it needn’t preclude the other ideas or an opportunity as yet unheard of. You have the bones of it here, and as has been mentioned, you are a good writer – very readable, very organized.

    Also, I want to thank you for this last post – I knew you reached Katahdin, but wondered how it went for the 100 miles – thanks for sharing that. Yes, Maine had a really wet spell, I am sorry that it happened while you were in the midst of our wilderness. Since then, we have had weeks of really nice weather – maybe you can come back someday when it isn’t raining. :-) I hope you got some great local ice cream while you were here -we have two Maine producers who outdo each other with great flavors – Gifford’s and Shane’s Of Maine. :-)

    I am glad you are putting the Pacific trail of to 2015 – think how long it took you to get geared up for this, and you were relatively healthy then. I like the fact that you have goals to make it go easier on you – lightening up and preparing your own food. I wonder if there is a way to make a living making these changes and learning these steps and teaching others? Lecture tour? Book tour? They say do what you love and the money will follow – I hope it is true for you.

    Meanwhile, please don’t abandon those of us who feel they have come to know you – continue to blog and share what you will with us, please.

    And pass on my thanks to Lentil for egging you on to post this!

  12. Sarah, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. In particular the third paragraph voices thoughts that have been circling in my head for a while…about the PCT, about taking care of my body, and especially about being able to monetize this passion I’ve recently discovered (at least enough to sustain myself, if not be filthy stinking rich ;) ). Since leaving my stable, secure “9-5″ job, I’ve been living in the moment, not having a clue what to expect next. I have to say, it’s a little nerve wracking but has kept me energized and feeling positive. We shall see where it leads; I’ll definitely be sure to report back.

  13. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts, and you are a good writer. It’s nice be able to read well-crafted sentences where everything is spelled correctly, and the content is well thought out and engaging. I especially liked your product reviews, and I will probably be buying a Lifestraw, thanks to you! I will not, however, be investing in a Diva Cup.

    I think that you should write a book, but realize that your audience is probably the adventure seekers who can’t get out there right now. Your writing has quite an impact when you’re looking at cubicle walls :)

    • Ha! Well maybe a female in your life could benefit from a diva cup.

      As far as the lifestraw, look for a follow up review of it (and my other gear) in the next couple weeks. I have a much better (or fuller, maybe) perspective after over 2,000+ miles using it and other water purification methods.

      • OK, great! I don’t need to buy one right away anyway. I’m VERY interested in more info on your gear and the JetBoil (since that is such a pricey item, and I am also afraid of setting the outdoors ablaze).

        As for the other item… I doubt I’ll ever have the courage to recommend that to a female, for fear of being scowled to death for even saying anything as though I have something useful to contribute. But if I live, I’ll send them here.

  14. Terrific recap and ending to your trek. The victory is yours to cherish forever. The farther away you get from the last 6 months the more meaningful they will become. I am so grateful to you for your sharing of your journey with us; it was an epic journey punctuated by your talented telling of the story. Write the damn book, and when you do, be as salty and witty in your tales as you have been from the beginning of all of your blog posts. You are Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck rolled into one. As far as your future adventure go…Do it now while you can, before you are stuck with a mortgage and get sucked into the abyss of normalcy. Oh, don’t forget to take advantage of the tax break of writing off all of your expenses of the thruhike as your research for the book, do get advice from a bona fide tax accountant. Nice job kid, nice job, I’m very happy for you.

    • Sit-a-bit, your flattery knows no bounds. Thanks. Fine, fine, I’m writing the book. I’ve already started.

      And luckily for me, I’ve already talked with my bona fide tax accountant (ie my mom), and I do believe it’s going to be a good year for my tax return (or at least not a disaster of a year).

  15. It’s been a absolute blast reading your blog. I’ve kept everybody updated here in the office, (whether they wanted to hear the updates or not. I was always very eager to read your posts). If you recall, I commented on your writing a long time ago and am very happy to hear that your putting this into a book. I hope to get my copy signed. BTW: I am in Chesapeake and would very much enjoy sharing a couple beers and hearing more.

    Congratulations and Welcome home.

    • Daniel! Thanks for the note. That’s exciting to hear that you’ve been following along the whole way. Hope all’s well with the project. Cross fingers for you guys that there hasn’t been much of a delay from the government shutdown.

  16. Congrats! Not sure if you remember Justin & I from the thru hiker workshop last November at Bears Den (although we are no longer there), but I was sporadically reading your blog and so elated to see you finished! Awesome accomplishment and good luck with all your future endeavors!

    • Hey Patrice! Of course I remember you two. I was sad to have missed you when I passed through Bears Den. I heard you got some travel position with Backpacker Mag, which sounds exciting. I hope you’re both loving it! Best wishes and thanks for all your support when I was planning my thru-hike. : )

  17. Hi Jordana –
    Where would I find your email? If you don’t want to put it here, you are welcome to email me to send me your email (tending.weeds@gmail.com).
    Congrats on finishing. It was an exciting journey to read along with your preparations and travels.
    Melanie

  18. I found your blog Oct 25, and just finished reading all of the posts. I look forward to reading your book; I like your style. My dad hiked the AT in 1995, and passed away two weeks ago. I regret never having the opportunity to hike with him, but now am thinking of doing some section hikes. That’s why I’ve started reading about the trail. I wish he had written down his experiences, and wish I’d written down some of the stories he told.

    • Terri, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I highly encourage you to do some long-distance hiking. I’d be happy to provide input on various lengths of the trail if you have questions.

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