The Pre-Technicalities

 

Ok, it’s a very valid question to ask: HOW are you doing this, Therese? The logistics! What are they? How do you know how to survive in the woods? If you’re in a rush, I have a very short answer for you:

I don’t. I don’t know how to survive. But I do know how to read and ask questions.

RESOURCES. Know your resources, use them. I’m talking these websites/books, BUT ALSO the people you know, your family, your hiking friends, the hiking community. Reach out, tell your story. You are interesting, this is a hell of a hike, and we’re all in it together. It takes a village. (…that’s applicable right now, yeah?)

If you’ve got more time, here’s a long answer:

So right now, a week and a half before I get dumped off at Springer Mountain, it’s really easy to fall into a flurry of worry. I mean, there are a million things about backpacking that I just don’t know about. My family and friends and random people I meet have really reasonable questions that simply send me into a tizzy. Today I made the mistake of going into a camping store. God. Big mistake. For a moment I stood in the midst of highly priced goods. What kind of stove am I using how much fuel should I bring I need to get a pot and also a spoon and do I have enough insect repellent and bear spray and rope and what if I start chafing I hear your nipples can get all messed up and also your legs and should I get more stuff sacks maybe I need these heavy duty zip lock bags what if something breaks while I’m out there when should I start mail dropping who am I going to get to do that and where am I going to be when it happensWOAH. STOP. Pause. Rewind.

Honestly? I’m not worried about these things. I’m trusting the

UNIVERSE!

And my strong will. And endless ambition. And the other people on the trail.

This isn’t a journey that will physically murder me unless I let it. Well, maybe it will “kill the false being within,” but that’s not from my manifesto. And I’ll be happy if that happens anyway.

If we’re getting real, I’m more terrified of getting Lyme disease or waking up covered in spiders or not being able to find the start of the trail than I am of not having what I need on the trail. THOSE are things you can’t control or buy solutions for at the nearest convenience store.

Right now, I have my backpack and some of the warmth essentials. I’m still in the process of getting things I know I’ll definitely need. What’s important is that I’m mentally ready to go fend for myself out in the world.

Plus, I’ve got to do this for Waldo. He’s been a real stick in the mud lately and I think he needs to find himself. Check out his journey here.

Here’s a gear list of what I’ve got already:

  • Merrell Moab Waterproof episode 5 whatever blah blah 2.0 something or other hiking shoes. They cost lots of money but it’s worth it. They are so comfortable I could sleep in them
  • Army regulation sleeping bag, housed in a stuff sack and also a waterproof shell. There’s a name for the shell, but alas I cannot remember. It is camouflage. Good luck finding me.
  • Poncho, which is 6ft long and will double as my tent, because I am a badass (like father like daughter)
  • Gossamer 60L backpack with hip belt, made for ultralite campers who didn’t want to buy an Osprey because they’re hipsters at heart.
  • Waterproof army regulation stuff sack for all your stuffing waterproof needs!
  • Water-wicking clothing. Well, I’m still working on getting all of these things together but I have a long sleeve shirt so I count that as a win.
  • 2 pairs of wool socks. So. Freakin’. Cozy.
  • 3L camel back. Also army regulation – surprise!
  • a poo shovel. Guess where I got that? Yup! The army!)
  • Cord on cord on cord to hang up my food, and tie up my enemies to trees.
  • Because I need to maintain my badassery.
  • Notebook, because I have an addiction to journaling. I’m enabling myself.
  • Waldo, who will be accompanying me on this journey because he, too, needs to find himself.
  • Murphy my stuffed animal pup, who I admittedly cannot sleep without. C’mon, I know you have one, too. Adulthood is a lonely place without your stuffed animal.

 

Things I’m Going To Purchase Soon (like, real soon. This is a pending list. I don’t think I’m 100% prepared, and that’s totally ok! We have a little bit of time):

  • Stove and fuel, because, food. Boiling water. It’s important.
  • Water purification tablets I don’t need you, micro bacteria and viruses! Goodbye!
  • Sawyer water filter I also have no need for you, Silt! So you can kiss my pretty water filter.
  • Food. Because…I’ll need to eat. But don’t worry, a separate nutrition post will be making its way up here soon.
  • Hardcore bug spray. Fuck you, bugs, my body can take the chemicals if it means I get to avoid getting West Nile or Lyme disease.
  • More water wicking clothing
  • A down jacket. Baby are you down didy down didy down?

 

If there’s something I’m seriously missing, don’t be afraid to let me know and say “Therese, Jesus Christ, you idiot! You can’t go out into the wild without (blah blah blah)!” I’m always willing to learn.

xoTM

A Talk On Running Away (or, Therese’s Lament)

You’ve woken up one morning to everything in your life being uprooted, right? The sun is shining, the tank is clean, and – the tank is clean.

Just like that, all the plans you had for your future suctioned into a cold, impenetrable robot that also takes your water’s temperature on schedule. You can’t go with your original plan, which, short and concise though it may have been, led you to an oceanic future of possibilities. You wake up one morning and you are stuck.

So how should I presume?

I’ve been thinking a lot for these past 24 hours about what it means to be free of someone. It gets kind of difficult when his chains that bound you are now the only things holding your inner self together. To be free would mean losing a piece of you that you never wanted to let go of. The hopeful, trusting piece. The childish, loving, caring –

If you can’t tell by now, I’m having an emotionally difficult time. Can you guess why?

In short, I made the hesitant but full decision to depend on someone emotionally and now, without any warning or satisfying explanation, I have been left high and dry. And alone.

(I got dumped)

So how should I presume?

I am told it is not my fault. I am given explanations of his childish fear that do not satisfy my pallet. I am not the one at fault. What I do now is no longer his business. It is up to me to live a lonely life I thought would have been filled with him. It is up to me to fill a void that I’m not convinced should even exist. But…what am I supposed to do with that? 

HOW, pray tell, AM I SUPPOSED TO JUST PRESUME?

How am I supposed to trust that “everything will be ok in the end” when there’s a world full of people who put the toilet paper on the roll wrong or eat cheese sticks in bites instead of peeling them? The world is full of monsters that, in some capacity, ruin your life without even having the decency to scare you first. (I am not afraid of him. I am angry, sad, and confused.)

Sometimes these monsters make you believe that you are one of them. Without admitting it to yourself, you start fulfilling that prophecy. That’s the first thing that’s scary about them: how quickly they make you spiral out of control. One day you’re doing and loving business as usual, good morning my love. Next thing you know you’re doing things you’re too ashamed to admit to anyone beyond your sister.

The next scariest thing is how silently they rob you. You won’t even realize it, but they’re stealing your trust in humanity. Slowly but surely you lose things like hope, love – things they took long ago without you even realizing it. My monster doesn’t live under the bed or in my closet. He lives in the town over and he stole things from me. Things I will never get back, because Hope isn’t a pearl on a necklace that he recycled to his new girlfriend. I can’t find a replacement for Trust in Loving Someone at the closest WalMart (they never have what you need anyway).

The third scariest thing about these monsters is how quickly you’re ready to forgive them.

Because after all, he did steal your heart.

And so, my friends, it comes to my attention that in a messy soup of poor communication, lack of respect, and fear of intimidating but beautiful change that we unknowingly choose to consume, we are taught that it is painful and wrong to fully give yourself to someone or something else emotionally.

We all have our reasons for running away. When it comes to love? Well, this isn’t in black and white, but I’m seeing two teams that one can play on: the Fumblers and the Fallers. Either way, we’re playing a messy game that everyone’s involved in but no one wants to watch. The Fumblers are the ones who drop the ball and then run away. They are ashamed. The Fallers are the ones who hit the ground so hard they can’t get up to tell the Fumbler to turn around, try again, don’t give up. And here we are, still playing over and over and over again convinced that maybe it’ll be different this time.  

I digress.

What in the hell does this have to do with hiking, you ask?! Ah!

I met a really cool human, Dr. Josh, who told me most of the people you find out there are running away from something. I thought I fully understood what he meant –  I’ve got so many reasons to run away from this civilized life with my parents! I didn’t think I needed another one.

So here I am, even more ready to ditch everything. Except now I am not emotionally stable in the eyes of those supporting me. Now it is not a good idea for me to be “alone in the woods.”

I want to make something abundantly clear: I am really fucking miserable right now.  

Why are people so afraid to admit that when it matters? Because then your friends and family tell you it’s not a good idea to do this, which you completely disagree with, and if you disagree with them too then what do you have left? How many things do you have to give up or struggle through to achieve a goal you held so close to your heart? To uphold your morals? I’m not convinced my goals are worth the sacrifice, the pain, the explanation, the loss.

It becomes clear why so many people have sentences in their mouths like, “Well I wanted to go to film school,” or “I was in a band once, we could of made it big.” Why don’t you do it anymore?

The fear that the benefits of the voyage will not outweigh the life you could have established had you stayed.

Terrifying, right?

I know a thing or two about running away. Your problems? They follow you. I can’t help but think this is Fate’s cruel comeback for all the skeletons I have in my closet. Justin was not lying – what goes around comes around. I know that being on the trail will not magically make my life better.

You should know that, too: leaving (someone) isn’t magical. Mr. Clean doesn’t have a strong enough magic eraser to rid the world of your bullshit stains.

You know what, though? Hiking will make me work on my problems. Hiking will help prove that it’s not a flaw to fully dedicate myself to something, even though I’ve been real shitty to people in the past.

I am terrified of the 2200 miles. (And still miserable!)

But you got to recognize – don’t lie to yourself – when it’s most important in your life to accomplish something. And you shouldn’t let ANY monster hold you back.

That’s the Ticket!

Is it totally lame that I’ve got tears in my eyes after seeing the Amtrak ticket confirmation?

SALES RECEIPT. Thank you for your purchase.

I’ve seen it dozens of times before. All around the world! Trips with friends, trips to go see friends, trips planned for me, trips for school, and so on. But this one feels so different.

Here, let me show you what the email looks like in my eyes:

TicketEmailConfirmation.png

Ok, you might be thinking, “But Therese, the trail doesn’t start in RVA” – and you’d say RVA because you’re totally hip to the knowledge of US cities and their cool abbreviations – which is totally right! See, I have these really cool cousins who are helping me out a TON by supporting the voyage, one of which is coming with me, so I need to make a quick pit stop there. This, nevertheless, is the beginning of my dream journey.

Do you ever forget that? Forget that you have dreams, things you’d like to achieve? I do. Every day since I’ve left my home at college I’ve forgotten that there are things I would like to accomplish for myself.

Honestly, this one is pretty shocking given my track record. My parents would tell you that I should absolutely not be setting out into the wild for months. When I was a little girl, I had a crippling fear of bugs (we’re talking I didn’t wear clothing with flowers on it in the summer because I was convinced the bees would find me). Also the dark. I never wanted to do the overnight at my summer camp because one year, the councilors snuck up on us from the depths of the woods while we told scary stories across our flower-power sleeping bags. Another year we accidentally burned laurel wood at the camp fire and everyone had scruffy voices the next morning. The chicken patties tasted pretty good, though.

I digress.

I don’t remember ever being an individual when I was young. I just remember doing what I was told, or what someone suggested. My parents and other figures had thoughts about what was best for me and I respected that. Then suddenly my entire life became constructed by others; going to camp, going to college – it’s all the same when I look back on it. Someone had some great advice for me, some great reason for why I should do something.

Today I bought a ticket to an adventure that I decided for myself.

No one is going to take care of me out there. How horrifying EXCITING.

Maybe it’s unfair to lump all my experiences together, to say that I’ve never been in charge of my life. But I am tearing up right now because I feel in complete control of not only my choices but my actions and the reactions to my actions. Like, dude, I’m talking everything in my life is mine from here on out. This is my time. Perhaps I’ve been floundering because no one is taking the care to suggest my next move for me anymore. For the first time, I breathe and move freely. The reins have been put in my hands and the horses are still running. It’s about high time I start to steer this baby. And we’re taking a ride into the sunset down the Appalachian Trail.

Because fuck it, we’ll do it live.
xoTM

Prep Q: Why Are You Hiking, Therese?

Classic question, World. Today I’m thinking a lot about what exactly the point of all of this is. People ask, sometimes aloud or sometimes with their eyes, why would I leave the comfort of my beautiful home in CT to go struggle through at least 1,000 miles of unforgiving trail? In a shocking turn of events, I DO have an answer.

This answer comes best in list-form. Do you like lists? They really quite bother me. But as my best friend says,

“Do not live life listlessly. You will not be happy, and everything will crumble.”

You are absolutely right, Katrice. So!

Reasons I’m Hiking the A.T:

  1. Exercise. Let’s face it, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a physically fit body out of this. Currently I’m really concerned my blood is turning to wine and, considering the fact that I’m definitely not Jesus, this is a horrible, horrible thing.
  2. Reprimanding the Soul-Crushing Self-Doubt of my 20’s. Please, let’s stop with the facades. Life is not fun for 20 year olds. I know you’re not having a good time ALL of the time, Girl-Who-Posts-All-Those-Happy-Photos-On-Instagram. Me? I’m having a terrible time. But that’s not going to stop me from this monster of a hike. TRIUMPH SHALL COME OR SO HELP ME GOD I WILL just give up all hope of being any semblance of a functioning human.
  3. Adventure. Call me Bilbo, baby.
  4. Backpacking/Survival Experience. And I’ve barely been camping. So, this seems like a sure-fire way to figure out how to survive in the woods.
  5. Es-CAH-pe. “It’s funny, it kinda looks like the word escape.”
  6. My FUTURE. Yeah, Jon Krakauer is my idol. I’ll admit it. And thanks, bro, you’ve started one hell of a fire in my mind. I can get PAID for going OUTSIDE and EXPLORING (and narrowly escaping death) then WRITING ABOUT IT? Sign me UP.
  7. Your Entertainment. It’s going to be one hell of a show, kids! And the tickets are free!
  8. To leave this town. I’m glad we could meet up to talk, Branford. You’re really cute and all. But I just can’t do it anymore. This whole thing we got going? It’s not working out. No, it’s not you – it’s me.
  9. Proving that I still have the strength to be a badass. It’s not easy. It actually takes a lot of physical and mental strength to stay this pointedly badass. Say what you will, World! This girl can do whatever she wants!

 

Mental preparation is a key component to thru-hiking success. The list above consists of reasons that I keep real close to my heart, and they’re going to propel me up mountains and keep me warm through freezing nights.* It’s important to know why you’re trying to accomplish any crazy feat. Which actually leads me to some heavy thoughts.

If I’m being completely honest, there’s something about this world that’s been making me question all of my motives. Every day, after waking up and reading ten pages of whatever book, I think about leaving the house until a foggy question appears in my mind:

Why do anything?

Wow. Way to get really overwhelming really quickly. But the reality is that this foggy question has been clipping my wings since I decided to skip graduation and drink a bottle of champagne near Mirror Lake with Alex. The worst part is that it isn’t a voice yelling at me. I’ve dealt with some level of depression before (haven’t we all?) and I know how to combat the drill sergeant in my head who tells me I’m not worth it. He’s an asshole and he tells LIES. But this? Ah, this is something way deeper, way sneakier, and way larger than any drill sergeant. It’s more like mustard gas coming out to murder the creative spark within, except you can’t see who threw the canister. You do not know who this war is against, just that you’re dying thinking,

“DO I have reasons to do anything?”

How to combat this…

And thus we easily end up in dark places, my friends. But these are thoughts that I’m going to pack and take with me into the woods. It’s important to wonder, and if one wanders while wondering he shall not be torn asunder.** I know I can’t be the only one hurting right now.

Accomplishing crazy feats is my way of fighting. Daily activities are hollow succor for a girl who’s been waiting twenty-three years to escape into this wild world. I’ve put off getting a job because I’m really terrified that it’s going to kill me. Schedules are scary, demoralizing things. Yet look where I’ve ended up: cowering in my room, afraid that I have no real reasons for leaving. Ever. It’s not something I’m proud to admit, but it’s very much my reality.

Then one day I woke up and said to myself,

“This is not the god damn Catalina Wine Mixer. I just want to hike the Appalachian Trail. Is that too much to ask?”

The world isn’t out there waiting for me, and it certainly doesn’t want to hear any excuses. It’s rocking and rolling and growing and yelling and sleeping and screaming and crying and laughing. And I’m only getting poorer with the passing of every mindless day.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to get up and smell the roses.

Why?

Because I WANT to. 

xoTM


 

*Hopefully.

**Bear with me here, kids.