So far up to this point, our blog posts have been pretty upbeat and positive even though we've had our fair share of challenges. However, in order to paint a clear and honest picture of our experience, I feel the need to vent a little bit. What I'm saying is...I'm gonna get real negative up in this blog. I feel that after hiking 1,017 miles in 5 states I've earned a bit of complaining. So if I haven't already alienated you with the body odor post, maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Without further ado, below is a brief summary of everything that I hate about the AT.
- Bugs - In a way, we've become one with the fact that there are bugs everywhere. Bearcub no longer hesitates to pick up a giant spider in her boots and toss it into the woods. But sometimes it honestly just gets so ridiculous that a Zen master would flip out and scream obscenities in the middle of the trail. Gnats fly into our eyes, mouth, nose, and ears regularly during the day. Flies bite our arms and legs (even through our socks). It's not unusual to have an entire swarm of gnats or flies follow us on the trail for at least half a mile. If we get out of camp early and we're the first people to hike a section of the trail that day, we walk through at least 10 spider webs in the first half hour of hiking. And let me tell you, spider webs are not easy to remove from a 3 month beard. Apparently, spiders haven't realized that if they toil away all night on a luxurious web right across the trail, it will just be destroyed the next morning. It's like building a sandcastle too close to the tide. Yet I have to admire their persistence. The other night, as I sat down to dinner, I had the sensation that there were spider webs on multiple different parts of my legs. I figured I was just losing my mind, until I realized that there was a spider making a web between my legs at that exact moment. The sad part is, if you're a spider, anywhere in my general vicinity is actually a pretty efficient place to catch your dinner.
- Stench - I know we've been over this before, and it's true that I improved my hygiene habits, but there is just no way around it. Everything I own smells. My pack, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and every one of my few possessions has a funk that ranges from musty to foul. In an unexpected victory, the hand straps on my hiking poles win the grand prize for stinkiest gear.
- Hiking - I know, I know...I came out here because I love hiking. But we all know that too much of a good thing can be bad. It's not that I hate hiking, it's that I hate that I have to do it all day every day. One great thing about hiking is that it completely clears your mind, and you get all sorts of great ideas. You think of goals you'd like to accomplish, hobbies you'd like to take up, places you'd like to visit, etc. The catch is that you can't act on any of these ideas until you get back to the real world. It's a unique brand of torture that I felt was worth noting in this post.
- Town Stays - I look forward to town stays for days, and it's sometimes all that gets me through a rough stretch of terrain. However, often times we get into town all excited to finally have some time to relax only to find that our chores consume all of our free time. Every time we hit a town, showers and laundry are our first priorities. Unfortunately, it's not unusual to have to carry our dirty laundry half way across town to a non-air-conditioned laundromat in the middle of a 90 degree day. If a laundromat ever opens near my house, I'm going to open one with air-conditioning right across the street. I'll make a fortune. People rarely look more miserable than some of the sweaty locals I've seen fanning themselves with a gossip magazine while waiting for their laundry. Once the laundry is done, then it's time to buy groceries, check email, pay bills, do other miscellaneous real world chores, try to write a blog (even these blog posts can be a groan inducing task on our to-do list), and hopefully squeeze in a hot meal at a decent restaurant. By the time all of that is done, we've got to go to bed so we can get back on the trail at a decent hour the next day.
Wow. Okay, I guess I had some stuff pent up in there that I needed to get out. For that, I apologize. I would like to wrap up by saying that this is still an amazing trip. For the most part, I still really enjoy hiking: the scenery is beautiful, seeing all of the different trail towns is a truly unique experience, and our time in the woods makes things like taking a shower and watching TV more enjoyable than they've ever been. Any hardships I experience on this trip are just helping me to appreciate all of the bright spots even more. I promise I'll make it up to you with a post outlining everything that I love about the AT.
So...are we still cool? You gonna come back and read more blog posts? I'll let Bearcub and her positive little self write the next one.