No joke, I’ve probably read 3 dozen books about the AT.
I started with A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. And after 3 dozen books, Bryson’s is still in my top five.
But this week, I read a different kind of book about the trail, and it’s worth talking about.
Zach Davis, aka The Good Badger, wrote a book after his 2011 thru-hike (as most successful thru-hikers tend to do). Most books about the trail are about the writer’s experiences and how-to prepare for the hike.
This book has all that, but so much more.
Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail is a primer for getting ready… with a different take. Badger says half the battle *is* being prepared, but it isn’t with gear lists and food lists (gasp! no lists? ) but rather, with mental and emotional tools to help you get through the trials of the trail.
The first thing he asks you to do is make lists (yay!!) of what you intend to get from this experience, and what you stand to lose. Of course, I sat right down to write my lists. I kind of surprised myself with some of the answers.
Badger’s book is the first one that I’ve encountered that tries to prepare the hiker mentally to deal with the hardships, deprivations and trials that a thru-hiker will encounter. There’s no way around these things, so Badger’s advice is to expect them, welcome them, and have fun anyway!
It sounds really simple to say, but having fun during and after hardships is anything but easy. As Michael J. Fox said, “Happiness is a decision.” After reading this book (for the first time, I will read it again closer to my hike), I choose to be happy.
I know I’m going to get blisters, I know I will chafe, I know I will have days I just don’t freaking want to, I know I will mess up my meds and my brain will do funky Bipolar-y things. I am choosing here and now to be happy through all of it. To be present in that day, that moment… to listen to my body and realize that the only schedule I have is making it to Katahdin before Oct 15th.
I won’t have papers to grade or exams to give or meetings to attend. I won’t be rushing from school to physical therapy to home to game night to whatever. I won’t have to deal with Houston traffic and noise. I am choosing to live for the moment I’m in, now and on the trail.
Have you chosen to be happy?