I’ve been off trail for the past few days. It’s a remarkable feeling. After four hundred miles of walking, I’m in thruhiker shape. My legs are rock hard, I’ve lost the my normal bits of flabbiness and I’m tan. I could walk another two thousand miles.
Fitness is not the reason that I hike. But I’m happy that it’s a byproduct. And while it’s not the reason, It’s one of the things that I enjoy the most about distance hiking. A lot of my enjoyment comes from traveling fast and far. I like the challenge. I like pushing myself. I like seeing lots of places in a shorter period of time.
Hiking the AT was pleasant and fun, but it was not spectacular nor inspiring. It’s a long forest walk. If I compare my photos of the scenery of the PCT or CDT with those of the AT, there are clear winners. In my AT photo albums, I generally gloss over the scenery and landscape shots. Trees. Views of hills. A reservoir. The interesting photos are those of the people and the details. Freefall walking through ice covered forests. A building’s fireplace and chimney right on the trail, with no trace of the house. A trail called “Chunky Gal Trail”. Fellow hiker Llama Legs eating peanut butter and Nutella with his tent stakes. The western trails have those things too. And they have the scenery.
And still, I’m happy to hike the AT. I love long hikes. The challenge, the people, the communion with nature, the travel, the self reliance, all are enough for me to hit the trail.