Three Lessons Learned Before Getting On Trail

Wow. It’s been a wild time.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. Forgive my absence over the last few weeks. Life has been throwing me all over the place and I can finally sit down and reflect on wtf is going on in my world. I didn’t anticipate to be here right now on a computer typing this, yet here I am.

I did the thing. I moved out. My cats went to their temporary homes. I packed my bag. I got in a car. I road tripped all the way to GA and now I am sitting here anticipating my first official steps on the AT.

How did this all happen so fast?

It feels like just weeks ago I was waiting on last minute gear and worrying about my resupply packages and somehow I have found myself where I am. Cool, calm and collected, for now. I haven’t been able to sleep in what feels like days. The anticipation has been driving me insane. But now I am here. Now it is happening and now I have no excuse but to just do that damn thing and walk on home. How can it be that simple?

During my time on the road I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some lovely humans who have much more experience than I do. Being able to soak up their hiker trash wisdom and gain some perspective on what the reality of my life will look like for the next 5-6 months was a game changer. It humbled me in so many ways and I am so thankful for their knowledge. I learned a lot about myself as a hiker and about my ability to adapt to the ever-changing environment. Lessons were learned, thankfully.

So what did I learn on my shimmy shakedown hike?

  1. Look UP before pitching your tent.

    • Sounds simple, right? When you’re exhausted and food motivated the last thing in the world you want to do is worry about where you’re pitching your tent. Unfortunately I found out that there is something called “Widow Makers” on the trail. A widow maker is a branch that is falling or partially fallen from a tree. No big deal right?Wrong. If you pitch your tent under one of these you are at risk of it falling and impaling your sweet soul while slumbering in la la land. No thank you. I had the pleasure of setting up camp under one of these on a lovely flattened area. It was the perfect pitch, the perfect spot, under a tree branch of sudden death. The sad thing was I wasn’t worried about it hurting me, but about it piercing my tent. HAH! Needless to say, I won’t be making camp without looking up EVER again.
  2. Pooping in the woods is AWESOME.

    • Excuse me? That’s right. Pooping in the woods is epic. There’s something really special about getting to a shelter and realizing that the privy has the best view, even better than the shelter itself. Waking up at sunrise and shitting in the privy while watching the sun crest pop up over the mountains, come on. You’re shits can’t get much better than that. Digging a cat hole to aim into, also magical. It was a true test of my aim and squatting skills. All of those years teaching the “primal squat” in Pole has helped strengthen my ability to be the best pooper I can be. I will aim, I will conquer, I will bury it alive. For all of you out there using a squatty potty, you’re ready for the real deal. I dare you.
  3. People suck at putting out fires.

    • If you make a fire YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING IT OUT all the way. I don’t care that you don’t want to go get more water to put out the damn fire. Just do it. It was SO disappointing to show up in two different places and go to build a fire and find that not only was the pit still hot but it still had embers. Embers that I used to build a fire again. If you are out there and you build a fire you are the one who needs to make sure it goes out. If you don’t want to get enough water to put it out then I am sorry you do not deserve to have a fire. Not to be a fire warden over here or anything but seriously we wonder why there are wildfires all over and now I know. I highly encourage you to hold yourself and peers accountable if you are making fires on trail or anywhere. Be the better person and take the extra time to put the fire out. Pee on it for all I care. Just make sure it’s completely out or I will send the Balrog to take you to your doom.

I guess not all of these things are “lessons” but maybe just things I learned in general. I got to overcome some fears I had leading up to the trip and also get into the mindset of what it means to be in the woods. I got to night hike for the first time. Which wasn’t as disorienting as I anticipated. We did a sunrise hike which was my first trail sunrise. I learned that I really love salty snacks on trail. Learning that sleeping alone in a tent isn’t as terrifying as I wondered.

Overall I had a wonderful experience.

Thankfully I was able to get those miles under my toes before stepping into the unknown alone. My friends helped calm my nerves and answer every possible anal hiker question that came to mind. It’s awesome knowing that there was ZERO judgement and that 99% of the things I was curious about they all went through at some point in their hiking journey themselves. At the end of the day we all want the same thing, to feel alive and to feel free. I can honestly say that I have never felt more myself than when I am surrounded by nature and the company of like minded humans. Thanks to all of them I now feel fully prepared to do this. They shook down my pack, showed me things I don’t need to bring and questioned me about things I held onto. It’s nice knowing I had a send off as magical as I did.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The beginning is so close I can taste it. Here I come Appalachian Trail, here I come.

For more frequent updates & trail shenanigans follow me on Instagram!

@artistsrukus

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