AT Happiness: Changes

AT Happiness: Changes

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Bill Bryson has probably written the most famous book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. However it’s a terrible book to read if you are considering a thru-hike.  He is writing for comic effect and so he over emphasizes the negatives and makes hiking the trail seem awful. What he really misses though is the transformational power of adventure.  A challenge like thru-hiking the AT absolutely changes you.

The real question before coming out here was how would it change me? Happily my thru-hike continues, so the question remains open. However, I have noticed a few things.

Several people have remarked about how relaxed I look in pictures. My blood pressure is down, I’ve lost a little weight and I feel great. However, in the last few days I’ve noticed a particular change. I’m generally a person who is very much in his own head, as such, I’m often startled by someone coming up behind me.  I’m particularly reactive if someone approaches me while sleeping.

Over the last couple of days three things have happened.  First, a fellow hiker tapped me awake while I was sleeping. Second, a hiker quietly walked up behind me amd called out my name. Finally, in the wind the other day, a branch fell and hit me in the shoulder. All of these things would have ordinarily sent me off my feet and startled the hell out of me.

But, I barely reacted at all, walking the trail seems to have both relaxed and really mellowed me out. I can’t wait to see what other changes the trail brings as I walk more happy days my friends.  – Rev Kane

 

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AT Happiness: Hello Damascus, VA

AT Happiness: Hello Damascus, VA

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It’s been a while my friends so let’s catch you up. When last I posted I had just come across the humps in what was basically a hurricane and landed in the trail oasis that is the Mountain Harbour B&B, I’ll post more about them later.

Safely on the porch at Mountain Harbour B&B

Safely on the porch at Mountain Harbour B&B

I zeroed at Mountain Harbour and did a 4 mile slack pack before heading back to the trail.  The trail heading into VA is wonderful, nice grade, not real rocky and the climbs are smaller.

This allowed me to do my longest day to date a 21 mile hike into Kincora Hostel.  At the hostel I caught up with Jedi and he had already set up a shuttle past Wautauga Lake. There had been some aggressive bear activity and we decided to yellow blaze around it. So we bumped up 20 miles and between the bump and my long day I was now on pace to get to Damascus two days early.

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The trails were magnificent and except for one very cold night the weather was perfect.  I hit the TN/VA border and 4 miles later walked into the trail town of Damascus.

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This is the second town where the trail goes down Main Street.  So I stopped for a bite before going to the Old Mill Inn and had a great lunch and even better dessert.

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I’m currently rehabbing my tweaked and beat up knees for a few days before doing a 22 mile slack pack on Monday and then back on the trail Tuesday.

Damascus has been a place to switch out gear, the folks at Mount Rogers Outfitters have been fantastic.  This has also been a place to catch up with hikers I haven’t seen in a while.

Me and Mighty Mouse

Me and Mighty Mouse

I’ve hit some milestones in the last week. Passed the 400 mile mark, finished my third state and did my longest day!  Other than my knees, things are great and I’m having happy days my friends.  – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: Reflections on Happiness

AT Happiness: Reflections on Happiness

Me and the scouts

At Overmountain Shelter

First you examine the scenery, then you examine your gear, then you examine yourself Colin Fletcher

Today on a slack pack, a light pack day, I really had time to reflect on my thru-hike and my life, I guess Colin Fletcher was right.

A lot of people are out here walking things off.  My hope is that because of the work I’ve done over the last thirty years I don’t have much to walk off.

Today I reflected on all of this and I’m really happy about who and where I am. One thing that I thought about was a comment that has been said about how easy I have it. This comment angers me for a minute until I think about how ridiculous it is.

I didn’t grow up with a lot and I made a lot of mistakes and took all of the crooked roads as a young man. I left college significantly in debt.  Over the last thirteen years I’ve basically erased my debt and worked hard and been successful enough to put myself in position where I can take a year off and hike and write.

This was earned and not easily, but I deserve the happiness and freedom I have right now. Some people think a life where you follow your bliss is not as valid or valuable as a life that follows society’s script.

I disagree, and the evidence I present are the hikers I meet every day out here. They are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met and everyone of them is off society’s script and having happy days my friends. – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: A Fast Day

AT Happiness: A Fast Day

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After forty days on the trail I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of this whole thru-hiking thing.  Today was an easy day, I had planned to do a ten mile slack pack (hike with only a day pack) today but as I mentioned in my last post, I tweaked my left knee.  So instead of ten miles my first slack pack was a four miler.

I move slow, always have but after forty two days on the trail I know I’ve become a stronger, faster hiker.  Today was an interesting test of that theory.

The trail only had a few hundred feet of climbing and a small downhill run. Pre-hike I would have done the hike at about 2.5 miles per hour, about an hour and forty five minutes.

Relaxing tonight at the Mountain Harbour B&B

Relaxing tonight at the Mountain Harbour B&B

However today, with a sore knee and just strolling along, I did it in an hour and fifteen minutes, a three mile an hour pace. Apparently I have gotten a bit faster and that made for a happy day – Rev Kane

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Happiness Resources – Improving Your Mood

Happiness Resources – Improving Your Mood

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Babies should be classified as an antidepressant. It’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood around a 5-month-old baby. ~ Jim Gaffigan

So tonight some simple tips and pieces on how to improve your mood, enjoy and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

From Tiny Buddha.com, 34 Ways to Improve Your Mood When You Are Feeling Down

From Psychology Today, 7 Ways to Boost Your Mood and Fight Depression Without Drugs

10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood

From Web MD, 10 Ways to Improve Your Day in Just 5 Minutes

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AT Happiness: Leaving North Carolina Feeling Like a Bad Ass Hiker

AT Happiness: Leaving North Carolina Feeling Like a Bad Ass Hiker

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So I started this morning at Overmountain Shelter, an old converted barn that sleeps 21 people.  I shared the shelter with a boy scout troop out of Raleigh and they were great.

Overmountain Shelter

Overmountain Shelter

Me and the scouts

Me and the scouts

The hike for the day was a little over 10 miles, two big climbs over four miles and then six miles downhill. Not bad right? Well the wind came up at night, thirty mile an hour gusts.  The rain started at five in the morning. I hit the trail at seven thirty.

The rain got much heavier as I climbed, at 5000 feet I was on top of the first bald. The rain was now coming down sideways and the wind blowing over 40 miles an hour.  I was quickly getting soaked and then the sleet started.

The sleet was hitting the side of my head so hard it was stinging my ear through the hood of my rain jacket. After the third false summit I was starving.   The only problem, now I was soaked, the temperature was about fifty degrees with the windchill probably in the thirties. There was no cover so stopping to eat meant risking hypothermia.

Safely on the porch at Mountain Harbour B&B

Safely on the porch at Mountain Harbour B&B with a new dog friend

So of course, I starting singing at the top of my lungs in the wind and the rain and the fog. I marched across three miles of balds signing like a crazed viking seriously worried about my health for the first time on the trail.

It sucked! But I was laughing and happy, you have to embrace the suck, there was no other option, so why be upset. I was relieved to hit the treeline, right up until I relized the descent was full of muddy rockfalls.

The descent improved, I even found a dry spot under a rock ledge to eat a candy bar.  By the end of the hike I had actually caught and passed five other hikers. My speed was above my normal daily average. I fell once, I tweaked my left knee, I left North Carolina for the last time on the trail and I was soaked to my underwear. However for the first time on this trail I felt like a bad ass thru-hiker and I had a very happy day my friends. – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: A Magnificent Day

AT Happiness: A Magnificent Day

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Today, first thing this morning, we climbed Mount Unaka, 1000 ft in 1.3 miles.  Not the way I like to start the day, I’m not a morning person.  The climb was brutal and especially hard first thing in the morning.

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We were rewarded for our hard work with a magnificent summit.  The pictures are stolen off the net, mine are on my phone. But the summit was like something out of middle earth.  Bright green moss and conifers glistening with dew and reflecting what little sunlight that came through.

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It was the kind of place that brought instant peace and made you speak in hushed tones. An amazing place and a very happy day my friends. – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: Hemlock Hollow

AT Happiness: Hemlock Hollow

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Yesterday we had planed to do a 15 mile day. We did the first 4 miles and stopped at Mom’s Store, a trail oasis 100 feet off of the trail.  Coming rain, a positive review about Hemlock Hellow Hostel and a banged up hiking companion led us off the trail.

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We booked in for two nights with plans for a 20 mile slack pack the next day.  Bad weather forecasts, flood warnings, a friend’s bad knee and a free ride offer has us yellow blazing to Erwin, TN.

Miss Hattie

Miss Hattie

Hostel Guard Dog, warning he may lick you to death

Hostel Guard Dog, warning he may lick you to death

This change of plans left us on the porch at Hemlock Hollow enjoying the day. A day that started with Miss Hattie’s biscuits and gravy the best I’ve had since starting the Appalachian Trail.

The crew enjoying the day

The crew enjoying the day

A really nice suprise of a day, a happy day and as my hiking companion Jedi says every day in camp, this does not suck. – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: Hot Springs

AT Happiness: Hot Springs

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Hot Springs is one of those trail towns you look forward to getting to.  It’s the first town where the trail goes down Main Street.  We stayed at the Laughing Heart Hostel with our lovely host Tie.

Lovely Tie at Laughing Heart Hostel

Lovely Tie at Laughing Heart Hostel

It’s a hiker/tourist town and it has everything a hiker needs.  Multiple hostels, an outfitter, good restaurants and people seem truly happy to have us in town. I also have to give a shout out to the Spring Creek Tavern, best food in town and some of the best chicken wings I’ve had in a long time. But warning, do the mild!

AT markers on Main Street in Hot Springs

AT markers on Main Street in Hot Springs

Hot Springs also has the Hiker’s Ridge Ministry a really great spot to hang out and find what you need. Queen Diva and the crew are a hiker’s best friend.

Queen Diva at the Hiker's Ridge Ministry.

Queen Diva at the Hiker’s Ridge Ministry.

Hot Springs is an idyllic little spot, a vortex that can suck you in and keep you there. For our group it was also a place of drama where a lot of things went wrong and we were happy to leave it behind.

Soaking in the springs was a must do at the spa and during the day was only $15 for a really wonderful hour.  I’m glad I spent some time there and had a couple of happy days my friend.  – Rev Kane

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AT Happiness: Trail Suprises

AT Happiness: Trail Suprises

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The AT is full of surprises.  I’ve ended up hiking with the brother of someone I went to law school with 25 years ago completely by accident.  There are of course unexpected vistas and tucked away spots. My favorite, a rural church, was a covered picnic area a tenth of a mile off of the trail.  I ate a peaceful and wonderful lunch there on a sunny afternoon.

Photo by Shaggy Hobo

Photo by Shaggy Hobo

I’ve gotten lost three times so far and once found a heart shaped lichen on a tree (similar to the moss one in the picture above), second time I found an old grave yard where the most recent burial was 1900.  Yesterday we also came upon the wonderful old dam in the picture above.

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The boys at Hemlock Hollow

Today we found Mom’s Store, a perfect hiker stop two hours in and only 100 feet off of the trail.   While there we learned a storm was coming in and that there was a hostel just up the trail a bit.  Throw in the chance to slack pack 20 miles tomorrow and the rain starting and here we are at Hemlock Hollow having a happy day my friends.  – Rev Kane

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