[at-l] delays and doubts, stopping and not... Re: Cherokee Tom

Sloetoe sloetoe at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 9 12:59:12 CDT 2007

--- Felix J <athiker at smithville.net> wrote:
> pudscrawler at aol.com wrote: 
> > Tradition?  Weather?  "Rules?"
> <<in response to this>>
> >This reminds me of a question I've often had. Why
> does it have to be next year? Why not later this
year (assuming the infection clears up, etc. )?  Why
do so many hikes end that could just be delayed? 
> > 
> There's a tradition of not being able to start
hiking again once you've stopped?  There's a rule?
And, if you're going to let weather stop a thru-hike,
you probably shouldn't think of starting one to begin

### I think there's a loss of momentum at work -- the
same sort of psychological drama that hits 600 miles
up when NOBOs realize they've barely made a dent in
Virginia, after peeling off Georgia and North
Carolina, and an entire National Park and Tennessee,
pop pop pop pop pop, all that fast. Even if it hits
way down in Georgia, I think problems can be so
deflating that the hiker can perceive the entire
endeavor to be impossible -- a prize to be possessed
only by others who have some lucky quality that they
themselves lack. Doubt that you can go "all the way"
-- when you can't even pull this hill in front of you
-- will bash you right between the eyes. ('Get up
every morning and say "I'm *not* going to reach
Katahdin, today."') Mix a little doubt with a far-off
target, and you have a useless, unreachable goal,
sought by an unworthy seeker -- "a pretender" to glory
undeserved. "This is just no fun any more."

### Doubts and injuries feed the delays, and a
self-reinforcing cycle is born. "I don't have time to
make it..." is not spoken by someone who's already
peeled off six or eight 20-mile days, but by someone
who has no conception that they really can,
*reasonably*, get there.

(GADawg is all excited right now about a
half-marathon. Her feelings are real -- *palpable* --
but she should carefully catalog her mileage and
reflections, because thirteen-point-one will *never*
represent the same sort of hurdle again. This is a
precious time -- "challenge" comes from reaching, and
a half-thon mayyyyy just not do it in the future.
{Heh! You been warned!}

And when the injury or delay hits your momentum (the
new and unclear measure by which now gauge your
progress and self-worth?!?) -- it can *so* knock the
wind right out of your sails.

### And so you quit. "I'll finish next year!" "I'll
know so much more!" "I'll sure be lighter!" "I need
more practice!" Thoughts of re-arming and re-entering
the fray at a later date help assuage the
disappointment and sense of failure.

### The above are *my* thoughts on the subject,
reflecting where *I* was in 1979. I had had (I
thought) a long history of backpacking -- 853 miles --
but in *one* state. I had four seasons of experience,
but only one hike with a real "reprovisioning" on
trail. And with no longer hike, I'd never faced the
discipline of cutting the extraneous out of my pack. I
was truly the "a little knowledge can be a dangerous
thing" hiker.

### I had little money, and little zero-day time.
Every time I would be delayed, I'd leave town and race
mightily forward to join hikers whose trail names I'd
recognized (who were generally going out of town as I
was arriving). Then I'd sit and watch as more of my
zero-time (and money) evaporated. "WHAP!" to the
momentum. I spent 10 days in Hot Springs (money wire
delay), 5 days in Damascus (sloetoe surgery), 5 days
in Pearisburg (drying boots too wet to resole by
virtue of 3 flooding weeks of rain), 4? days in
Waynesboro (stolen parka and just general pissed-off
depression) before I really had to confront the
Sirens' song "Ohhhh, we're so proud of what you've
done.... stay right there and we'll send you money for
a bus ticket home..." Delayed, derailed, and

### What kept me going? Pride and dumb luck. Each
time, I thought about whether the circumstances were
sufficient to find me back in my home town saying
"Yeah, I just had to quit." And each time, I couldn't
do it -- I couldn't see myself saying those words.
Pride and dumb luck. And by the time I figured out the
true foolishness of heading to Katahdin from Georgia,
and by the time I had learned that I could stack 20
mile days up two and three and eight at a time, and by
the time I came to see "What can I do *today*?" as an
appropriate, non-cop-out measure of my hike's progress
(and so my own self-worth), it was too late to look
back. The momentum was there -- was well-established.

### So is there a "tradition" of quitting with an
injury or illness? I think yes. I think momentum is
weak, and that putting a hurt on progress puts a hurt
on motivation. "Cut and run!!!" But I think too that,
among the intrepid (and the foolish), there *may* be
an equally observed tradition of staying on task and
on trail. Stolen gear, broken limbs, loss of loved
ones, or simply "trail blues" -- go to any Gathering
and you'll hear all these stories.

### Am I glad I stuck my hike out? Absolutely. I still
think it's a miracle that I made it. I "found" time in
the calendar to push my deadline out 10 days, I
"found" time by stacking some longish days and
skipping Massachusetts ("Whaaa!" I'd only hiked it
once, but I still had to do home state Connecticut for
the umpty-umpth time, right?), I "found" money by
buying the last 750 miles worth of food ahead and
sending it to POs instead of buying along the
route..., and I made it with NO time (or money!) to

(Finished on Monday, September 11th, Hitched home
Tues/Wed, Doctors and Dental appointments Thursday and
Friday, and bussed out to northern Wisconsin Saturday
and Sunday, registered for classes on Monday, the last
day to drop/add, and started life as a college
freshman on Tuesday, one hellacious week after
climbing Katahdin on a Triple Death Don't Climb day.
Oh, and did I mention the All You Can Eat cafeteria at
the college? They gave me a Christmas card at the end
of that freshman semester....)

Oh well.
Give life a shot, will you?

Spatior! Nitor! Nitor! Tempero!
   Pro Pondera Et Meliora.

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