In celebration of reaching the halfway point of this journey, I’d like to throw some optimistic vibes into the universe.
I’ve been saying “happy trails” to everyone I’ve passed for over 1100 miles now, with no intention of stopping. I don’t consider myself an extreme optimist, but how could I not still be smiling when there are so many great things to appreciate on trail?
Growing up, my sister and I had similar taste in books. One book that we could for sure, always, agree on was The Book of Awesome by Neil Patrisha.
As an homage to that book and as an additional breath of positivity into the world, I present to you 50 Awesome Things about trail life on the Appalachian Trail.
1) When you are awakened by pouring rain early in the morning but it stops completely by the time you have to crawl out of your tent. YES!
2) When you’re less than a mile from the campsite after a hard hiking day and your pace starts to pick up, and you get more chatty, and smiley, and you know that rest and dinner is mere minutes away. YES!
3) The skin care guru’s would be appalled. It’s been a while since you washed your face. Maybe 100 miles. But then, a gushing, beautiful stream, a tiny drop of tea tree Dr. Bronner’s and you have yourself the best face wash of your life. YES!
4) You’ve checked FarOut. It doesn’t even give an estimate of the distance to the shelter anymore, it just says “Nearby”. As you hobble along the trail, you see something through the trees. Could it be? The tin roof, the shelter you’re planning on sleeping at is just around the corner. YES!
5) It’s been a nippy day. You could use a hot cup of something. As you hobble towards the shelter, the smell is undeniable. Not thru-hiker, but campfire. Someone has already started a fire. YES!
6) When the rain lets up and the sun comes out just as you’re stopping for lunch…the odds are in your favour. It’s time to air out the tent and enjoy that warmth. YES!
7) The sun is just starting to peak into your tent. You’re mere minutes away from the best meal of the day. A hot cup of oatmeal. Breakfast. YES!
8) You’ve put in the miles. You’ve smacked your way to this point. The next break is the best meal of the day. Time for carbs and protein and a midday pick-me-up. Lunch YES!
9) Tent’s up. Thermals are on. Sleeping pad is inflated. Miles are complete. It’s time. Time for the best meal of the day. Supper. YES!
10) Yeah, you’re supposed to do it every day, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But today is the day. Bring on that downward dog. Stretching after a long few days will hit the spot. YES!
11) Hiker hunger is the real deal. You’re feeling insatiable. Before heading to the grocery store for a resupply, you take a peak in the coveted hiker box. Score, you found something you really wanted or needed, and it’s free. YES!
12) Bars are cheaper by the dozen. but you sacrifice on variety. Just when you thought you couldn’t handle one more chocolate chip cookie dough, another hiker offers a chocolate peanut butter. A match made in heaven, the trade to end all trades. YES!
13) You’ve been going up for a long time. It feels like hours. It seems like you must be close to the top when…there it is. A peak sign with the elevation and mountain name. You’ve reached the summit. At least, for this peak. YES!
14) It’s been a week or two. You’ve been moving. Putting in that forward momentum. Boom, there it is. On the ground, made of sticks. Someone took the care to spell out another 100-miles completed. YES!
15) That isobutane is going strong and the ramen depends on it. The water is boiling, the noodles are getting noodle-ier. Then, the fuel runs out. But it’s okay, because you’re going into town tomorrow. YES!
16) Resupply stops aren’t all created equal. Not every small town can promise a WalMart. So that’s when, even when it’s just a Dollar General or convenience store, when the resupply has your current favourite snack, it’s a win. YES!
17) You could eat another bag of chips, maybe even microwave some mac and cheese. But not tonight, because the hostel offers a home cooked supper and you’re about to indulge. YES!
18) Your feet work hard. The hardest, really. That’s why an icy foot soak is just what you need. And you’re in luck, the hostel is equipped with Epsom salts. YES!
19) All the hiking is done. The chores are completed. You’re well fed. You lie down on your inflatable pad and get ready to drift into a snooze. One final check — no mosquitoes or spiders or otherwise creepy crawlies have made it into the tent with you. YES!
20) It’s not like you were looking for something in particular. But we all have that wish list at the back of our minds. Is that a Gossamer Gear umbrella? Love it when you score at the hiker box in town. YES!
21) You open your eyes. Your quilt is dry, no condensation. You reach for the side of your tent, also dry, no condensation. You unzip the tent, dry, no rain. All dry. YES!
22) You didn’t put in the effort. Heck, you didn’t even pitch for groceries. But someone else at the hostel had a hankering to make something delicious and homemade and now there are leftovers. YES!
23) The 1-lb peanut butter jar is almost empty. There might be a stray oatmeal packet, but not much else. That’s because it’s a town day and your food bag is down to less than one day’s worth of food. It’s as light as a feather and so are you. YES!
24) You haven’t hit your toes off a rock in a while. No side stepping of roots. In fact, it’s mostly pine right now. Creamy, easy trail. YES!
25) Hikers coming your way. They look weary too, NOBOs! One offers a smile, the next a “have a great day!”, and the third lets you know that an awesome view is up next. Thanks for the optimism fellow hikers! YES!
26) You put in the hustle this morning. Woke up at a decent time, didn’t dawdle, got on trail swiftly. Now, it’s lunchtime and would you look at that…over halfway through the day’s miles. YES!
27) Your FitBit has been buzzing all day. Not only did you hit the daily step goal of 10 000, but you’re probably closer to 40 000 by now. And now, it’s time to peel off your trail runners and put on your camp shoes. Sweet release. YES!
28) Here and there throughout the day, you slip into “flow” state. You’re still walking, just not thinking about it at the present moment. In fact, are you even thinking at all? Or just flowing? Either way, after what feels like a minute, you look at your watch and notice an hour has gone by. Woah. YES!
29) Fold up the inflatable pad and shove it against the back panel. Then squish in the quilt, camp clothes, and anything that has to stay dry. Add in the food bag, the diddy bag and woah, everything fits in your bag just perfectly. YES!
30) You’ve earned it. Get comfy. You wiggle into your sleeping bag or quilt. You toss and turn and roll around like a worm and then it feels right. You’ve made it into that perfect comfy pose for falling asleep and after the crinkling from rolling around, slowly let the quiet settle around you. YES!
31) Is that? Could it be? Are you dreaming? It’s a dog. Someone has a dog on trail. And you get to pet it. YES!
32) The hard work is done. You’ve reached the top of a climb, and now? Ridgeline. No mosquitoes up here and you get to enjoy lovely flat trail with a view for a while before the descent. YES!
33) Mandatory pond day? I think yes. It’s hot and you haven’t bathed in days. Lakes and ponds are a glorious treat on trail and you shall indulge. YES!
34) Are you thru-hikers? Do you want a cookie? Uh, yes, always! Day hikers that carry extra snacks deserve a gold star. YES!
35) Not all tent sites are created equal. But today, there it is. Pristine ground. Flat. No rocks, no roots. A beautiful corner of the universe made perfectly to fit your tent. YES!
35) Is that a slight breeze? The sun is shining, but there are big, fluffy clouds providing a little shade. A slight breeze. The weather isn’t too cold, it isn’t too hot. It’s perfect. YES!
36) When’s the next water? Said no one today. You’ve only been carrying a litre at a time. You probably barely even need that much. There are so many streams today that having enough water isn’t even a concern at all. YES!
37) It’s been a normal day. You’re doing normal thru-hiker things. Probably hunger. Out of the blue, all of a sudden, you come upon unexpected trail magic. That grilled cheese never tasted so good. Thank you, beautiful trail angels. YES!
38) What’s the point of a tramily if not for moral support? That’s why a big long train of thru-hikers walking one-by-one feels so good. There’s a little chatter, some silence, but most of all, a little support from your peers and people to pass the miles alongside. YES!
39) You’re parched, but no water for at least a half dozen miles ahead. You’re conserving your last drop, when there it is. A trail angel has left gallons of water in jugs on the side of the road for you. Stay hydrated out there, folks! YES!
40) Unlike surprise trail magic, sometimes what you need to look forward to is a little planned trail magic. Gather your tramily members from various Eastern states and with a little luck, you’ll be rewarded with trail magic from the tramily’s families along the way. Thanks fam! YES!
41) You wouldn’t call yourself much of a blue blazer. But every now and again, there’s a viewpoint down a blue blaze. It’s supposedly beautiful. And this time, it’s less than a 0.1 mile side trail to the view. YES!
42) The perfect light reading for the end of the day is the shelter logbook. Little notes, mostly from people you’ve never heard of, with their highs and lows and little drawings and poems. It’s even better when you’re reading through the entries and find one from someone you’ve met before! Guide, Syrup, Cowboy, and Relay, we’ve been following your notes since you left us in Maine! YES!
43) It might not be vogue, but you’re feeling great. Ducks or donuts on your Chickn Legs shorts, maybe a colourful Buff around your head, are those porcupines on your socks? The best part? A day hiker just complimented your abscure thru-hiker fashion. YES!
44) A little or a lot of elevation gain calls for the right playlist. But sometimes it’s a hassle to dig into your fanny pack to choose the right song for the right moment. That’s why when a great song comes on while you’re going uphill, it’s extra special. YES!
45) When the book or podcast that you’re listening to is so good, sometimes you hardly notice the miles go by. And sometimes, it’s so good, you might burst into tears or laugh out loud in the middle of the trail. YES!
46) You’re sore. You’re always sore. But sometimes, you actually take the time and energy to stretch in the evening after the long day’s hike. And, without fail, you’ll be rewarded with the satisfying back crack from the supine twist yoga pose. YES!
47) You don’t always get to see the love that goes into maintaining the Appalachian Trail. That’s why it feels so good when you run into a trail crew and you get to say “thank you” in person. YES!
48) Everyone loves a clean space. And you love the chance to enjoy a roomy, airy, clean privy. Bonus points if it’s a mouldering privy. YES!
49) You’ve been trekking along through the green tunnel. The trees are beautiful, but you know what would be extra nice? There it is. A little break in the trees and a beautiful vista overlooking the surrounding area. YES!
50) 3-2-1, go! You’ve queued up a great album this time and you and a couple other people are listening in tandem. Warning: could cause impromptu dancing and possibly singing. YES!
Keep the Good Vibes Rolling
As I’m editing this blog post, eating breakfast in a café, the song, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys just came on the overhead speakers. My mom’s favourite band, the only CD in her car when I used to drive to weekend theatre rehearsals in high school, and an all-around great song. Feels like some kind of omen to me.
Happy trails, everyone!