With only seven days until I fly to Georgia to start the Appalachian Trail, the pre-hike anxiety is finally kicking in. It’s much better this year than it was last, though, when the months leading up to the PCT were spent in a near constant state of “what the fuck am I getting myself into” paralysis. This time the jitters are more benign, more sporadic. I’ll be washing a coffee mug in the kitchen and suddenly a wave of nauseanxiety (that’s a thing, right?) will hit: “Where are my stakes? Did I lose them somewhere? Do I still have all eight?”; “I know I’m forgetting something, but…what?”; “When is my flight to Atlanta? Did I make it for the wrong date? I didn’t miss it already, did I?” I’ll drop the soapy cup in the sink, run over to my laptop, log on to the airline’s website. My flight, of course, has not left yet.
But the main difference between this round of nerves and the previous ones, is that last year I had no idea what was about to happen when I set foot on the trail. While the fear of the unknown was very real and very present, there was an innate exhilaration to my naivete. The fear now is that I know what to expect.
It’s a different trail, of course, so on many levels I don’t know what lays ahead, but I do know what a long-distance hike looks like. What it feels like. How sometimes it hurts really, really bad, and other times, only a little. I know what it’s like to be soaked to the bone while setting up a wet tent in the rain, and to wake up still soggy in the morning and have to pack up said wet tent in the rain, ad infinitum (although I’ve been warned that I don’t even know the half of it. The other half, they say, I’ll know soon.) I know the demoralization that is blisters beneath blisters; swarms of mosquitoes so fierce that you fantasize about pouring Costco sized jugs of Deet over your head; shin splints that appear suddenly before a steep descent; that one no-see-um buzzing right between your eyes; and running out of songs to sing or things to think about so you start singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and, for the first time ever, you actually make it to 1. But even with all of that self-inflicted agony, I’m giddy at the thought of getting back on the trail.
What else…I’ve been staying at my parents’ house in San Francisco, eating their cupboards and refrigerator bare. Training, you know? My birthday was on Monday, so some good friends and I drove to the Santa Cruz mountains and celebrated with a camping trip amidst the towering redwoods. It pissed rain all night which was great because it never rains in California anymore, and because I was able to test the seaworthiness of my new shelter on its maiden voyage. Other than that, there’s been lots of Netflix watching, walking around the city in a t-shirt because it’s spring (!!), catching up with old friends, and more eating. Also, a handsome boy with an affinity for motorcycles and Edward Abbey asked me on a date the other night. Even though his timing sucks (and the thought of having dinner with a guy I don’t know very well is far more anxiety-producing than the thought of hiking from Georgia to Maine), I think I just might go.