Nov 3, 2010 at 7:08 am #1265090
Does anyone have any advice on a good book or advice in general that I could share with a friend who is coming back after finishing the AT? I hear that it can be depressing and difficult. I know that I have struggled after just 3 weeks in the wilderness.
Thanks!Nov 3, 2010 at 7:37 am #1660612
@sixguns01Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
This isn't a self-help book but one that made transition to modern life a bit more bearable. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryce. Its funny as hell and is a real life account of the author attempting the AT.
My friend used when he completed the AT. Another hiker recommended it. He said it helped because he could relate and connect to the experiences while seeing them and AT hikers in a whole new light. It made fun of the hikers and this "accomplishment" while showing the fortitude it takes to do it. It also went through some of the readjustment of modern life and made fun of that situation. Making my friends life a bit easier.
I am not long distance packer but enjoy being out there. I read this book as my friend recommended it to me. Laughed my a$$ off. First couple of chapters basically state how crazy and stupid of an idea it is to take on the AT. Good book for anyone.
Laughter works. If it ain't fun; it ain't worth it!
Hope this helpsNov 3, 2010 at 8:01 am #1660618
Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Having a job to come back to helps a lot – you have to snap back into your previous life.
If though you end up being aimless for another 9 months after…..Nov 3, 2010 at 8:10 am #1660624
@dharmabumpkinLocale: San Gabriel Mtns
I know this can be important. When I hiked the JMT I brought along a book to read. Unfortunately it was Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine which is a fantastic book but didnt have me excited about society when I got back.
Journey to the East by Herman Hesse
Its a book that is an allegory for our own spiritual journey. Not nature, but journey related so its relevant I think. The book is relatively short, a breeze to read, a personal favorite, and uplifting.
Quote: "For our goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not onlya country and something geographical, but it was the home and the youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times."
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
About a person who's ship has arrived at port. He is about to leave his city forever and the people ask him to impart his truth. The book consists of his lessons spoken to the people.
Quote: "Life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love."
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Good chance he already read this but if not, its required reading.
Quote: "So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it… and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"Nov 3, 2010 at 8:59 am #1660639
I love Kerouac but reading him might make it harder to re-enter society by being drawn further to the road. Is there a book that describes how great a 9-5 and a mortgage and all the stress that goes with it are? Probably not, better read Kerouac.
Dharma Bums quote: "I wanted to get me a full pack complete with everything necessary to sleep, shelter, eat, cook, in fact a regular kitchen and bedroom right on my back, and go off somewhere and find perfect solitude and look into the perfect emptiness of my mind and be completely neutral from any and all ideas."Nov 3, 2010 at 9:35 am #1660650
Jacob LintonBPL Member
@gardenheadLocale: Western NCNov 3, 2010 at 10:34 am #1660688
Brian SenezBPL Member
Best way to recover from a long distance hike is to start planning your next adventure. When I got back from the AT I was a little bit lost after spending so much time in the woods. Everything was so fast paced and people were so stressed about stuff that didn't matter. I still sleep on my pad on the floor every night (four years since my thru). When I am hiking I don't really talk about gear much, but when I am home planning a new trip gear is great!
Also on whiteblaze there are a ton of threads like this that might help.Nov 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm #1660723
This is all really great information. Thank you!Nov 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm #1660750
While i have not had the opportunity yet in life to do a long hike. I like to design my gear to be durable as well as lightweight, so I don’t have to worry about my gear when im hiking. I would instead be confident knowing it will work so I don't have to care when im hiking. When im hiking, I would prefer to think about nothing at all and just be there.Nov 3, 2010 at 1:14 pm #1660754
@xpatrickxadLocale: Upper East TN
I think you might be making a bigger deal out of it than it is. The AT especially is a very social trail and you're in town generally every few days so its not like you've been out in the middle of nowhere alone for years. I took it easy for a few weeks after I came back from my AT thru, but it wasn't really needed. I don't think any of my friends had too much of a hard time either. Plus you're friend will still be in contact with all their trail buddies so they'll have people to talk to and relate to about any issues they're going through.Nov 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm #1660762
I agree with you! I haven't done the AT, just a few 3 week trips and I lived in a tent/earth lodge for a year, I wasn't hiking all the time but just living simply. I had a really hard time with walls. I missed feeling the wind and hearing nature. I found myself standing on the porch periodically just to see what was happening out there. I still do this, and probably always will.
And, I had a hard time with people getting all uptight about nothing. I felt like I was playing a game of negativity dodge ball. Supermarkets were really hard. But now I just keep going back to the peace I learned from time spent in nature and close the door on negativity when ever it comes at me. Continuously getting outside to hike, sit, garden, anything! really helps me too.
I'll check whiteblaze out, thank you!Nov 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm #1660776
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I found myself standing on the porch periodically just to see what was happening
> out there. I still do this, and probably always will.
Sounds good to me.
Yeah, after spending 2 – 3 months walking in Europe we have a few days recovery. Ha – some of which is spent tidying up the house and weeding the garden. And washing clothes. And … relaxing.
> Supermarkets were really hard.
Resources, (food) resources … :-)
A bit of mental discipline is all that is needed there. And a check on the prices.
CheersNov 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm #1660803
Stephen BarberBPL Member
Sorry, but when I saw the title of this thread, I was expecting something along the lines of how to get a shower and clean clothes before entering the first restaurant post hike!!!!
The phenomena y'all are experiencing is exactly the same as ex-patriot workers call "culture shock" or "reverse culture shock". Since you will indeed experience it, you need to expect it, and don't let it throw you. It is simply the shock your minds goes through when changing (social) environments.
There have been many books and articles written on this – read some before you leave, and you should be well prepared when you return.Nov 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm #1660804
Mary DBPL Member
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
My longest distance hikes have been 3 weeks, and I've had two 3-month trips to Europe. I still have troubles "re-entering." It doesn't help that, being retired, I don't have to go back to work. In some ways, it was better that I did have to go back to work, because I had no time to relax and feel sorry for myself!
I posted this info on a regional forum just this morning in answer to a similar question:
It's discouraging that I arrive home with unpleasant chores facing me–house to clean, laundry to do, lawn to mow (most of the year), bills to pay, etc. Even if I've groomed my dog and vacuumed the house (in that order) just before leaving, somehow big drifts of Hysson hair emerge from nowhere while I'm gone and are all over the floor when I walk in the door!
I always have problems sleeping indoors the first 2-3 nights after a backpacking trip. I do appreciate the hot shower, fresh green salad, a steak fresh fruit and ice cream , but I'd prefer to go right back out that same night!
It really does help if I force myself to get out on a dayhike for a couple of hours every day (nice thing about living right next to the Columbia River Gorge). It also helps to start planning the next trip right away! No matter what, though, coming home from an adventure is really a downer!Nov 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm #1660841
As usual, I have a contraian view. I have done two 6-month trips (many, many years ago) and many multiple week trips.
For me; you just accept the fact that the adventure is finished. To be honest, I really looked forward to going back to work and it never even dawned on me that there could/would be some sort of "postpartum" blues.
But then, as a kid, I was thrilled when summer vacation was over so I could go back to school.
A good friend of mine did the entire PCT about 8 years ago. He had quit his job to do it. When he got back, he was anxious to get his old job back and just jumped back into society without consequences.Nov 3, 2010 at 9:42 pm #1660914
Peter LongobardiBPL Member
@paintplongoLocale: Hopefully on the Trail
When I got off the AT just over a year ago, it was pretty tough. So many choices and options that I wasn't used to having. Also, decision making beyond how far to walk and what to eat.
My advice is be patient with your friend and just listen to his stories. Beware all of his stories will relate to the trail for the next year.Nov 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm #1660930
@rcowmanLocale: Canadian Rockies
We should ask him how he does it… his trips are a bit more intensive than most peoplesNov 4, 2010 at 7:53 am #1661008
I think I have finally gotten used to the transition/culture shock of coming back from any long trip, but it took me 10 years of experiencing it. I get it now and can "walk between both worlds", which is how it feels. I now refer to the world of people/society as the "other wilderness". But there were two trips that totally threw me. I came back and realized that I didn't fit in the world I had left. Relationships ended, jobs transitioned, and I spent a lot of time wondering what to do with my life when everything seemed so unimportant. All I wanted was to be back out on the trail, or on the river, or bumming around South America-aka living what felt like a free and simple life. I think it would have helped me to have had someone to talk to who understood what I was experiencing when I came back. Maybe would have helped me transition gracefully.
All aspects of life are an adventure.Nov 4, 2010 at 8:20 am #1661013
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
"Best way to recover from a long distance hike is to start planning your next adventure."
+1 on that for those both willing and able. In fact, the best way for me to know that I'm still interested in long distance hiking is to start thinking almost right away about the "next trip". If I can stomach — or better yet look forward to — a multi-thousand mile hike right after having finished one, then I'm likely to be okay going forward with it.
I also sort of agree with, I think Patrick said that a person can make too big a deal out of it. Partly it might be just how "epic" your friend thought his adventure was. The more a person buys into the "glorious thru-hiker" hype, perhaps the more jarring is the transition. If instead you think of yourself as a somewhat monied hobo, then returning home is pretty nice indeed.
Expectations are a factor; there's a tendency to dream about the comforts of home when things are less comfortable on trail, and forget about any negatives. It's just going to be hard for any real home to live up to what the hiker might be looking forward to.
I think I'm not alone in almost thinking of myself as two people, the "at home" me, and the "on trail" me. Heck, I even have two different names, a different set of friends, (somewhat) different clothing, etc. I don't know if that helps or hurts the transition, but it's a factor.
For me personally, I've found it all too easy to just slip back into the ruts that I left before a long trip. There are always good intentions to shake things up a little back home based on the experience, but the inertia and habits of home are powerful. And seductive (I can get quite lazy …).Nov 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm #1661306
Just finished the cdt today. Re-entry is overrated!Nov 5, 2010 at 5:26 am #1661364
I agree, Jack– re-entry is overrated. Since hiking the AT in 2007, I have never fully re-entered society. Every time I start, it just turns into another temporary situation on the way to the next adventure. The biggest thing for me is to have goals. After the AT it was the New England Trail. After that it was the PCT. After that… well I don't have a major goal set just yet, but it hasn't been very long since the PCT. I'm still working on coming up with the next idea.
And even if the next goal is a house and a job, at least it's something to work toward. If you've just spent several months walking with the end goal of Katahdin or Canada or Mexico or whatever, you're very used to defined goals. It's nice to come back to that same sort of structure once you're done with the trail as well.Nov 5, 2010 at 11:23 am #1661454
If one's goal in life is to string a series a thru hikes together, then it is going to be difficult to re-enter society because the time in society is just enough to plan and execute the next adventure.
It was mentioned that Andrew Surka might have some useful insight. We need to keep in mind that Adventuring is his job, so his experiences might not be completely valid for the rest of us.
If one's goal is to make longer hikes a PART of who we are, then it is easier. My longest hikes did not have a specific route-goal, they were time oriented. I wanted to finish them in 6 months. The goal was just to walk without company, be self-reliant, and enjoy the hike/nature. No big philosophical goal. The first one was to hike from Kernville CA north for 6 months. No set destination. When I got close to Yosemite, I did not like the crowds, so I turned around and retraced the entire route back to Kernville. When I was done, I was ready to go back to work, go to school, read some books, and enjoy my other hobbies.
One a similar note, in 1979 I sold my business and had money in the bank and a lot of free time. I took a multi-month motorcycle trip across the US and back through Canada. I got to the point where I just wanted to ride my motorcycle everyday and camp at night. That period was difficult for me to get back into society, because I did not have to work every day, and I was more interested in riding my bike and visiting places.Nov 8, 2010 at 8:43 am #1662161
Wait. Nick. This is not meant to sound disparaging but you spent six months hiking from kernville to ansel adams and back?
Man that's slow! And snowy! I'd love to spend a summer in the sierra..Nov 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm #1662424
It was a wonderful trip, the best I have ever done, and I was nearly self-supported on trout, Top Ramen, rice, tortillas, oatmeal, and Kool Aid with cyclomates.
Cyclomates are the milestone that separates generations. A few of us old timers know what it is.
I ate trout almost every day… and it can take time to catch dinner. I usually broke camp around 8 or 9 in the morning and stopped around 3 in the afternoon to fish and enjoy myself. And when I found nice places I stayed for awhile, such as the Kern Plateau where golden trout was plentiful. This was in the days of no wilderness permits and almost no one hiking up Whitney. The only permit required anywhere was a campfire permit. I left Kernville on Apr 1, 1971… so it was very slow going at first!! I got to enjoy 3 seasons; spring, summer and fall. Lots of snow on the ground the first two months, but overall nice weather.
I knew nothing about the JMT or PCT. My only maps were NFS maps. They were free at the Ranger stations and similar to the ones sold today.
BTW I caught 5 species of trout one day below the Forks of the Kern (rainbow, brown, brook, golden, and kokanee salmon).
I did not know that backpacking stoves existed, and I still have (somewhere in the garage) my Boy Scout style "mess kit" and a small pot that I used over camp fires. My pack was a Kelty D4, and I had a Canadian brand down bag. I used a tarp as my shelter. Pants were military wool trousers and I had a Pendleton Wool shirt. Big heavy leather boots with Vibram soles. Can't remember what kind of jacket. Snowshoes were ancient looking things. Rain gear was a poncho, which sometimes doubled as a ground sheet. Still have the Buck knife I took on that trip. I had a conventional spinning reel set-up for fishing. It never dawned on me to weigh my gear, but must have been well over 60lbs at the start and at re-supplies.
My prior backpacking experience were trips in high school with a friend and many solo trips… all in fair weather. I did have extensive military survival training after high school, and before this trip. I walked into Lone Pine (twice) hiking each way for major re-supplies. I did a few other minor re-supplies, but can't remember exactly where. One might have been Mammoth. At the time, I was not very familiar with that part of the Sierras.
I had no goal other than to wander around for about 6 months and that goal was achieved with great success. I knew little about the Sierras other than time in the southern Sierras around Kernville and the Domeland Wilderness. I had some maps and went places that looked interesting… although I had a general idea of where I was going before I started the trip. Basically I hiked some of the most spectacular country in the US, and did not know before hand that it existed. Sort of like when I bought Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band on the first day it was released… never heard a single song on the album, and ended up listening to it over and over for two days… even ditched school to do it.
I had never read anything about backpacking until I finished this trip and picked up the first Complete Walker. Been refining my gear ever since.Nov 9, 2010 at 5:40 am #1662455
Great story nick. Thanks for recounting a little. A summer in the sierra is a high priority for me.
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