Monday, January 11, 2010

Traveling West

I keep trying to move forward from my AT experience. Particularly on this blog. Although I'm not sure how that's going to happen. I hiked before my thru and I keep hiking. But my life will remain changed by my experiences and lessons from my thru-hike. I didn't set out to 'find myself' or 'see what I was made of' or really learn from the trip. I like hiking and wanted to hike certain parts of the AT so a thru just made sense.
Like most people that do a long distance thru-hike I was in a transitional point of my life. I think that's one of many reasons why we long distance hikers get along so well. Its not just our love of the outdoors and cheap beer. Its the fact that we're for the most part at similar points in our lives whether we're just out of college, getting a divorce or changing our careers. It could a self made transition (like mine) or one that just happened.
I'm a different person now then I was this time last year. The major part of this was a change of outlook and priorities that happened on my hike. One of the big reasons that I hike and love getting out is that it really gives me a perspective on my life. I think better when I'm walking outdoors. I get a chance to review my priorities and refocus. It gives me clarity, drive and helps me set new goals.

Arches National Park. Utah.

One of those people that I met on the trail was my buddy Blondie. We spent a lot of time hiking together on the trail whether we liked it or not. It seemed like we couldn't get away from each other. I kid of course we got along pretty good. Post trail life Blondie was still in a bit of a transition and decided to move from Eastern Mass to Portland Oregon. I had a little (very little) money left over and had some time so I made the drive across the country with him. It was a chance I couldn't pass up. An opportunity I would never have had if I didn't hike and meet the people I met.

You really discover the beauty of this country when you get to drive across it. Not in the same intimate way you do when you walk. The slower the better as far as I'm concerned.
We did get some walking in on this trip and did a good bit of hiking out in Utah. First off we hit Arches NP. If you're ever out in the Moab area spend some time in Arches. Its a small park, but filled with tons of sights. Plus it was the least visited of the UT parks we went to and the cheapest.

The backcountry in Arches was a totally new experience to me. It something I've always dreamed of hiking. All off trail desert hiking. It gave me a chance to practice map and compass skills that you don't really use back home in southern Appalachian terrain.

The scope and scale of things out west can be pretty shocking to some east coast people. In arches its all pretty flat and expansive with this massive rock formations that seem to come out of nowhere. It seems like you can either see everything or nothing.

The wind in the desert is something that I've never experienced before. I'm no stranger to strong wind. When I crossed Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire's Whites I had 40mph sustained wind and even stronger gusts blowing rain like shotgun blasts into my face and hands. I was blown around and blown over into rock cairns and I've experienced strong wind and hail in NC and TN's balds. The wind and the sand of the desert can be pretty brutal too. At least its not cold and wet like windy rain or sleet on the east though. But when you don't have snow anchors it can be a bit tough to stake out your tent in the soft sand until the wind dies down around sunset.

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