The Swinging Pendulum

Julie atop Max Patch

Julie atop Max Patch

Something I have been reminded of lately is the swinging pendulum effect in all parts of the trail life. Not that this aspect is special to the trail life, but I believe it’s more deeply felt because of the rawness of the life to begin with. These last few days have been so volatile in weather, my mood, the trail itself and the overall experience.

Our first day in the Smoky mountains was a steamy 85 degrees, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. The next evening, a thunderstorm rolled in, which would have been fine, except that the next day it brought 30 degree temperatures, rain and in some elevations snow. One day I couldn’t stop sweating and therefore couldn’t drink enough water to keep up with my sweat, and two days later I was so cold that my hands could even undo my belt buckle so I could go to the bathroom, and I was surrounded by water I had no desire to drink. I honestly thought about peeing in my pants because at least the pee would be warm on my skin, and since my hands wouldn’t work to undo my pants buckle. I ended up taking the time to pee outside after my hands warmed up on an uphill climb.

The mountains have also proven to be volatile in the amount of ups and downs in elevation lately. One day we’re above 6000 feet, then below 2000, only to go right back up above 4000. There is not a superhighway trail without any exits down, or I would have found that route. I often have to remind myself that I’m walking through mountains, not meadows, and so it’s going to be difficult to go both up and down. The trail doesn’t always make the most sense in terms of keeping a flat surface, and while it sounds so logical, I get illogical the moment I start going uphill, knowing the trail will just go as steeply down on the other side. Why this is so hard to remember, I have no idea.

My mood has also been swinging back and forth. The first week I was feeling great both mentally and physically, it was exciting to be actually be happy in this life. Then reality of miles, patience, and cravings for town comforts kicked in and I was down for about two days. Both Matt and I started to burn more calories than we had packed, so our bodies just weren’t up for the climbing any more, and therefore it was hard to keep our minds on the tasks. As I’m sitting in Hot Springs, NC right now, my mood is fabulous. I’m surrounded by all the things I crave – a shower, a bed, and most importantly, food. I know this won’t be the last week that I swing from one mood to the other, but it was hard to take, being the first swing in extremes along the trail.

I’m sure the pendulum will continue to swing. Uphills will be followed by downhills, I doubt I’ve seen my last snowflake or raindrop, and sometimes I’ll just need to scream out loud in the woods because it feels good to let the bad mood out that way. Most of all, I need to stay focused on the task at hand – walking North on the Appalachian Trail.

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