Ways in which post-hike sucks.

2010 February 18
by admin

Well, having been back from the Appalachian Trail for more than two months has given me some perspective on life.  I have come to an important conclusion: Not hiking is hazardous to the health.  Seriously.  I consider myself to be a pretty healthy guy – eating reasonably well, running 10 miles (!) a day, maintaining a positive attitude, but, compared to the radiant health I enjoyed on the AT, I am now a certifiable Metabolic Syndrome X sufferer!

Here are some examples of how the “conveniences” of so-called “modern life” are gradually ruining me.

Artificial Light: When I was hiking, I had a headlamp and a candle.  It got dark around 4:30 PM most evenings, so I would read by candlelight for a while, then fall asleep, usually around 7 PM.  I’d be up about an hour before dawn, usually awoken by raging hunger, after a rest-full 10-11 hours of sleep.   Now, I’m staying up too late every night, dilly-dallying about on the internet, reading, etc…and waking up ill-rested and cranky.

The Preponderance of Caffeine and Alcohol: Wow.  I really missed good coffee and good beer.  So much so that I am trying to make up for lost time apparently.  Not so much with the beer, I suppose, as with the coffee.  I am drinking nearly 2 pots a day, with no acute effects, but it can’t be good for me, and I’m sure the excess carbohydrates from the beer can’t be good either.

Jobs:   I am amazed at the amount of time people spend at work, talking about work, worrying about work, and resenting work.  I am not so naive as to assume, like Thoreau does, “that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime,” but at the same time, I see so many that prioritize career over life that I begin to be depressed by the whole endeavor.  Being so recently satisfied with so little, it seems sad to me that many work so hard in service of the elaborate infrastructure required to maintain a modern life.

People: Damn, there are a lot of people in the world.  Pushing, rushing, ignoring – millions of ’em, everywhere!  How have I simultaneously multiplied and reduced the quality of my interactions with others?  Now, instead of 1 meaningful conversation a week, I have 50 meaningless ones.

Hygenic Bathrooms: During my hike, I visited a tree at 6 AM every morning, like clockwork.  In snow, freezing rain, bright sun, hail, wind, thunder, mosquitoes, etc…it did not matter, my 6-6:05 timeslot was an ironclad ritual.  Now, with unlimited access to clean bathrooms, yards of toilet paper, running water, magazines, etc…there is nothing to keep me from wasting time, idling in the bathroom, when I should be doing something, anything else…

Distractions: When I first began my hike, I spent at least a week in “distraction withdrawal,” a pernicious condition characterized by hyper-vigilance, twitchyness, boredom, and exaggerated facility in recalling bad sitcom theme songs.  Hour-long mental replay of the theme-song from “The Greatest American Hero,” anyone?  But after a time, the mental noise quieted, and I began to relish the stillness.  Now, I have access to Pandora, GrooveShark, NPR, books, magazines, and the stillness I have relished so much is…fleeting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be back, but some of these “advancements” just take a bit of getting used to.

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