You need to learn which voices to listen to on the trail
Buzz Trexler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Holiday decorations had yet to be put up Friday morning when I decided to step on the Wii balance board to see how much weight I had put on over the Christmas season.
Imagine my joy when I learned that I had actually lost 2.2 pounds, logging in at 227.75 -- yet, it was short-lived as the scale remained in the “Obese” category.
When it once suggested that my weight should be 157.2 pounds, Donna exclaimed, “You’d look like a frail old man!”
For me, progress along the trail is all that matters.
When I first hoisted a pack on Memorial Day Weekend in 2010, planning to journey about 18 miles on The Appalachian Trail from Hughes Gap to Apple House Shelter, the scales jockeyed back and forth between 237 and 240 pounds. Scaling Hughes Gap with its climb of 2,100 feet in 2.5 miles, I felt every ounce of that weight as well as the 37-pound pack.
Less than halfway into the climb, I was gasping and wheezing with streams of sweat covering my glasses to the point of obscuring my vision. As I hoisted myself up craggy parts of the trail, my two bad feet would occasionally shoot twinges of pain into a mind already filled with doubts. Next thing I knew, my mind was caught up in “The Tyranny of What-ifs,” such as, “What if I lame up on the trail? How will they get me out?”
Every once in a while, hike leader Steven Gilreath and my son, David, would shoot me worried looks.
“Are you OK, Dad?”
“Sure, son,” I’d wheeze. “I just need to stop a minute.”
Too bad I didn’t recognize The Enemy who seemed to be perched on my shoulder, whispering, “You’re not going to make it. You can’t do this thing. You’re too old and too out of shape. You shoulda started 30 years ago. It’s too late.”
But I didn’t, and the next thing I knew I was thinking, “OK, you need to think about getting picked up Sunday morning at Carver’s Gap.”
Our first overnight stop was to be Roan High Knob Shelter. At 6,275 feet, it’s the highest backcountry shelter on The Appalachian Trail. Family tradition maintains it always rains on Memorial Day Weekend at our place near Roan Mountain and we weren’t disappointed. What did disappoint us was that the three-man Coleman tent David, Cole and I were going to share leaked like a sieve. We weren’t alone though and several of us piled into the shelter, occupying the upper floor while two apparent insomniacs shared the bottom level.
All night long, The Tyranny of What-ifs disrupted my sleep: “You know, it’s about 15 miles between here and Apple House Shelter with no take-out. What if you lame-up? You’ll ruin it for everybody.”
So, the next morning, I took Steven aside, and literally tearfully told him I was going to have to beg off at Carver’s Gap.
Getting a cell signal wasn’t easy, but Steven’s son, Josh, managed to pick one up at the top of Round Bald.
I watched the five of them -- Josh, Steven, David, Bobby and Chris — hike up Round Bound, getting smaller and smaller, until they were out of sight.
And I felt incredibly alone ...
Later, I vowed to never suffer that fate again.