Sunday, 12 May 2013

Reflections after one month

It's hard to believe I've been on the trail for four weeks. I think it's mainly because I don't seem to have 28 days of memories of what I've done. I've been to five trail towns - Hiawassee, Franklin, Gatlinburg, Newport and now Hot Springs. But the other 20 or so days all sem to blend together. I have an indelible memory of a rocky or muddy trail full of tree roots leading up and down through mist and fog with some views now and again. It's like basic training in the army but this one never ends!  :)

Julia and I speak often of expectations, namely about how having them jeopardizes the eventual outcome. Expect one thing and get something else, like wanting a Tim's double double and finding out it's only black and you've already left the drive-thru lane. You may end up having a bad day. 

So I came to the trail without expectations, or so I thought. What I've found is I was expecting more of what I saw on all the videos I've seen on the A.T. , like flatter terrain. But it's been anything but flat.  I thought I could walk myself into shape but I had to hit the trail ready to climb mountains. 

I didn't expect to be spending so much of my time looking at where I step. It's constant. One wrong step and down you go. Maybe for the 10 count and then you're out. 

I thought it would be spring in Georgia. I left the weekend of the Masters and they were wearing short sleeved shirts in Augusta,  but it was freezing in the mountains. 

I expected it to be wet but I expected a warm wet, walking in warm rain showers, but I got nothing but cold wet rain soaking through and leaving me shivering. It's been a crazy spring everywhere it seems but I'm feeling it more than I care to admit.  This would be easier if the conditions were more favourable. I hope it warms up. 

And I really didn't expect to be missing Julia so much.  It ain't easy. It seems two things drive people off the trail - physical injury and tiredness or some sort of mental trauma from back home. 

Bonjour is going home to MN tomorrow. MacGyver is still here and we'll be heading out in the morning. I spent the day buying new boots and resupplying. It's 5-6 days to the next trail town, Erwin TN. That's a lot of food to carry and I never seem to have the appetite to buy enough. It looks so unpalatable. But I tried to get enough breakfasts and dinners and snacks at the Dollar General and the Hillbilly Convenience Store. 

One highlight today was a soak in a 100+ degree tub at the Hot Springs Resort. My share was $15 for an hour. They have 17 jacuzzis of various sizes out along the river bank and each has three walls for privacy and one open side facing the  river.  That was sort of cool as I've never been in a mineral hot spring before. Supposed to be therapeutic. We'll see if it helps the aches and pains. 

I really want to thank everyone for all the comments on the Gronk blog with which Julia is doing such a great job. I'm humbled by your kind words of encouragement.  Thank you so much!  I wish I could respond individually to each of you but having reliable cell and wifi service is so inconsistent. 

I'm not sure how far I'll get or how close to Maine. I'm hurting a bit and I seem to have issues with some of my equipment, namely the pack. Actually my body seems to be crooked and that's making the pack not fit right, putting pressure on my left hip. I may need a physio or someone to straighten me out eventually. A new pack is not the answer. 

But I'll carry on a while longer hoping for warmer weather and more gradual climbs. (Ha!)

Cheers all and thanks for following.

New shoes.

Popular trail food, easy to carry, dense with calories.

Resupply completion reward.


  1. Peter,
    I love your honesty, but am not surprised by it. You have already accomplished so much more than most of us would venture to try......and I so love that you are missing Julia.....
    You are in our thoughts constantly. Jerome and I send you hugs and good wishes. And when you come back, dinner!!

  2. ...As for expectations, it is so very hard NOT to have any. We all have our own frame of reference, the media adds info that we process....a blank canvass is extremely hard to create.

    1. Thank you Carmen, for your words of encouragement. I don't think Peter is DIS-couraged, but he is being thoughtful about the whole thing, which is a good thing. I have been thinking that there will come a time (soon, I think) where he will suddenly feel that "things have changed" but it will be he who has changed, not the hike. When I was young, I spent six weeks abroad and the first three were spent sort of homesick and feeling like I didn't fit. Suddenly, "things changed" and I loved being there and I realize that I had been the one to change, not my circumstances. I know, this seems obvious, but it isn't really, when you are embroiled in the matter. I have faith that Peter will come out of this with a new-found appreciation for many things.

  3. Hi Gronk, Sorry you had rotten weather at the start which has followed you to Hot Springs. I’m glad to read that you are now in new shoes so hopefully the foot problems will dissipate. I know what you mean about hiking all day never taking your eyes off the ground for fear of tripping or twisting an ankle and it’s tough day after day, but.... Your now getting into the interesting stuff, about two days north of Hot springs you’ll pass the Shelton Gravesite. The three graves are from the Civil war and these boys were ambushed, shot, and killed at that site. You’ll also pass Hemlock Hostel (mile 290) where you can get a hot meal and shower. Depending how your pack is loaded, you might try to side load on the outside and reduce the depth of the pack, basically bringing the load closer to your body. That might help reduce the back strain. Have you heard the Whippoorwills and smelled the Magnolias in the trees yet?

    It’s not the journey that’s important but the adventure.


  4. Hi Peter, as usual great writing. I hope that your foot problems will be solved with your new shoes. I think that what you have done so far is a wonderful journey and that as long as you still enjoy it and your body is not hurting too much, keep on trucking!!! No matter what happens from now on you have done what many people would never do, like me, I am great at dreaming up adventures but I never follow through with my dreams to the end. You on the other hand, are taking on a adventure that you have always wanted to do. I cannot tell you how much I admire you for living your dreams. I hope the next few days go great for you. Take care, Kathleen

  5. Hopes and dreams are essential to any worthwhile enterprise. You are living them in spades.

    Courage was the virtue most admired by JFK. He defined it as "grace under pressure". As I look forward to every new post, this is what I am seeing.

    I want to encourage you to carry on, but know that, whatever happens, there are many followers who are hoping and dreaming with you.

    Continued best wishes.


  6. I just left Gronk a couple of days ago after hiking together for a couple of weeks. I now know more about hammocks, Canadian history & geography, bicycles, art museums, and paleo diet. Most of all I am grateful for having a great hiking partner with which to share part of the AT.

    What readers may have difficulty appreciating is the difficulty of walking the Trail. Flat spots are rare and almost always you are climbing up or down, dodging rocks and roots, slogging through mud, and huffing and puffing with burning thighs, banging knees, and pounding toes. Each mile and day is both challenging and immensely rewarding. Cold and rain is endured followed by expansive views and reflective solitude. The Trail takes root in any weakness rewarding you with blisters and aching joints. Yet there is gratitude for being part of the trail community and for experiencing a truly unique adventure.Trail life is basic and simple but it is not easy.
    What I did observe is that Gronk is stronger, faster, and definitely more trail hardened. He is absorbing the entire experience and will emerge a somewhat different man. I am curious to see what that is.

    Gronk, I am grateful for your good company. It is people like you that continue to draw me to the trail; it has been a genuine honor and a pleasure. Keep up the good work.
    Happy Trails,

  7. GP, good advice to stop and smell the magnolias. 'It's the adventure that counts' is right!
    Thanks for your comments SGJ and Kathleen! I know Peter is encouraged by them.
    Bonjour, I know that Peter appreciated hiking with you from the time we talked on the phone. I am glad he has had boon companions like yourself on the Trail. It would have been much tougher alone.

  8. Peter, it's been an amazing month travelling vicariously through you. We appreciate the updates and look forward to hearing about the adventures you're having. Keep going Gronk man! :) It's a long way to Mordor yet, but we have faith that you'll make it to Mount Doom!