I have struggled with a powerful addiction to the intoxicating power of trails for years now.
People who suffer from this condition become grim, self-deprived travelers.
We experience an overwhelming urge to reach the next mile-marker, the next campsite, the next lean-to shelter. It’s an exercise in tunnel-vision. We plan trips based on miles per day – completely ignoring whatever attractions those particular miles might contain. Once we get on the trail – our sole, burning desire is to complete the task of finishing the trip in the allotted time available.
Like any recovering addict — I have had my relapses. I once paddled 37 miles in a single day on the Allagash in order to reach a particular campsite. I have often hiked quickly past towering mountain vistas without lifting my eyes from the rocky trail. And my pack rod has remained unassembled for days at a time on long hikes past remote, trout-filled ponds on the AT and in Baxter State Park.
My recovery has been a long journey in itself. And my upcoming month-long trip from Kittery to Fort Kent will be a big test. So I have developed some coping skills that I hope will get me through.
1. I have planned for fewer miles per day. Some of the biking days are embarrassingly short on mileage. But I hope that this will encourage layover days with fewer worries about making up lost miles.
2. By traveling for fewer hours per day I can modify the daily itinerary to accommodate weather issues, gear problems and side trips.
3. Lots of down time is anticipated for reading, writing, napping, navigation and contemplation.
4. I will avoid sleep-deprivation at all costs. No sleeping on the ground if a bunk or other option is readily available.
5. Guests and companions will join me whenever possible.
And finally, I am constantly reminding myself to bring my most important piece of gear — – an instinct for knowing when to stop and remember what attracted me to the idea in the first place.