Hello, my name is Joe Liles, and I am addicted to Pop-tarts. Specifically maple and brown sugar, but I’ll settle for anything, and I don’t even toast them. All this is because I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from March 9 to September 15, and I ate Pop-tarts every morning. I was walking 15 to 20 miles most days, and I needed calories! Just two Pop-tarts gave me 400 calories, enough to get me down the Trail and to my first Snickers break.
But this is only the beginning of my problems in recovering from the Trail. All kinds of strange behavior are creeping into my life. For instance, I now store all my trash in ziplock bags and carry them around with me. Remember “Pack it in and pack it out?” And I never throw away a ziplock. I wash ‘em out and save ‘em. You never know when you will need one. I am very proud of my collection.
Most, but not all, of my problems center around eating. I was in a restaurant this morning, eating a hefty portion of blueberry pancakes and homefries, when I noticed a guy sitting closeby hadn’t finished his biscuits and sausage gravy. I went up to him and asked, “Are you going to finish that?” This was a complete stranger, mind you. I am so ashamed of myself.
The Trail brought out the extrovert in me. Why, on the Trail, I would freely introduce myself to everyone I met. I was shaking hands, right and left. This morning, while walking down Ninth Street in Durham, I approached an attractive woman, stuck out my hand, and said, “Hi, my name is Braid . . .” I waited for a response. The lady backed away from me and said, “Get lost, Bucko!” My trail name is not Bucko, it’s Braid. I am so confused.
And there’s this thing going on with electric lights. I don’t use them. When it gets dark at night, I just turn on my headlamp. I was cooking supper by headlamp the other night when the police came to my door. They said my neighbors had called in to report that my house was being burglarized!
I walk everywhere I go now. When I returned from the Trail after six months, all the air had leaked out of my car’s tires, and the battery was dead. I now have the equivalent of a car on blocks in my driveway, minus the blocks!
I can’t bring myself to wear deoderant anymore and my rate of showering has gone way down. My friend, David, tells me this is a problem.
I am tearing my paperback books in half and reading half at a time to save “pack weight,” but I am not wearing a pack anymore.
I became so dependent on hiking poles on the Trail that I can’t walk without them anymore. I first realized this was a problem this afternoon in the grocery store. I simply could not manage a shopping cart and my poles at the same time.
I am not writing a trail journal anymore, so I don’t know what day of the week it is.
The seriousness of my situation really sank in late today when I found myself standing in my laundry room getting ready to wash a very small load of clothes, lights and darks mixed together, and I was wearing only my rain gear.
My post-Trail life is strange indeed. I have this uncanny urge to go out into my backyard and dig a cat hole!
I am beginning to think that the only thing that will help me is to get back on the Trail.