Post-Trail Adjustments

Post-Trail Report

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.

Braid/Joe Liles

16 Responses to “Post-Trail Adjustments”

  1. Colin Law [colinlaw@chunkyboy.com] Says:

    Hilarious, Joe! “The Trials and Tribulations of a Thru-Hiker Trapped in Town”. I actually did a spit-take when I read the bit about you doing your laundry wearing only your rain gear.

  2. Gina Stewart, S&M '86 Says:

    Well, Joe, you can have a whole bottle of wine for 400 calories. Ditch the pop-tarts!

  3. Ronald Gainey S&M '85 Says:

    Great stuff, Joe! I enjoyed reading about your hike, but this post script is pretty awesome as well. You could just do laps around Durham all day, I suppose, assuming you actually like to sleep in a bed…

  4. Michael Grant '86 [mcg@algorithmguy.com] Says:

    My wife would like you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Pop Tart addiction. It is an entirely respectable snack. :)

  5. meadow [colajar5@gmail.com] Says:

    I am so glad I found you and your story. Recently my husband and I have decided when the kids are older we will hike this amazing trail. Until then I’m living it through your story and can’t put it down. I hope to learn of great spots for us to escape and hike for days or weeks,until we can do it all. Thanks so much.

  6. Ducky & Mad-Dog Says:

    Yeah….I don’t sleep in beds anymore…I have tried, and found that I get the best night’s sleep on my thermarest, in my sleeping bag.

  7. McBride Says:

    That was friggin hilarious!

  8. John and Carolin [j_buncle@hotmail.com] Says:

    Hey Joe. My name is John and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I’ve just finished reading your blog and i want to thank you. I’m planning to hike the Appalachian Trail next year with my girlfriend who is from Switzerland. We’ve learnt a great deal about what we will experience on the trail from your story. With some luck we’ll see you in person up on stage at Trail Days in Damascus with your new band.

  9. SJ Says:

    I’m an alumnus from the Outdoor Academy, where we hiked in the Appalachians in addition to normal schoolwork. after digging cat holes on the trail, using a “normal” restroom can be a bit boring. one of the first classes was actually how to take a dump in the woods, with the big serious-looking English teacher describing various techniques!

  10. Check 6 Says:

    Love it!!!!! Joe, you are a priceless treasure! What a pleasure and honor to have met you along the AT this year. How fun to be able to identify so well with all you wrote in this wonderful, delightful post hike blog!! Love you, friend!!

  11. O.G. [neawaha@gmail.com] Says:

    Braid. I just stumbled upon your blog and this only reminds me of how much I miss you! Your wit is very endearing. We have to get together sometime in the near future. Which makes me wonder… what would we do if we don’t hike? I’m trying to imagine sitting with you in a cafe having a nice cup of coffee, but it just does not seem to fit. Take care, my friend.

  12. Judi Ferrara [judieferrara@comcast.net] Says:

    Hi there Joe. I found your blog via a google search for 2009 thru hikers. I’ve been reading many of your entries and enjoying all your photos. The AT goes right by my childhood home in Dalton, MA so I’ve been fascinated with hikers my whole life. I live in PA now but still go home to visit my family in the summer and have seen many a hiker coming down the street headed to Duff & Del’s for a great breakfast. Good luck to you as to settle back into life off the trail. Are you going to write a book?

  13. Anonymous [fudd@nc.rr.com] Says:

    Joe, I think you’re going to need another trail. I think this one will do well for you: http://www.coloradotrail.org/

    It’s “only” 450 miles, and you could do it two month… nice country.

  14. Shelia W Says:

    Wow Joe!!! What an adventure!!!! Amazing!

  15. Anonymous [unklmarty@me.com] Says:

    Thanks Braid,
    I too found you journal while searching Google for thru-hikers experiences.
    Not really an avid reader I found myself doing nothing else. Your words just flowed by and I couldn’t wait to read more and the more I read the more I am sure I am going to follow yours and the many other AT hikers that walked the trail.

    Hiking the entire AT is what I said I wanted to do after I retired. I am now retired but still sitting not hiking the AT. Well after reading your trail experience, what an inspiration, I now have a definite plan to leave in March 2011. I got my old gear out and will take 2010 to work out some of the kinks in my technique and equipment.

    I have many questions, how can I reach you?

    Thank You for sharing your life with me.
    Unklmarty

  16. Penny [phlock@yahoo.com] Says:

    Hi Joe,
    I just found your journal and wish I had followed your trail all along! Thanks for sharing your experience in such a delightful way!

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