After every trip I analyze what went right and what went wrong. This one is no different. While I am pleased with much of the trip, there are still things I can learn from.
The number one problem I had was the absence of a bicycle. This is the first time I’ve gone on an extended vacation and not had a bike with me. As a result my exercise suffered. And I failed to get below 300 pounds. If I had a bike with me, I very well could have reached that goal. Admittedly bringing a bike would have been a problem – where would I store the thing when I went backpacking? But still I should have worked on that problem, and taken the bike.
Another problem was the amount of driving I did. In my eagerness to meet so many people, I drove over a thousand miles in two and a half weeks. I lost whole days to driving. As much as I enjoy visiting Ligonier, for instance, I should have driven straight to Raystown Lake and spent an extra day exploring there.
Also, the fits of depression I sometimes experience were in overdrive during parts of the trip. I was stressed before the backpacking trip, and then when the trip didn’t go well, the dark mood carried over for the rest of my time at World’s End. As a result I skipped hikes I could have done because I was down, and kept my hikes shorter than they could have been.
Also, because I was down about the backpacking trip I skipped swimming, which is something I could have done at World’s End. I had a swimsuit with me, and they have a small beach. I should have taken advantage of the opportunity to go swimming in Loyalsock Creek.
Once I got to Bradford and met my new friends in that city my mood elevated, but then I was nervous about the website launch. When that was over with my mood improved, but by then my trip was practically over.
So, if I’m analyzing this correctly, is that the problems to work on for future trips are to stay in one general location for an extended period, and NOT invest so much emotional energy in one thing. I should have done the backpacking as an overnight on a weekend, not as part of an extended vacation. I had too much invested in its success, and when that success was muted, it colored my views of everything else.
Now, that said, I DID become a backpacker. I learned how to backpack. In fact I did two overnights, and got an Appalachian Trail name from the experience. I visited locations I want to spend more time in – Raystown Lake, the Thousand Steps, World’s End, Marilla, and the Allegheny National Forest. I saw snakes, birds, beaver, and bears. And I’ve overcome my fear of bears, although I still don’t want to hang out with them.
I came home with a couple thousand photos, a new website, a new ‘career’ as a speaker and writer – I’m available for hire, by the way – and new friends. And with many experiences I can share with you, gentle reader. Yes, there were problems and things didn’t go exactly as I planned, but still, as always, the outdoors is for everyone. Including a formerly sedentary man rediscovering the outdoors.