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Travels With An Airhead

The Appalachian Trail, Part 1

— by Notch Miyake

I really appreciate everyone saying they missed reading my stuff, and I apologize for the long lapse in these columns. This is supposed to be humor, and it has taken a long time for our misadventure last year on the Appalachian Trail to start getting funny. But now that I can walk down a flight of stairs without having to take Ibuprofen, and just when you thought it was finally safe to let your kids read this newsletter, I'm back.

For those of you who are anxious to get back to surfing the Internet, I'll deal with the basics first: There is pathetically little sex on the AT. Look, after humping a forty-pound backpack up and down 5,000-foot peaks all day, wild sex is the last thing you care about. And that man or woman you might have wanted to share your sleeping bag with hasn't had a bath for the last week either. And is still wearing the same clothes. And thinks the outhouse doesn't smell so bad. Which is the real reason why the guidebooks say that women traveling alone on the AT are perfectly safe.

Walking the trail requires the abandonment of any personal hygiene standards you might have. I recognize that for some of the motorcycling community, this is no big deal. But even these riders might be bothered by the primitive conditions along the A.T. For me, taking a shower after ten days in the Hundred Mile Wilderness was almost a spiritual experience.

To someone committed to the internal combustion engine, as well as other benefits of civilization such as the R69S, sushi and Elvis, the AT promised to be a unique experience. I mean, the AT is nature, the great outdoors, full of mosquitoes, rain, mud, rocks, mountains and trees. The kind of stuff we built New York City, Disney World and Route 66 to escape from. The Wilderness.

So there we were in July 2003, at the north end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, about to enjoy nature. The beginning of the trail was level. But it was swampy. Great breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We were soon wearing head nets, long pants and long sleeves. It was hot, about ninety degrees, and we were drenched with sweat. Our head nets further obscured the dim forest light so we were constantly falling into bogs and stumbling over tree roots.

The AT has been officially designated a National Scenic Trail, probably by the same politician who was sure Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. There might be scenery along the trail, but we never saw any because there were too many trees. Just like Iraq, there were too many hiding places. And since we spent all our time avoiding rocks, mud holes and tree roots, we couldn't look for scenery. Just like our troops in Iraq who have to watch out for car bombers all the time and have no time to look for WMDs.

Hey, war is hell.

But at least in Iraq it is sunny. Next month, the wettest summer on the AT.

— Copyright © 2004 by Notch Miyake.

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