After summiting Mt. Katahdin we shuttled back to the AT Lodge in Millinocket. I watched on enviously as Waldo tucked into two starters, a 2lb lobster, dessert and several Martinis! I on the other hand had a chicken burger (more on this later). The following morning I was up at the crack of dawn to go to the supermarket to resupply for the journey home and also for some supplements I knew were at least half the price that I’d need to pay in Mexico. Fully stocked up, we headed to Bangor, Maine on the morning bus with other thru-hikers JoeFour, Madhat, Mr. Breeze, Witch, Stargazer, Waldo and Kevvers/LC. Most of the above jumped on another bus to Boston and Waldo and I had the rest of the day to explore Bangor a little. We both flew the following day.
Waldo about to tuck in!
After saying goodbye to Waldo on Friday evening, I walked across town to Bangor airport in the rain. As Journey (the band) were playing in town that night, hotels weren’t an option so I went to the airport to hang out all night. I had the pleasure of getting to know another successful thru-hiker that evening, Renaissance Man. He’s a proper down to earth dude and it was great to have his company that evening and through the morning till he took a flight to Charlotte, and I to Phoenix. We chatted about our experiences, our plans and hopes for the future and had several good bitching sessions over the fact we could no longer eat whatever the hell we liked. Sleep was almost non-existent that night as at around 2am a flight from New York landed with a couple of hundred wet-behind-the-ears and pretty scared looking new army recruits heading off to Kurdistan. I made the mistake of climbing out of my sleeping bag, greeting a few of them and saying, “hey, welcome home, guys”. “Uhhh, thanks, but we’re heading out”, came the reply……D’OH, foot fully wedged in my mouth. Oh well.
I was honoured to have a long conversation with two of the volunteer greeters who are always at Bangor International to greet those in the service. They do an amazing job by giving them advice, love, support, free snacks, free international phone cards and much more. They’ve been there since 1993 I believe and so many of those in the service would be utterly lost without them by the sounds of it. They’ve met and greeted over 1.3 million troops! It was pretty sobering to be looking at this group of clean, newly buzz cut, innocent looking teenagers heading out to a war zone knowing at least some of them will never even see Bangor airport again, let alone their families.
Challenge coins in the airport
The next 20 hours or so were spent sitting in airports and airplanes on my three-plane journey back to Mexico City. I consumed too much caffeine and too little food for such a trip. Arrived around midnight in Mexico City and was met by Yhalí (my girlfriend) and her family. A short car journey later and I was back at home. It’s been a tough couple of days since then, but now I think I’m resettled slightly and feeling at home. This evening I’m out with friends for some welcome back drinks. I’ve chopped the beard (finally) and so I’m looking a little like a tennis player with a hairband over my lionesque afro to keep it under control. It’s going to be great to catch up with people and get back into the flow of things.
At this moment, a lot (if not most) thru-hikers are eating and drinking too much and getting fat. Yes, that means you! I have known for some time that this was going to be a serious danger for me on returning. Unlike some, who were in good shape at the start and have stayed at more or less the same weight or even put on weight, I went from around 192 pounds to about 150 over the 6 months!!!!! I flatly refuse to be one of the overwhelming majority of thru-hikers that gain all the weight they lost plus more in half the time. I’ve even heard stories of one hiker gaining 30 lbs in 30 days, plus other such horror stories.
Zach Davis in his book, Appalachian Trials, offers some great advice about this problem and that chapter has always been in my head (by the way, Appalachian Trials is by far the very best bo0k to own for all budding thru-hikers). This article also offers some pretty in depth discussion of why we as thru-hikers get fat on our returns. I have heeded most advice and researched more so that I do not balloon on my return. Actually, I have gained zero weight in the past 5 days since summiting. I may have actually lost an extra half pound. Most people pile on several pounds in the first week. My success so far will continue.
My strategy involves:
*close to zero processed foods. Only natural, traditional foods as far as possible.
*as close to zero carb diet as I can possibly manage (this is of course impossible, but I’ve only slipped a little – tonight will be an exception, but it also means lots of exercise tomorrow.)
*protein shakes after exercise
*2-3 hour walks each day since finishing
* lots and lots of protein
*low density foods and lots of them so I feel full but keep the calories low
*buying of Men’s Fitness magazine which this month is chocked full of tips that are great for my situation
I’m 100% determined to not only keep the fat off, but to gain weight in lean muscle and be the exception to the rule. So far it’s working just fine. Feeling good for it.
Stick at this, keep healthy, keep happy, start some new hobbies and go to England at Christmas happy with the previous 3 months. The future of the blog? Well, I´m going to continue writing in it on some reflections, plus I’ll be writing Suds’ Very Own, By Far the Best Blog, Bullshit Free Advice Page about the Appalachian Trail!