July 22-23.  I went to bed in the hotel room last night, with no more hiking or camping in my near future.  As I drifted off to sleep though I found my self thinking about the PCT or CDT next year…ha…I had dreamed earlier on the AT that I might want to take on another long trail next year, but recently the AT was really hitting me hard.  Out on the trail I couldn’t even fathom doing another 4 month hike anytime, ever, but already the idea of hiking long distance is calling to me.  I’m not planning anything though, first I want to relax!  I told Rafiki I had thought about the PCT or CDT last night and he said he went to sleep thinking the same thing…oh gezz!  We all woke up at 6 AM and headed down to the hotel breakfast.

Rafiki and his dad then dropped me off at the Bangor airport and I picked up a one way rental to Indianapolis…it was going to be a long day!  Rafiki and his dad offered to drive me somewhere closer to Indy but I really thought after 4 months on the trail I wanted a day in a car, by myself, to get bored enough to be ready to get back into normal life, away from the trail.  Well, that worked…I was bored by the time I hit Massachusetts.  I drove pretty much all the way on toll roads…it cost me something like $20 just to get across New York!  I passed under a bridge I had hiked across in Mass, right near the Berkshire’s sign.  The foot bridge over the freeway said APPALACHIAN TRAIL…it was weird to see it from this side rather than from up on the hiking trail!  I pushed on through the night and finally had to take an hour break in Dayton, Ohio.  I parked at a gas station, crawled into the backseat and slept for an hour.  My alarm went off and half awake I climbed back up front and drove on.  It was less than 2 hours from Indy so I called my mom and she and Tom left home to meet me at the airport.  I returned the car and headed up to the terminal to wait.  While I was waiting I picked up the new issue of BACKPACKER Magazine…great idea!  Mom and Tom picked me up and we stopped at a breakfast diner on the south side of Indy before driving back home.  Once back on the farm I didn’t do much…unpacked a bit, caught up on the internet, took a much needed shower, and slept away the afternoon. We had a great dinner, watched a little TV and then I passed out for the night.  It was good to be home, but I think I was too tired to really feel a difference from being on the trail!  I had driven 1,200 miles in just 22 hours…crazy since I had just hiked 2,184 miles in 136 days…big difference!

July 24.  Woke up still tired, but somewhat rested.  Today I wanted to get my to-do list done…catch up on my blog, unpack my bag, wash my smelly gear, and have most everything hiking related done so that Wednesday I could enjoy being out on the farm!  I had a great pancake breakfast cooked by mom and got to it on my blog.  Since we had hiked hard through the Wilderness I didn’t have much done, it took me most of the day to get the final posts completed, but I was happy to have it done!  While I was sitting at the computer typing my thoughts a pretty intense thunderstorm rolled in and dumped a ton of rain.  I didn’t have to put on my rain jacket or don my pack cover…all I had to do was close the windows in the house and pour another cup of hot coffee…nice.  After my blog I dug into my backpack and pulled out things to wash.  My rain jacket and Thermawrap coat hadn’t been washed the whole time, they needed it.  I also washed my 15 degree down sleeping bag in the bathtub…that was a chore!  As I cleaned things I didn’t really know where to put them…I don’t have a suitcase, this isn’t really where I’m staying for long…all I have with me is a backpack…so, even though I’m done with the trail, everything seemed to make its way back into my pack. Maybe one of Newton’s Natural Laws can explain why even though I don’t need to hike anymore I seem to think that everything should go back into my pack…oh well!  Today I started wearing some clothes that Amy had sent to my mom; board shorts, underwear, cotton t-shirts, and cotton socks.  At first I thought I would enjoy real clothes, but all day I kept wanting to grab my running shorts and hiking shirt out of the wash and put them back on.  These clothes just felt so heavy, and in the heat of an Indiana summer (it wasn’t even that hot today!) I just felt like I was suffocating in these clothes.  I was even wearing the technical dry-fit underwear from REI, but I just didn’t feel comfortable in them any more.  I had a dry fit shirt on and I could tell it was heavier than the dry fit shirt I wore on the trail, so I tried a cotton one, even worse!  I think after a few days I’ll get used to wearing normal clothes again…but for now I just want my trail clothes back!  I also need to get used to showering once a day…and not wearing the same clothes for 4 or 5 days at a time.  Lots to get used to!

July 25.  Woke up and walked to the kitchen…ouch!  My feet are killing me with that 2nd or 3rd day sore I get from running…I think they are finally taking some time to heal, which is good, but also painful!  Once I get moving it is better.  My feet were really bloated and puffy yesterday too, which happened when we took an afternoon or day off on the trail, so they must just be going through the healing process.  Amy and Pre will make their way here to the farm tonight and we’ll spend a few days here in Indiana, then off to Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, and back to California.  I will probably make a few more blog posts about my transition back into real life.  I know it may not be as interesting as the trail stories, so if you are craving some trail stories and you feel incomplete without them, these are two AT blogs that I’ll be following:

Meat’s Blog – This is my college roommate, the hiker I started the trail with.  He is making his way north into the last few states of the AT and will be passing through some really amazing trail!
http://www.takeahike2012.blogspot.com/

Shadow’s Blog – Rafiki and I met Shadow and his brother Void in Gorham, New Hampshire.  Void needed to be off trail for a few days from exhaustion so Shadow decided to get a rental car for the week and drive NoBo’s and SoBo’s all around town for whatever they needed.  The brothers and some friends were staying at the same hotel as us and drove us to Wal-Mart, Subway, the outfitters, and anywhere else we needed.  It was great to meet them and I am looking forward to following Shadow’s journey south!
http://www.hikingjonathan.blogspot.com/

One of Rafiki’s hiking buddies who finished about 2 weeks before we did had sent Rafiki a text message while we were in Southern Maine.  It was just a quick note from this hiker who had been home for about a week…it said something along the lines of “It is crazy restless here at home, I am in a state of slight depression with a long sigh of relief to not be walking anymore.  But, I am a bit confused with where I am and how to fit in here, needless to say, STAY ON THE TRAIL!”  With that said, getting back into real life may not be easy, but it also may not be an option.  I just spent 4 months living life to the fullest every day, I think the best way to make this transition to “normal life” work is to continue living life to the fullest every day from home!

Thank you again to everyone who followed my journey on this blog and via facebook…I enjoyed reading your comments and messages along the way and after I finished!  It was a fantastic experience and sharing it online was one of my favorite parts!  From here on out I guess I just have a few more blog posts about the AT, my transition to home life, and some final thoughts about gear, the trail, and my hike, and then I will need to start focusing on my next adventure…Happy Hiking!