Our dear friend Mr. Appa The Sky Bison has changed his mission from hiking the PCT a second time to hiking instead the CDT. He has also spent a considerable amount of time on the AT, and now, after having seen all three trails firsthand, he has some observations to share with us all.
The Appalachian Trail
The AT is about being in the woods with a lot of people, the community is as strong as the diversity of people who try it.
It has a strong sense of tradition with an old school, East Coast mentality as hikers masochistically trudge through rain, mud, and the elements. Most of the stories you hear from the AT have to do with people.
For example, I was hitching in Maine, when a rowdy group of white water raft guides stopped their van, slid the door open, and started chanting my name. Unperturbed by a group of strangers that knew me by name, I hopped in.
After swigging the whiskey being passed around, they told me that the car that had just dropped me off had flagged them down while driving past to tell them to pick me up (apparently everyone knows each other in Maine). The next few days would be spent with this amazing group at their camp, their cabin, and rafting with them as an “employee in training”.
The AT community is a friendly group.
The Pacific Crest Trail
The PCT is all about West Coast zen.
The community is there, but has a much lighter sense to it. It's normal to have a metaphysical experience with someone, and then never see them again.
I passed a middle-aged dreaded fellow around Yosemite who was in shambles after spending a night being stalked by a mountain lion. Only a few hours after meeting him, I was hugging him as we told each other “I love you”, then he got in a helicopter and flew to the hospital.
He had survived a minor stroke in the isolation of the mountains, but on the PCT, it seems someone always walks up the trail when you need them.
The trail is so well marked that you can zone out – even enter “walking meditation” and forget your walking for a few hours without getting lost.
People really embrace homelessness on the PCT, and when finished, often can not find the zen lifestyle they have come to enjoy on trail, in society.
The Continental Divide Trail
Now, I'm no expert on the CDT, but so far the word of the trail is “intentionality”.
Everyday decisions about route finding, food, water, timing when to hit landmarks, and camping spots have drastic implications due to the rugged, rural landscape.
People are constantly digging into their past experiences to help avoid disaster, but as usual, adaptation is king.
There is no “riding on the wave of the trail community” and no time for “walking meditation”, if you don't want to get lost.
In New Mexico, more time is spent with cattle than human beings.
But though all the intensity and isolation of the CDT, I've found peace. I feel more self-reliant than ever before, which has really put the “thru-hiker entitlement” in perspective. I'm not out here for anyone but myself, and the CDT forces that down your throat.
I'm here to feel.
I want to be aware of my place in nature and walk lightly though it, feeding off of the raw energy and passing it on to anyone or thing I meet.
In my opinion, the CDT is the poorly marked path to enlightenment.
A 5 month long meditation on presence.
The way is North.
A Michigan-bred champion of life, Appa the Sky Bison is currently pursuing his second tour of the Pacific Crest Trail. If he is good to us he will continue to occasionally update us with reports from the trail. Want to get in touch with Mr. Bison? Leave a comment below or get in touch via the contact page.
For more from Appa, check out these posts.