Got off the trail at 1:35 and re-entered civilization shortly thereafter. Wow! I can just go into a convenience store and get food and water. Trash cans: I love you. I no longer need to carry my trash everywhere I go. Indoor plumbing: marry me! Civilization: I ain't leaving you anytime soon.
How would I rate my experience? Awesome and amazing and life-changing and reaffirming all at once. But also, the experience was exhausting and frightening and lonely (at times). We walked 6 miles on day 1, 11 on day 2: 10.2 on day 3, 16 on day 4, and 10.8 on day 5. Elevation changes were as folllows: day 1: 1800 to 4200. Day 2: 4200 to 1800 then back to 5000. Day 3: 5000 to 5600 then to 1800 then back to 4200. Day 4: 4200 to 4600 then down to 1800 then back up to 4900. Day 5 4900 down to 2000.
Getting water was an ordeal in itself. Water sources, or streams, were either encountered 0.3-0.7 miles from shelters/camp sites or encounter but water needed to be carried and filtered prior to drinking. On day 2 I made the mistake of filling up in a terrific steam at 2000 ft then had to carry the water up to 5000 ft. Water was 2.2 lbs per liter and I had 3 extra liters that day in my bag. Many sections of the trail require bordering. This is a slow process and it requires tremendous concentration and energy expenditure. Downhill, easy right? Wrong. The trail has many wet leaves that are treacherous. They not only cover rocks and roots, but they are slippery. Treading here required enormous energy expense as well. Until day 5, I averaged 1.5 to 2 miles per hour.
I found a great deal of the experience to be either stressful or downright scary. One slip or bad fall could result in a fracture. Most of our locations were remote and lacked any cell phone reception. Simple medical emergencies like ankle fracture could prove fatal.
The trail is well marked and easy to follow yet at times I had difficulty finding markings and felt lost. The area is so vast that getting lost would be terrible indeed. But wasn't I with my friends? Not usually. Everyone hikes at a different pace. On the trail, they say that everyone must do their own hike. I guess that is true in life as well. Still sometimes I found it scary and stressful.
Lonely: see above. Plus I missed my family terribly.
What did I like about the experience?
The views are spectacular. The physicality required was amazing. The challenge comquered: how can my words describe that. To do this justice I'd need to be poet.
So on balance how would I rate this experience? Friggin amazing.
Min parting I'll leave you with some photographs. Enjoy,