The loneliness of the long-distance writer

A year ago, I was just a couple of weeks away from finishing my adventure in the woods and was plodding confidently through Maine with my new pals.  This turned out to be an experience which has forever changed me, in ways I still can’t adequately quantify.  However, for the past 6 months, I’ve been trying to put the adventure into words, incorporating not only my posts, but also my back story to try and define what this meant to me and how, and why, I did it.

The reason for this post is to mark something of a milestone, as I have just written my 100,000th word.  To me, this is a staggeringly high number, as I was concerned at the outset that I wouldn’t be able to write even 50,000 words, yet I find I have so much more to say than I would ever have imagined.  Re-reading my posts and watching my videos and pictures once more, I have seen everything with new eyes, often glimpsing people in the videos and pictures I wouldn’t actually meet for another couple of hundred miles, as well as noticing quite how often I recorded my loneliness.

I should also let you know that these 100,000 words have taken me to a point in Pennsylvania that still leaves me about 1,000 miles to hike.

Now back home and recovered from the physical aspects of the hike, I find that recording my story has taken on a new dimension, yet it ressembles the hike in its loneliness and mental demands.

I learned that the AT can be interpreted as a metaphor for life, in that you have to face what the trail, or your day, has in store for you and get through your day as best you can and back to your home (my tent) at night.  During the day, there will be ups and downs and the odd level path, yet it constantly throws something new at you and your only response can be to face it and overcome it.  I fell constantly, as I have in life, yet there was never an alternative to getting up again, dusting myself off, repairing cuts and bruises and moving forward.

Writing this has been a painful self-examination and I still have no idea if it is any good, yet it has been cathartic for me to do.  The loneliness pervades my writing yet the end stays in my sight.  I know that I was able to get that iconic picture on the top of Katahdin as I exalted in my triumph at completing the trail.  I just hope that the last word in this book feels just as good.

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12 thoughts on “The loneliness of the long-distance writer”

  1. Your journey has been an inspiration to me. I cannot walk three feet alone (MS) so I followed your trip word by word and photo by photo. Thank you for your efforts and your writings!

    1. Thanks for that Carol. Having said I’d never hike again on my return, I’m currently planning the John Muir Trail for 2016. It is only about 211 miles, yet it is a true wilderness and has an elevation gain of over 50,000 feet, finishing at the top of Mt Whitney, at 14,500 feet.

  2. A book. Nice. That takes dogged determination… But then, you walked the AT … Haha 🙂 (from a very ADHD traveler who doubts I’d be able to stick out an adventure like the AT without getting side tracked or homesick or most likely sidetracked … Haha)

  3. Looking forward to reading it, and to John Muir 2016! 😉 The Mighty Blue and High Tower -when we get to the top, of course! I’ll earn my name somewhat more easily that you earned yours, but earn it I shall! 😉

  4. As we traveled in our RV this summer, we crossed the trail several times. Each time I would think that you had walked this way as I meandered my way in the woods. I so enjoyed your stories and look forward to your next episodes from the Muir trail

  5. Steve, many thanks for your latest letter I have been conscious of the fact that I have not contacted you for an update for a long time. There are many reasons I could give but they are unimportant, so apologies. I am pleased you are making good progress with the book that of course is good therapy. Such an undertaking was, late in life, always going to test you if only because it was so different to that which you normally could cope, physically, that is. As I found out long ago one does not have the ability to do things when older particularly strenuous activities such as you attempted. You will remember the things you saw, did and people you met forever, it is recorded in your head and will always be with you. Don’t let it cloud your present life otherwise that will be affected and you will start to think of other things to attempt. I started things and had to complete them, sometimes with a struggle asking myself why did I start! In retrospect I am glad I did, that is something I am grateful for. Sorry I am sermonizing, I didn’t mean to. I have just seen Bill Bryson’s book is being made into a film any thoughts on that? I haven’t heard from Tony or Brian and Biffo retired a few weeks ago we do have an arrangement to meet before Christmas, whether it comes off remains to be seen. Our life goes on but is going to be more restricted as Joan has been registered Partially Sighted, she is however quite remarkable and carries on as though nothing was wrong, great determination in looking after me. There is little more to tell you so I will close hoping you will be able to reach the last chapter soon and feel gratified with your achievements. I just had a thought, you might have seen on the television a young 19 year old recently completed an 18,000 mile bike ride around the world. Started in London through France, Italy down through the Balkans to Turkey then Mumbai down the West coast of India and up to Bangladesh, Burma,Thailand ,Cambodia, Thailand & Singapore. Flew to Perth across and round Australia to Brisbane flew down to N.Zealand and up to Auckland. Flew to California then up through Oregon & N.Dakota to Ottawa & N.Y. Flew to Portugal up through Spain & France back to U.K. Welcomed back after 7 months solo cycling in London. He did get a lot of T.V. coverage in all places. You might remember Alison our eldest daughter that is her son and our Grandson, all done for three charities and now has just left home again for University. You can imagine we are very proud of his achievement and more importantly back home safely. Having been to many of these places we were very concerned for his safety. All good wishes Norman p.s. I do not have any e-mail address for you other than the one shown.

    om: My Appalachian Trial Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2015 6:43 PM To: jonorkeen@btinternet.com Subject: [New post] The loneliness of the long-distance writer

    Steve Adams posted: “A year ago, I was just a couple of weeks away from finishing my adventure in the woods and was plodding confidently through Maine with my new pals. This turned out to be an experience which has forever changed me, in ways I still can’t adequately quantif”

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