Ballard and Walker: PCT Thru-Hikers

PCT Epilogue

September 29, 2000—Day 14—Mile 0—Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—Duffy's Diary: We slept in a bed again last night.That makes a week in a row now of mattress, sheet and pillow indulgence —all this softness is definitely starting to soften us. It's not just the luxurious slumbering conditions that worry me; it's also that the twenty-minute walk from Center City to Penn's campus seems like a significant endeavor —perhaps even a day's worth of walking. Already I have come to expect a hot cup of coffee every morning and at least one, if not two, showers each day. And my daily routine is once again intricately tied into my laptop, phone line, motor vehicle, and remote control.

It has been two weeks since we crossed the Canadian border and concluded our marvelous summer adventure, and it is clear that our transition back to normal life has been rapid—if not easy and painless. I am busy preparing applications for residency while catching up with missed classes and neglected projects. Angela starts work again on Monday, and they have already warned her about the buckets full of material on tap. My car died the second day back in Philly and on the third day back my apartment ceiling sprang a leak. The long days in the forests, mountains, and river valleys of California, Oregon, and Washington already seem like eons ago.

Reentry to society after a thru-hike requires numerous changes and adjustments —some long awaited (the bed and showers), and some long-dreaded (sitting in traffic). Angela and I have found that one of the most difficult of these adjustments has been changing our eating habits. For nearly five months we could eat with impunity. Calories, lots of them, were our top priority, and we spurned foods that couldn't pack the requisite energy punch. Lunchtime on a town day might see me put down a bacon double-cheeseburger with fries followed by a grilled cheese sandwich with a milkshake and then an encore of a couple Twix bars. And I would still be hungry again in a couple hours. Now we are back at school, and at work, and spending most of our time sitting on our behinds. Cheeseburgers and grilled cheeses will have to be curtailed, and never combined with candy bars. Salads and fresh fruit make their return, accompanied by a six-pack or two of Diet Coke. Angela and I both returned skinnier and fitter than when we left, but we also know that these changes will likely be transitory. Much like a thru-hike, robust physical condition cannot last forever.


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