I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail without a music player. To deal with music withdrawal, I stayed in grocery stores a few extra minutes if a John Lennon song happened to be on the intercom, or I took extra breaks on the trail if there happened to be a radio nearby. I trained my mind to have all of Abbey Road stuck in it for several months so that I wouldn’t get anything nasty stuck on repeat in my head for days on end. In a way, the deprivation was a good thing; it made for some memorable experiences. The time I spent listening to 105 TOS on top of Sugarloaf in Maine was a magical musical moment. A Day In The Life never sounded so good, which is saying a lot.
But I’m not looking for the same kind of deprivation this time around. The idea is that I’ll be out on the trail, or at least away from my computer (and music library) for up to seven months. I may hike and camp alone for days on end, unlike the Appalachian Trail. I’m looking forward to the solitude a lot more than I did on the AT. I was never entirely comfortable with it on the AT, but in the years since I’ve spent a lot of time hiking alone, to the point where I rather enjoy a night in camp with no need for talking. All in all, I think I’ll have more than enough time away from computers and technology, a little music now and then won’t hurt too much.
So I went over to the Apple Store and picked up a refurbished iPod nano for the occasional dose of tunes in the next several months. It weighs just 1.3 oz, with another 0.5 oz for my headphones, so even if I end up not using it for a few days it won’t be much dead weight in the pack. And it’s tiny. I’ll have to find a handy place to keep it so it doesn’t vanish in the depths of my pack.
Music on the trail is something I normally go without, but because of the length of my current trip, I figure the iPod will be essential. I’m very picky about my music (collecting albums and live recordings is my other major hobby, and you can see how obsessive I am with my hobbies), so radios just won’t do. Normally, being turned off from the sounds of nature makes me uncomfortable when I’m in outdoors, but I discovered a couple summers ago in Vermont that listening to songs for an hour or so in the afternoon while hiking can help me zone out and keep my mind clear.
There’s also that beautiful moment when the music stops, and all the sounds of nature that you’ve tuned out all day flood back into your ears. Without fail, you always grow accustomed to the noises around you, so when things suddenly change you get to rediscover those sounds anew. It’s a small thing, but delightful in its own way.