It has been over four decades since I saw “Snow White,” but several scenes from that movie remain clearly etched in my psyche. Remember when Snow White ran into the forest to escape from the witch? During that scene, the forest transformed into a truly hideous nightmare of evil shapes and ghoulish noises. Everything, from the largest tree to the smallest insect was perceived by Snow White as a mortal menace. In that scene, Disney’s animators demonstrated how perceptions can be altered by your emotional state. Anyone who has become lost in the woods has experienced that phenomenon to some degree. I refer to this undesirable psychological condition as “Snow White Syndrome.”
Hopefully, the AT thru-hiker will never experience a full-blown case of Snow White Syndrome. After all, it is not easy to get lost, there being all of those white blazes, and evil things rarely follow in pursuit. And surely it could never happen to you. You are much more emotionally stable than some homunculus-doting prissy. Or could it?
You are thru-hiking the AT. After a long day on the trail, you finally reach a shelter only to find it over-run with testosterone-crazed juvenile delinquents. The sounds of sticks beating on walls and ceaseless belligerent vocalizations drive you onward. As dusk deepens to night, the trail enters an endless region of steep, rocky terrain where no flat spot larger than a sand dollar can be found. A barred owl shrieks, gnarled branches click ominously in a frigid gust of wind. “I should be sleeping by now” you whine as you press wearily onward. The trail steepens. A large creature of some sort crashes through the dense foliage which now surrounds the trail. Beady eyes stare at you from inky black rock crevices. You yearn for nothing but a small flat space on with to pitch your meager shelter, but to no avail. The ever-steepening trail promises nothing but precipitous terrain for miles to come…
Of course, this never happened to me. But, if it had, I would have learned from my mistake (after the third or fourth time). Let’s just say that by the end of my thru hike, I didn’t care how noisy a camp site was. Confronted by hyperactive camper-lings, I merely stuffed plugs in my ears and graciously melted into the luxurious, flat ground. My last conscious thought of the day being: “Better than another bout of SNOW WHITE SYNDROME.”