Among the Ridges

I didn’t finish the Colorado Trail this year.

A few weeks ago I found myself unexpectedly in Durango and wound up at the southern terminus of the CT.  A sign that I couldn’t make it to this past August, at least not in the way I had envisioned. 

As I stood at the sign, many emotions rolled through me; disappointment, sadness, excitement and pride.

Disappointment that something I worked so hard for didn’t end up the way I had hoped.  Sadness for what could have been as I was finally finding my stride on trail.  Excitement for next summer’s journey and the opportunity to come back and finish.  Proud for making a difficult decision and for working through the emotions after going home.


An emotional rollercoaster since August

I keep thinking back to a text from a friend of mine who had gotten ahead on trail (@trailsofdanindy) that said, “If I didn’t have 70 miles left, I wouldn’t be out here right now.”  On the days that I’m struggling I try to remind myself how I felt in the moments of Dan’s updates. The photos of snow up to his knees and tales of putting frozen shoes on in the morning and the word sketchy describing several high mountain passes.  

I think long distance backpackers are drawn to that bittersweet torment of life. The moments of grit where the average person would bow out, we forge ahead.  Maybe that’s what makes this defeat sting a bit deeper.  The fact that I had to make a decision based on safety and not based on mental fortitude.  

I’ve talked with friends, coworkers and my therapist about why this feels like a failure and not a grand achievement.  Maybe it’s rooted in not knowing how to truly be proud of myself, something I never learned as a young adult.  Or maybe it’s because of social media and the stigma of not finishing a long trail. Whatever is causing this mental block the answer is somewhere among the ridges of the mountains I climbed and descended, waiting for me to find it.

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Comments 2

  • Russ1663 : Dec 24th

    Good morning Taryn. I can appreciate the gear choice dilemma. I went with critical items and worked out, shelter, hydration, rations. Clothing and boots are another issue altogether. The mental side I believe is always the toughest for me; a ridge at a time. I’m an east coast hiker. Sections and side trails on the AT. At home near Williamsburg. There are at least 100 miles of connected trails between there and Richmond. Take care of yourself. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

  • pearwood : Dec 24th

    Ouch. You will find it, but it may well take a while. It’s hard to look yourself in the eye and say, “I did not achieve all I set out to do, but I did all I could, and that is enough.”
    A week ago I wrote in my own blog post,

    If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will…
    Have to admit failure to myself. I’m not stranger to failure but I’m no stranger either to success. I much prefer the latter.
    Have to admit failure to far too many others.
    Let down the people who have believed in me.
    Still be an Ok person. (Whatever happens, never forget this one.)

    That last one is important. Hold on to it in the midst of the disappointment. And you did not give up on the trail, you left because of weather you decided was more than you could handle in reasonable safety. You are the only one who can make that decision for yourself. The nay-sayers are going to say nay. Let them.

    Steve / pearwood


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