I Am “Late”
Most of the information a person will come across regarding a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is meant for a northbound hiker. The Trail Days of Damascus, Virginia occurs before any southbound hiker has even summited Katahdin; Hike Naked Day (summer solstice, ~June 21 which I was hoping to celebrate on the AT), falls when only 61% of registered SOBO hikers have begun their trek.* When I made the decision that it was a SOBO hike this year or I might not get on the trail, I had no second thoughts- I want to hike the AT, regardless of the events .
“Why are you starting so late in the season?” I have been asked countless times. Well, it wasn’t my intent, but it’s how I am getting on the trail, and that’s enough for me.
Many NOBO hikers will have completed their thru-hike before I even step foot on the trail; one week out from my start date, a conservatively estimated 100 NOBO hikers will have summited Katahdin. I see pictures from the Whites and state border crossings come across my instagram feed daily. I learned last week that a good friend’s father and I will likely cross paths in Maine, he in his final 200 miles, myself in my first 200. My husband and I just drove through Gorham, NH and met several SOBOs during our stay at White Birches, already 300+ miles into their hikes.
I yearn for my time on the trail, to be waking up with the sun and soaking in nature all day. I am excited to have worldly distractions out of my life for days at a time, to have hours to myself to reflect on my surroundings and my life, but that does not mean I should not fully enjoy the last few days in the “real world.” My husband and I are covering a lot of ground, traveling from Washington to Maine in just over a month, in order to get to Baxter before August 1st (my registered start date). It would be a shame for us to not explore the lands we drive through. We chose to make the long drive more enjoyable by traveling via Canada, visiting Banff and Montreal, new locations for us to explore, with dips back across the border into Wisconsin and Michigan to visit dear friends.
It has been a common theme in my AT planning- Enjoy the process. Every moment is a part of the journey, the journey of life being the most important of them all. Although I long to be on the trail, I continue to be present in the moments that are happening now, and to try my best not to worry about what is going to happen next week, because I won’t know until I’m there. The trail awaits, but I chose to be here, now.
*Based on 384 SOBO hikers registered at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as of July 25, 2017.
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