A Hike Delayed

I checked for bats in the cave before taking this.
I mean, when else can I use that caption?

I really don’t know how to start this. I have plenty of thoughts but they’re indecipherable when they’re fighting for my attention all at once. I’m sitting on my back doorstep at this hour. And right above those curls you see are the branches of our redbud tree. She’s blooming so beautifully this year. As she does every year we’ve known her. And with those little flowers comes briefly flowing nectar for the bees. We don’t have our bees yet. Not too much longer, but bands of bumblebees and neighbor honeybees are making this tree’s awakening all the more obvious to my distracted eyes. The grass is overgrown and lush. My pup was able to leave an imprint where he lay in it.


I’m in a state of quiet. Observation. Confusion. And uncertainty. I’ve read so many comments, I’ve seen and heard the news. I’ve witnessed so much kindness and I’ve witnessed calloused people. I’ve been told of nature peeking her head out of the woods in curiosity at the lack of people stomping about. I haven’t wanted to make my own thoughts public for fear of a potentially delayed dream becoming a certainly delayed dream. Or worse. A perpetually delayed dream.

Yes, it is so small in the scheme of things. I recognize others are hurting so much more. That’s also why I’ve held back. It’s not my intention to undermine anyone else’s experience with all this. But I’m OK about it now. I took my moment. I shed a tear. Or two, or three. And I acknowledged it was OK to delay. It was OK to be sad about it. And it was OK to also see good in it.


For those who’ve only just joined me: my name is Vanessa Jimenez Wilkes. Until recently, I was struggling to come up with how to step onto this platform and introduce myself and my upcoming journey—my 2020 AT thru-hike. Then, the climate we live in changed drastically in multiple ways, as you all surely know.

In an effort to give back the love and care for our trail communities, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy put out an update earlier this week urging all thru-hikers on trail to return home, and all upcoming thru-hikers to postpone their hikes. Many people think the woods are the safest place to be right now. I thought so too. But that changed when I considered that the trail is a social experience with fellowship.

Through Mountains and Valleys

Trail angels who live on or near the trail give so much to the hikers—whether it be a hot, unexpected lunch, or some fresh water and a hug. The communities on-trail offer great resources to hikers who need to resupply and rest off-trail. The caring souls daring enough to pick up a smelly, tired, and hungry hitchhiker provide a wave of gratitude to tired feet.

These communities—the ones that have given so much to preserve and support a sub-culture of our society—unfortunately often have limited medical resources. And while I am a young and healthy twentysomething, I know I could inadvertently cause harm to someone willing to extend their helping hands to me. I don’t want to play a part in causing detrimental impact on those communities that I one day hope to lean on for support.

So, I’ve made a tentative decision.

For now, I’ll take three to four extra weeks to prepare further for this journey. I’ll take three to four extra weeks to save up some money. And most importantly, I’ll take three to four extra weeks soaking up time with those which I cherish most. Do I know when my hike will be delayed till? Unfortunately no. It could very well extend further. But I can’t know for sure. No one can. For now, I just sit here and watch.

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Comments 4

  • Tammi : Mar 22nd

    Thank you for your selfless choice. I’m in the same boat. A very hard pill to swallow. But ultimately, the trail will wait. Stay safe.

  • Sean McClain : Mar 22nd

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Vanessa. I hope you can get back on the trail when this situation clears. The empathy, insight, and clarity in your writing make me want to hear more of what you have to say. Keep writing.

    • Vanessa : Mar 23rd

      Thanks for taking the time to say that Sean, I appreciate it. I hope so too

  • Vanessa : Mar 23rd

    Likewise Tammi, we’re all in this together. One day, our time on the trail will come.


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