A Shift In Thought

My laundry is washed, my body is clean, and my belly is full. I am currently lounging in a brown leather Grandpa recliner while fellow nomads flutter in and out of the common room. At this “friendly” (It’s not a hostel… It’s not hostile) hikers stumble in dazed with wide eyes and almost immediately another hiker from the previous night jumps up to show them where to put their muddy boots and wash their hands. When I arrived yesterday, I didn’t meet the owner for at least four hours. Let it be known that this is by far my favorite place I’ve stayed. In all honesty, there was a tugging voice early this morning coaxing me into staying forever, becoming best friends with the owner Miss Cee Cee, and living happily ever after.

Okay. Maybe not. But yesterday I decided, that on my vacation of hiking the Appalachian Trail…

I’m going to take a vacation.

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Let me explain.

It’s so hard, even out in the wilderness, not to be ruled by numbers. How many miles are you doing today? Where did you come from? What’s my daily average? When is the last time I took a rest day?

Questions like these are unavoidable. I told my incredibly supportive husband I would be home in 4 months. I have a schedule to keep.

But this is the wrong way to think.

These questions start to dictate my day, and in turn, my weeks. But I’m here to hike my own hike. One of my greatest lessons on the trail so far is learning to let go and relax. I push myself for mileage, tell myself I shouldn’t be sitting still. I nag myself in the morning for wanting to lay back down on top of my sleeping bag and just think.

I have decided, for the next few days, I am not here to hike the Appalachian Trail.

I am here to see the Appalachian Trail.

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I am about to do a stretch of the trail so beautiful that I had heard swirls of wonder and appreciation of it ever since I started planning my hike. Instead of pushing for my normal amount of mileage, I am going to take two days to mosey along through and absorb as much beauty and adventure as I can.

I started my vacation today by staying a second night at the friendly. I caught up with my tramily – a group of friends that I met during my first days on the trail that quickly grew to feel like family. We haven’t been together since the Smokies. It’s amazing how different we all look… We’ve all lost weight, faces are tanner, the beards are longer, all of our eyes are significantly brighter, and most importantly- our smiles all recognize each other’s.

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Tomorrow we will all hike out together, climbing Roan Mountain and ending our day early to enjoy each other’s company at the campsite. The next morning, I will wake up around 4:00AM, pack up and hike through the dark to catch the sunrise on top of the highest summit. There are also two side trails, not part of the Appalachian Trail, that a few locals have very passionately recommended. And after that, I’ll be staying in one of the coolest shelters on the AT, an old converted barn that can hold up to 20 hikers.

I want to see it all.

And while I’ve been training my body to adapt everyday, maybe it’s my mind that needs the greater lesson.


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Comments 8

  • Avatar
    Therese : May 3rd

    This has been one of THE GREATEST posts so far. I’m so pleased that you took time to truly enjoy yourself and “smell the roses” on the trail. You are an inspiration to me. Meow, meow, meow!!!!!

    Reply
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    Tinkerbell : May 3rd

    Wonderful, thoughtful update Stephanie! I hope any aspiring thru-hikers read this and take inspiration from it. You may never get this amazing opportunity again, so it is important to really take time to experience it. Wishing you the best as you continue your hike!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Diana : May 3rd

    Beautiful post, Stephanie. It isn’t just about getting to the finish line, but it is the actual journey that matters most. Looking forward to reading your next post.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rich Lundberg : May 3rd

    What an awesome post. I really enjoyed your new and improved outlook! I hope that the sunrise was everything that you hoped it would be. Please keep posting!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Rosemary : May 3rd

    Steph I loved this thoughtful post, and the beauty of the pictures that accompanied it. Keep on truckin, and enjoy this journey from every angle. Love you kid!

    Reply
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    Frank Bilbro : May 4th

    You have presented yourself with an opportunity many of us will never have. Dont push for the miles, push for the experience, push for the beauty, push for the smell of spring and the wildflowers and the clean air filling your lungs and the feel of the earth under your feet, push for you……push for those of us that for whatever reason will never be able to do what you are doing. God bless….

    Reply
  • Avatar
    TBR : May 4th

    Cool. Good for you. You won’t regret turning off the numbers or your choice to see the trail.

    Reply
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    Training Wheels : May 13th

    This is something that I’ve been recently discussing/thinking about in depth as I hike. So often I get pulled into the numbers game passing up awesome experiences for the sake of arbitrary mileage. And what does it get me? I might summit Katahdin a few days earlier? Thank you for sharing. I hope you enjoyed the Balds as much as I did.

    Reply

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