An Act of Contrition and Faulty Assumptions

This is hard for me to admit so I’m just gonna spit it out. Rip the Band-Aid off.

I blue blazed and bypassed 25ish miles of the trail.

There. I said it. I have an overwhelming sense of guilt, I can’t look other thru-hikers in the eye. I’m so ashamed. I feel like a cheater. And like all cheaters before me, I have to say that it wasn’t really my fault!

Between my raincoat breaking just before a possible rain/snow/hail storm, the disintegration of my trail runners and the general inadequacy of my tent (more on these below), I needed to get into town and replace some gear, tout suite. As it turned out the forest service roads are still closed for winter and my best chance to get to a road involved a three-mile slog through a swampy riverbed the locals refer to as Kimsey Creek.

I did eventually make it to Rock Gap and was rescued by Solace and driven straight to Baltimore Jack’s Place hostel.  I dropped some cash at Three Eagles Outfitters on the recommendation from Atlas from Top of Georgia and got back on trail where I’d been picked up and went on my merry way.

I missed the 100-mile marker.  I missed the hailstorm and the tower everyone climbed but me. Maybe in another life I will return and do that part of the trail, but for now I forgive myself that walk of shame and my penance is a two-day layover to wait for my resupply.

Faulty Assumptions

Assumption #1: Guthook, Gaia, AWOL guide with the pocket maps, and Google would be sufficient navigational tools.

Actual: None of those show any of the non-AT trails, and Google Maps is useless without cell service.  I was just a blob in a sea of green blindly following blue blazes and praying they led me somewhere.  I have now purchased a “real map” and will continue to keep one with me at all times on trail.

Assumption #2: Altra trail runners would be sufficient since they are marketed for the AT.

Actual: I knew I’d need to replace them a few times over the course of 2,200 miles, but not after 60 miles.  Not only were they falling apart but the foot, ankle, and achilles pain I was experiencing was unreal.  The folks at Three Eagles Outfitters set me up with some Keens and my feet are much happier now.

Assumption #3: The Big Agnes Copper Spur tent would keep me dry in a rainstorm.

Actual: To be clear, the tent didn’t leak. But the condensation buildup created a swamp inside the tent, and my down sleeping bag and all the things on the floor of the tent were soaked. Mike sent me our MSR Hubba Hubba that I already know will survive in the rain so I will be sending home the Big Agnes.

Assumption #4: My favorite Patagonia raincoat would last the duration of the hike.

Actual: The jacket lasted exactly five days before the zipper broke off.  Once again, Three Eagles to the rescue and now I am the proud owner of a Marmot Precip, which coincidently is the same brand as my rain pants.

I took a zero today and made my way back to Franklin from NOC while waiting for my resupply but I’ll head back up and get back on trail tomorrow.

 

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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Pony : Mar 25th

    Well heck, Christy. If you aren’t being dishonest about it, then I (and, I think, most hikers) don’t have a problem with it. HYOH is a real thing — your hike is your hike, and honestly, what anyone else thinks about it shouldn’t matter.

    Re Purists: I admire those who *really* do the purist thing, i.e. walking past every single white blaze, from Springer to Katahdin. Not many do, but those who set themselves that task and succeed, they deserve kudos.

    That said, I’m not down with any purist who suggests (and most don’t; a few I’ve heard have) that if someone *didn’t* do it their way, they didn’t “really” hike the AT (or PCT or CDT or whatever trail). Because there are as many ways to hike a trail as there are hikers, right? And if someone missed (as I did) 24 miles in Pennsylvania due to Lyme disease, and didn’t go back to make up those miles, is that a lesser hike? Who gets to decide?

    In the end, there is such a thing as a “purist” hike, in my opinion, but very, very few people actually are able to do it (see definition above, about walking past *every* blaze). Anything less than that — even if you missed a single blaze — doesn’t meet the standard, in my opinion, because where do you draw the line? Some purists claim that you aren’t *really* a purist if you walked past some of the blazes without a pack, while slacking … and on and on….

    But who cares? Hike the hike you want to hike. Slackpack if you want. Hell, yellow blaze, if the mood strikes you. Just be honest about it, as you’re being here, and enjoy *your* unique hike, the AT hike that nobody has ever had, or will ever have again.

    And remember that back in the synthetic world, nobody even knows what a purist is….

    Have fun!

    ~Pony

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Christy : Mar 25th

      Thanks, Pony. I needed that!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Pony : Mar 26th

        De nada! Thanks for letting us relive the trail vicariously through you this year.

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Aimée Collins : Mar 26th

    My sentiments exactly Pony! Your journey is uniquely yours and taking care of yourself should always come first. I’m continually in awe of everything you’ve done! Keep your head up and be proud. Xoxo

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Sonya : Mar 29th

    Great honesty. Don’t pressure yourself over the missed miles. We all experience a moment of humility out there. Keep going and rock the rest of the trail.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Cheryl D'Ambrosio : Mar 30th

    I am so glad you are posting all the Lessons Learned and issues with your gear, signage etc. This is useful for everybody and especially interesting for vendors to see how their gear is holding up, or breaking apart. Your information is great data to improve safety for the next person(s). Soldier on!!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Sally Forth : Mar 30th

    Since we are laying our cards on the table and airing our dirty laundry, I may as well confess, too:
    I did not hike the 3 miles up Wildcat in NH – I took the gondola to the top! It was an excellent decision on that day and I can’t say for certain that I would do it differently if I go back.
    But thank you for allowing me a safe space to talk about it 🙂
    Enjoy your time on the trail and don’t let yourself feel guilty about any decision that allows you to continue hiking! Anything you may have missed in that small section will be greatly overshadowed by all the things you do experience up the trail. And now that you have that little mar on your record, you can relax and quit striving for that fantasy of “perfection.” Happy trails!

    Reply

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