First Day on the AT: “I almost quit today”
I’m laid up in bed, enjoying a nice zero at St. Luke’s Hostel in Virginia, when it dawned on me:
“I almost quit today.”
That phrase. That simple little, four-worded sentence was my first journal entry on the AT. Now, I think back to that day and laugh, but it was anything but funny at the time.
You see, it was February 1st, 2017. The day had finally come. I was actually going to hike the Appalachian Trail. I had my trusty ruck strapped to my back, sturdy trekking poles in hand, and I was about to cross the iconic archway of the Amicalola State park when it hit me like a dump truck.
“What the hell am I doing?”
I was overcome by a sudden wave of nausea, twisting my insides into a matted ball of doubt and self-loathing. Every question I had been avoiding came pouring into my mind, drowning out my confidence.
“Am I even ready for this? Should I have trained more? Did I even train at all? Did I buy the right gear? What is the right gear? Do I even like camping!?”
These questions rattled around my head, blinding me. My footsteps became heavy. My pace slowed to a crawl. I reached out for the archway, hopping to find the answer etched somewhere in the stone slabs cemented into its foundation. The materials were smooth, cold to the touch, but they had no answer for me. I quickly undid the straps to my ruck, letting it fall to the ground with a thunderous thud. My trekking poles collapsed, clip-clapping against the rocks at my feet. The taste of acid bled into my mouth, forcing me to dry-heave. I was about to quit. I was about to succumb to my fears before I had even stepped a literal foot inside the park.
And that’s when it happened.
Something began to build up inside me. Something subtle at first. It started off as a tickle–an itch I couldn’t scratch–and turned into heat. It was warm inside my belly, boiling up into a full-blown laugh. I was standing there, just outside the archway, with my gear scattered about my feet, laughing like a lunatic.
Then I turned, tossing my phone to the closest person I could see, and asked them to take a picture of me. Except, I didn’t stand there, pretending to be brace or invincible. No. Instead, I layed on the ground and had them take a picture like I had passed out a few feet inside the park.
“Why?” You may be asking yourselves.
Cause fu$& my fears. They don’t get to decide what I do and don’t do. They don’t get to have a say in anything. I’m going to hike this trail and there is nothing they can do about it.
Now, 600 miles later, I still take photos like that every chance I get. Anytime I feel tired or overwhelmed I toss my phone to Reddmage and have him take a picture. I’m not doing it to make a statement. I’m doing it because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel like all of my fears of failure are nothing more than a joke–a passing moment in time.
And that makes me feel in control.
So, to all you aspiring Thru hikers, I say grab your fears by the horns and laugh directly in their smug, little faces, because nothing can stop you but you.
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