Challenges That May Take You Off the Trail
I’m beginning to realize why completing a thru-hike really freaking difficult.
When people tell you most hikers won’t finish hiking the 2000+ miles of the AT, that only 17, 510 people since the 1930s (according to the ATC) have actually made it, you’re thinking, “Wow! Hiking that far is hard!”
And when you think, “wow, it must be hard to hike over 2000 miles in one calendar year,” what do you think of? What challenges come to mind? Physical exertion, time, money?
That’s what I thought. I thought it would be hard to exert that much energy. Plus, people told me I would miss showers, sleeping in a bed, being clean, and being dry so much that I would want to quit. People told me the unchanging and unending stretch of Virginia would make me so sad I would want to quit. After being out there for a month and a half, and after being off the trail for another month and a half, I can tell you those are not the things that make a true hiker get off trail.
Now, yeah, it’s depressing to put on wet shoes for 6 days in a row. And if backpacking for two weeks straight made you realize you’re really not happy in the wilderness, that is also fine. You are not a piece of shit if you don’t finish a 2000 mile hike because you don’t like living minimally in the woods for 6 months. God, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere not conducive to my lifestyle for 6 months! I would be so sad!
A Determined Hiker Can Still Leave The A.T.
There’s tons of people who want desperately to keep hiking but can’t. Let me tell you from experience, it’s really difficult when your mind is ready to keep hiking but your body is not.
I became susceptible to quitting because of challenges no one told me about.
No one told me that hiking with a strained LCL would feel like tiny mice were inside your knees clipping your tendons and mining for rocks in your knee caps. No one told me I would want to be present for my family’s traditions. No one told me I would want to be there for my friend who got incredibly ill. No one told me I would be missing my grandparents as I am out on an adventure of a life time.
In a landslide, my hike suddenly became compromised by the love I have for the people who made my life so amazing. And I think this appreciation actually came from hiking. Being away, being on the trail surrounded by the kindest people, being strong enough to go to Georgia alone made me realize how much of me and my happiness I have to owe to my parents, my family, my friends. The Trail taught me the importance of loving and appreciating the important humans in your life.
By consequence, I began to lose my hike. I’ve been struggling because it seems so impossibly difficult for me to provide support and love for the important people while also completing my soul-journey on the trail. And I started to feel like I don’t have enough space in my life for all the love I want to give.
The Pain of Being Away
Completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is not equivalent to a vacation or time off or an escape or a new work out schedule. It’s a complete lifestyle change. It means you are going to be away from things and people and places you love. It means you are going to have to stay focused in a world of distractions.
I have spent every day thinking about the A.T since I left it. Which is why I find it incredibly insulting when people look at me as if I have quit, as if I’m not a true thru-hiker. But, let’s not talk about that.
I’ve felt the pain of being away from those I love, but I have also felt the pain of being away from the trail. And honestly? The latter is much worse.
Missing someone shows you care about him/her, that you need him/her in your life. You will have time together. You will find the time and place. But life is constantly changing and sometimes it becomes a necessity you spend time apart.
But missing a journey? That’s so much more painful, because you know that you are robbing yourself of personal growth and exploration.
Remember, Simba. Remember Who You Are.
In distancing myself from the trail, I have distanced myself from all the beautiful things it has taught me. If you’re in danger of losing your hike, if you’re facing challenges that beg to bring you home, here are a few points that might help:
- You are a bad ass because you went out onto the Appalachian Trail. No matter how much you hiked, you are part of a community of bad asses. Welcome.
- You know how to survive. Remember those nights you were afraid you were going to die? Or when you lost your tent poles? You survived those challenges because you problem-solved. You woke up in the morning stronger than you were the night before. Don’t let those muscles disappear simply because you’re not using them. Remember that you know how to survive out there, so you can definitely survive in here.
- Listen to your heart and it will lead you to where you need to be. It ultimately comes down to what’s important to you.
Life is Lemons,
and sometimes we just really don’t want any fucking lemonade.
I’ll be back on the trail in a few short days and I cannot tell you how excited I am! It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster of emotions, so, if you’re going through the same thing I want you to know you are not alone. And you’ll find your way, because you’re destined to keep on journeying, to see all the things worth living for.
Rock and roll on, you beautiful soul.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.