Closing Thoughts after a Thru-Hike
The ending to a northbound hike on the Appalachian Trail is indescribable in words. The massive size of Mount Katahdin and all her surroundings is humbling to say the least. The ending may have been the hardest part for me and not just because it ends on one of the toughest climbs on the whole trail.
There is so much emotion packed into those last five miles. Everything you have accomplished over the last five-plus months on trail are about to come to a close and in just a few hours your life will go back to normal. My ending was an emotional roller coaster. I had no idea what to feel, crying and laughing at the same time, feeling like my life was changed forever putting it in the most cliche form.
The amount of experience and knowledge I gained on trail in that short March to August timeline is more than I have gained in my full 21 years of life. The trail has given me strengths that can only be found with spending countless days walking in the rain or hiking 145 miles in a week. I have learned that we aren’t meant to search for the meaning of life, but to experience life. We can’t spend a lifetime looking for answers, but to only use our questions to these answers to find what makes us feel alive.
I have gone from one extreme to the other. Instead of falling asleep to the wind and walking in peace for most of my days, I now am back in Philadelphia where sirens reign supreme and there seems to be a billion people. I have been back for a little over a month now and have settled into my last year of undergrad. Being back around my friends and family has made it a little easier to transition, but it has been harder than I expected. I feel as though I have changed and been put back into the environment I was in before I left. The trail is a challenge of mind, body, and spirit. Mother Nature will beat you down until there’s nothing left of you and she cannot be beat. It is the ones who realize her power and respect the forest who succeed.
I want to take a moment to thank a few people for supporting me on this journey. Both my parents and family as a whole played huge roles in keeping my spirits up and rooting me on. Without them I definitely wouldn’t have made it. I would also like to thank the Harrison family. Jim and Aliese hiked southbound in 1998 and live in the greatest small town in America, Damascus. Jim was always the one I could talk to when I needed someone who could relate with on trail topics. He led me through this whole process and was able to work with me to obtain the college credit.
I am forever grateful for the Appalachian Trail and it will be a part of me for as long as I live. It taught me to love the land and gave me a new perspective on a life that is just starting to take off.
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