Confidence and the Wildcats

I know I haven’t blogged since the halfway point of the trail, back in Pennsylvania. Since then, I’ve hiked through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and I will be crossing into Maine today! When I’m done, I’ll post the highlights of each state, but for now, I’ll just share a bit about my mindset at this point.

Two days ago (on July 10th), I hiked 26 miles in one day over some of the toughest terrain on The Trail – from Osgood campsite (five miles south of Pinkham Notch), over the Wildcat Range, Carter Mountain, Mount High, Mount Moriah, and then to Route 2 towards Gorham, NH. Most through-hikers I encountered that day were actually slack-packing (just carrying a day pack) from Pinkham Notch to Route 2, because the road crossings make this convenient and because this section is supposed to be particularly difficult.

Wildcats Range Appalachian Trail

Nevertheless, I carried my full pack as I climbed up the Wildcats, which were so vertical that I was using my hands as much as my feet to haul myself up. I’m sure that my adrenaline, high heart rate, and mixed emotions about being so close to the finish all contributed to this, but I began to sob as I climbed. I wasn’t crying because it was difficult (although it was) or even because I was happy (although I was): I was crying out of disbelief in what I was actually doing. I didn’t set out on the AT to overcome my fear of heights, but I’ve ended up working on that little by little as I go. I didn’t set out to gain a confidence I never had, but that has happened as well. I suppose I was crying because I realized that I was doing something I could not have done four months ago, and with a confidence that I have never had in my life. I’ve reached a point where I know without a doubt that if I decide to hike 26 miles over intense terrain, it will happen. I know it sounds cheesy, but I am now in a mental state where I am certain I can achieve something, purely because I decide it’s what I want to do.

As I climbed the Wildcats, I pictured myself over the last decade of my life. Ten years ago, I had absolutely no self-esteem whatsoever; I truly hated myself. That mindset has gradually improved, but I never thought I’d reach the self-esteem I have now. My tears on the Wildcats weren’t just out of pride for the obstacles I’ve physically overcome on the AT, but for the insecurities I’ve emotionally overcome out here as well. I really am a different person than who I was in February, and I know that I have changed for the better.

Today, I will be facing Mahoosic Notch, which is known as the “toughest mile” on the AT. I’m going to attempt another 20-plus mile day, with the same mindset I had in the Wildcats. I know it will be tough, but I look forward to the joy and fulfillment that I know I will experience.

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