Done, done, done.
Well, I did it. I hiked all 2,185.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Maybe I’m being a bit Meriwether Lewis, but I neither feel like I thought I would, nor as accomplished. Not to mention, summitting Katahdin was a bit, well, underwhelming. I imagined an elation that would last for weeks on end, a spring in my step – a sort of new perspective or some semblance of a low level enlightenment. I feel none of this, I think.
What I feel is more confident, but not in the way I imagined at all. More brazen, perhaps, ready for anything with an unshakeable certainty beneath me that tells me I can handle anything and everything. But it seems I’m looking for situations to test this newfound confidence everywhere I go. I’ve already expressed myself in a destructive manner to two important people in my life, not because I wanted to start an argument, but because I saw flaws in their actions and logic, and was ready to tell them immediately where I might have kept my mouth shut before. Is this what happens when you constantly deal with the little voice of the ego saying “This is hard” and “You should just quit” in your head for months on end?
A psychologist might say “Yes, you had to constantly put up with a part of yourself that was childish and illogical for an extended period of time. You learned and developed the confidence and ability to quell this voice, being that your thru-hike was successful. In doing so, you developed the outward behavior of expressing your distaste for the same illogical, childish voice others so often express. This may or may not be a good thing.”
But that’s just an inference anyways.
I will say completing the trail was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ever. Harder than running a marathon, completing an Olympic triathlon, or graduating college. However, at the same time, it was never as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
Let me explain: I’m a writer, and therefore by nature, neurotic. Anxious. Constantly doubting myself and finding ways to get over it, only to find more ways to contrive irrational beliefs about how inferior I am as a physical body and intellect. I know, a head case to say the least. This is where endurance sports have been pivotal in my life. I found a way to prove to myself I can at least act and/or feel like a bad ass for short periods of time, massaging that little inferior ego that keeps me humble. I also get a nice little endorphin high that keeps me balanced for a few hours. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at pushing my body further and further, to the point where I can do things like hike the Appalachian Trail or run a marathon. This is probably why the trail was less difficult than I thought it would be and subsequently less exciting to finish.
What’s more amazing are the people who aren’t runners, triathletes, or ex-military. The ones who went in to day one cold, overweight, or without any idea what they were doing. The ones who had zero backpacking experience or had never spent a night in the woods – and I met plenty of those people, many of who finished the same day as me or shortly thereafter. They are the true badasses, the ones who came close to tears on Katahdin, and the ones who deserve praise.
So if you made it through the melancholy, pseudoscientific, self analysis portion, now for the fun part:
Total miles hiked: 2,185.3
Total miles aquablazed: 123 (by river), 141.8 (by trail)
Total days: 135 (before visiting Shenandoah to rehike aquablazed miles) 146 after (we’ll use this since it’s my “official” end) hiking Shenandoah post-Katahdin
Zero days: 21
– 7 injury
– 4 trail days
– 6 while hiking
– 4 traveling between Katahdin and Snickers Gap
Average miles per day with zeros included: 14.96
Average miles per day without zeros: 17.48
Hours of music blasted via the speaker that got me my trail name: 912
Hours of podcasts performed in a similar manner: 414
Number of feet equivalent to Mt. Everests climbed : 26
Number of perceived Mt. Everests climbed: 84
Buffets frequented: 14
Times hiked directly after buffet: 11
Emergency trail poops initiated by aforementioned hiking: 10.5
Showers taken: 15 (I know)
Times I just “washed” my clothes in the shower instead of doing laundry: 12
Cars sold mid hike: 1
Dog’s legs broken accidentally on zero days: 1
McDonald’s visits: 11
Subsequent feelings of pre-diabetic sickliness combined with a sentiment of “I’d rather be dead than hike like this”: 10
Miles #pinkblazing: 422 (in pursuit) 700 (in tow) = 1,122
Most miles hiked in a day: 31
Longest stretch of consistent long days: 422 in 16 days #pinkblazing (26.4 average)
Longest stretch of 30 mile days #pinkblazing: 3
Success of #pinkblazing: Yes
Post-trail relationship status: Nonexistent
Times I considered quitting: 1827362910101
Times I knew I would never actually quit: 1827362910101
Beers consumed in towns: 467
Beers consumed on trail: 86
Trail magics frequented: 16
Trail magics with beer and/or liquor: 4
Trail magics in which enough alcohol was consumed to deem hiking considerably unsafe: 1
I think that about sums it up! All melancholic introspection aside, hiking the Appalachian Trail is one of the most amazing and unforgettable experiences a person can subject themselves to and, while incredibly difficult, obviously equally as rewarding. In so, so many ways. You will meet the nicest, most caring, most eccentric, eclectic, hilarious people on the planet. You will discover things about yourself and grow in ways you never imagined. You will not regret one second. And that’s why this experience will always, always be a part of you – because if this shit were easy, everybody would do it.
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