Lessening My Expectations, Focusing on Enjoying the Hike
I had a lot of expectations when I started my flip-flop hike last year. A thru-hike on the AT had been my dream since I was 17, and at 52 I was finally on my way. Like so many people on the trail I had done enormous amounts of research. I pored over ideas for gear, food, life on the trail, and just about anything out there on the net. Of course, I put time into determining why I wanted to head out on this adventure. It was important to me to push my boundaries and physical limits and work on being present in the moment. I was also planning to celebrate 11 years of sobriety and raise money for a favorite charity. In my mind I was prepared for success. Then I slipped and fell off a little cliff.
Not Meeting Expectations
Sprawled at the bottom in a pile of rocks, I realized I had hit every rock on the way down, coming much too close to serious injury for my liking. This hadn’t been my first fall but it was by far the most dramatic. I’d had been hurrying to keep up with my 18-year-old son, Trivia, not wanting him to wait for me, and that led to tripping, falling, and injuring myself. The more I hurt myself the more likely it became that I would fall again. The plan at the beginning of this thru-hike was to hike together and share the experience. The reality of racing along the trail behind this long-legged teen was far different than what either of us expected. I was left with no alternative but to head home to heal and Trivia would continue his hike.
Watching my son head off down the trail without me was tough but the best decision. His experience was completely transformed without me hanging around and slowing him down. I knew that I would be heading out in the spring to give a thru-hike another shot.
Begin Again, in 2018
I leave for Springer in less than a week and this time I’ve tried to adjust my expectations. Putting pressure on myself to have the “best” hike, from gear to a transformative personal experience, accomplished nothing more than more than disappointment. This time out my only expectation is to get up each day and walk. Relaxing will allow me to enjoy my time on the AT rather than feel burdened by all the goals I felt as if I should be meeting or exceeding.
I’m excited to be out on the trail again. Trivia will be there too, but this time hiking at his pace while I hike mine. I’m looking forward to the weird messages he plans to leave me in shelter journals. I’ve switched from a tent to a hammock so if you see me being wrestled to the ground by a wayward tarp feel free to offer advice. My only expectation this time is to embrace this journey, whatever it may be.
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