Halfway Points and the Journey Ahead
First, I must apologize for neglecting to blog for the last 800 miles or so. Computer access is a rarity on trail, and I have been unable to find a good place to blog since I had a fancy computer corner at Fontana Lodge before the Smokies. That was before Clingmans Dome (the highest point on the trail) and the 200-mile mark. I am now past the 1,000-mile mark and the spiritual halfway point, Harpers Ferry.
I walked into Harpers Ferry on the morning of July 4. It was excruciatingly hot, but I was glad to see a familiar place. I was also thrilled to walk into the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, flip through the photos of other hikers, and add my own to the binder. Having already completed Maryland before beginning my trek, I considered this to be the day I made it home from Georgia on foot. I did not think I would make it to the 100 mile mark in my first weeks, so to have come this far is somewhat unbelievable. I am still waiting for the true realization–and the emotions behind it–to hit me.
Taking a break at home has been restful and much needed. It has also helped to establish that I am nowhere near ready to quit and certainly not ready to reenter life off trail. I have spent much of my time at home considering how I will tackle the next leg of this journey. I seriously considered flipping (heading up to Maine to hike south toward home again), I thought about continuing north despite knowing I might not make it to Katahdin in time, and then landed on jumping forward to connect with some friends who are a bit ahead and continuing northbound with them with the intention of completing one final section of Pennsylvania upon my return home.
This is certainly not the traditional way of doing things, but then again, I am not traditional. It means that now I will (hopefully) get to finish at Katahdin and also at the Mason-Dixon line, two meaningful places I couldn’t choose between. It means I will not be alone and that I will be moving gradually toward the intense terrain in New England. Most importantly, it means that I will continue, that I will not give up now. As someone who has been struggling lately both emotionally and mentally on the trail, it seems quite imperative that I put myself in a situation that feels exciting, safe, and optimistic. For me, this means my hike becomes a leapfrog, but it already was.
It seems like by now hiking should have become easier, but somehow it only gets harder. The terrain gets more challenging, the mileage more daunting, the heat and bugs almost put the snow, hail, wind, and rain to shame. I am still the slowest, I still trip and slip and stumble and fall down all the time. I still feel unsure of myself and, without the distractions of society, I am forced to work through things that haunt me. But I am still out here, and I will get there, no matter how long it takes me.
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