HOLY HELL! What have i gotten myself into?
I have written and erased the above title to my first blog post probably over twenty times. Here are a few of the titles I have written and subsequently erased:
“HOLY FUCK! You’re doing what?”
“HOLY HELL! What have i gotten myself into?”
“HOLY HELL! How the fuck is this real?”
“The emotional ROLLERCOASTER RIDE of planning a thru-hike”
“TWO MONTHS AWAY AND I AM FREAKING OUT”
Deep breaths. I know. Deep. Breaths.
Okay, I am going to calm down for a second to introduce myself and give you a little backstory.
Hi! My name is Carolyn but most people call me Cardeentz. That is pronounced Car (like the vehicle) and then deents (like the bug spray “Deet” but with some other letters thrown in there randomly. It’s a long story.) Cardeentz is also my Instagram handle. Feel free to follow me there: @cardeentz.
In May 2015, I was in Oregon with my best pal Lydia and a few other folks on a camping trip. I do not remember how the topic arose, but I remember dear Lydia saying that she wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail or that she had, at one point, thought about it. (Hi Lydia! If you are reading this, I don’t think you know that you are the human that sparked this dream of mine, but now you know! I love you.) I remember sitting there, canopied by the gorgeous trees of the Mt. Hood National Forest, and thinking “I could do that.” Later that week, we met a guy in Portland, Oregon who had hiked the Appalachian Trail. He recounted some stories from his hike and the one I remember most specifically is that he would hang his hammock high in the trees and deep in the forest. He told us how he had a routine of waking up at sunrise to peek out of his hammock high in the trees and watch the critters of the forest begin their days. I remember imagining myself hanging in a tree surrounded by all the animals. Deer, bears, birds, and squirrels merrily collecting their breakfast as I watched. At some point, I would get down from my hammock and we would all sit down together to eat. Bear would pass me a cup of warm tea and Squirrel would whip up a plate of mixed nuts. It was the Snow White fairy tale I had always dreamed of.
Ok… After some research, I realize that the AT is far from a Snow White fairy tale….
From that stint in Oregon onward, I said out loud and frequently that my next big adventure was going to be the AT. I remember cringing a little bit every time I would say it aloud. I cringed because it felt like a lie, a dream that was simply impossible to attain. Heck, I am not a hiker. I have never hiked that much in my life. I like to camp, but often rely on others to do the dirty work. I have a long-standing history of avoiding setting up tents, cooking at the campsite, cleaning dishes, and anything else involving expending energy on things I just simply did not want to do. An ex-boyfriend referred to me once as “girly” and I was DEEPLY offended at the time. He was referring to my lack of interest in anything requiring manual labor, as we were on a camping trip and I had allowed for him to do all the work as I sat back and enjoyed the scenery. I didn’t respond with a well-articulated feminist argument on the language and implications around the adjective “girly,” but in retrospect, I should have. Heck, I have “girl power” tattooed on my arm for christ sake. Call me girly all you want. WHAT OF IT!!
I remember telling my friends that I was going to do it and saying in my head “They don’t believe me.” I remember telling my family over and over again and thinking “they don’t believe me either.” Honestly, I didn’t believe myself.
It took me a long time to convince myself I could do it. I had been saying for MONTHS that I was gonna do this huge, giant, life-altering thing, but it seemed so scary. I was so scared.
After many hours, days, months, and years of wondering how the fuck this was going to work, I decided a section-hike was a better choice. Section-hiking seemed more attainable for someone with my experience, or lack thereof. Section hiking was my way out of disappointing myself if I did not complete my thru-hike.
The goal was always to thru-hike. It took countless months of planning a section-hike to realize that my brain kept going back to the idea that I was just going to keep going after my section-hike was over. One day, very recently actually, I fell to the floor crying because I started thinking about what it must feel like to get to the end. I thought about all the feels you must feel when you hike for so long and go through so much and finish a monstrosity of a goal like this. I looked in the mirror at my tear-streaked face (so corny, but I swear this actually happened) and decided that if even just the thought of finishing made me weep, I had to do the whole thing.
I have begun to repeat out loud to myself every day “I am going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.” Yesterday, I quite literally prayed to the universe/the forces of the unseen/ God/whatever the hell you call it to help me out. I write in my journal over and over again that this is what is happening. The act of blogging this currently feels vulnerable as I hate to admit to the doubt I have had, but I am also aware of the shift that has occurred. I went from cringing every time I said I was going to hike the AT to saying loudly and proudly over and over again to anyone and everyone in my life that I AM GOING TO THRU-HIKE THE AT. Heck, I am even blogging about it for anyone and everyone to read.
Grandiose goals are good goals because conceiving the inconceivable for ourselves helps us to go above and beyond that which we see as possible for ourselves. I’ll be sharing my ups and downs from before, during and after the trail on this site and I hope you do choose to follow along.
More to come soon!
“Hello fear. Thank you for being here. You are my indication that I am doing what I need to do.”
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Thank you so much for this amazing and vulnerable article! I definitely could relate to everything you wrote about. I’ll be thru-hiking too this year, hope to see you out there. Stay positive, we got this!