I Am Here

My start date was February 18th. Take a second to do the math. Almost seven months have passed since I first walked through the arch at Amicalola Falls.

I am still here. Still putting in the work every day.

I have faced obstacles, both external and internal. Injuries haunted me through Virginia, taking me off the trail for a couple days here, a couple days there, forcing me to rebuild my mileage each time. I struggled mentally, coping with feelings of abandonment and loneliness as my old hiking community moved on without me and the new ones seemed less and less interested in getting to know me.

Even still, I woke up each morning and laced up my hiking shoes.

Admittedly, I envied the speed demons, the regulars of the 20 mile club. To be able to have this grand adventure in such a brief time! It seemed extremely efficient.

But then I think of all that has happened in the last month or so. In many ways I have completely changed how I approach this trail. The rugged New England terrain, the high summer temperatures, and the constant search for water slowed me down. I could no longer use mileage as the metric to determine whether or not it was a good hiking day.

Then I realized, why are you measuring at all? Qualifying experiences became yet another way I was trying to compare my hike to everyone else’s. Woof. That realization had some teeth to it. Stop it, girlfriend. Ok, how do I do that?

It’s a cliché phrase, but I started focusing on my ‘attitude of gratitude.’ My nightly routine of massaging my feet became an moment to truly reflect on the amazing things my body did that day. I shortened my miles a little so I had time to unwind a bit at the end of the day. I started building my sense memories, the certain birdsongs I heard in the morning, that Christmasy smell of the evergreen forests, the perfect blue of the sky after the storms passed. While I still met hikers every day, I worked really hard to release that reflex to make instant bonds. As a result, I became more present in the moments of passing fellowship shared at a shelter or a lunch spot.

In short, I stopped trying to beat the trail, and let it teach me instead.

Now life out here isn’t always perfect. There are mornings I wake up sore and struggle to get on trail. Sometimes the terrain does get to me, and I find myself using more colorful language than a Samuel L. Jackson movie. So I take a time out. ‘You’re not going another step til you get your head back on straight,’ I say, and I drop Meg for fifteen minutes and I leave my phone in my pouch and I just sit. This allows me to return my attention back to the trail. Because, wow! Maine, you really know how to show off!

Six months in and counting, I am still learning lessons from this trail. And that is definitely worth lacing up my shoes each day.

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Comments 3

  • Karen Reynolds : Sep 18th

    Great read. One of your best submissions (I have not read them all).

    Your pace, not a race. Glad you are extracting so much from each day on the trail. Unforgettable journey through your discipline and tenacity.

    Carry on. Almost there.

    Reply
  • Ruth Anne Collins : Sep 18th

    Wise words, indeed! Way to go! Keep at it! I am gonna follow this lead for my epic adventure on the AT next year! Best wishes for your journey.

    Reply
  • Julie : Sep 18th

    I’ve loved following your AT journey! You’ve got this! You have shown me that I don’t have to pound miles and pound myself every day to get to Katahdin. Starting earlier to give myself wiggle room to recuperate and/or take in the sights. Thank you for making it real and for your honesty and insights. You’re a lovely person!

    Reply

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