I Don’t Love Thru Hiking (and that’s okay)
Spoiler alert: This not the post where I realize, three weeks out from finishing my thru hike, that my days are numbered on the trail and that I’m going to miss it dearly.
This is not where I talk about all the gorgeous mountain views, how I have transcended the ability to smell my hiker stench, and how I feel connected to the wilderness.
This is where I talk about the times thru hiking ****ing sucks, which has been a big chunk of my hike.
When I’ve spent all of August enduring temperatures in the Northeast with a heat index worse than death valley and a cashier says how glad she is that she isn’t outside when it’s a cool 89 degrees out.
When I encounter the Nth day
walker hiker of the day asking when I started, where I started, how far I’m going, when I’ll be finished, and how much they would love or hate thru hiking.
When I have to force a smile in response and act like I’m having the time of my life because I don’t want to scare people off from this noble pursuit, right?
When my boyfriend is content hiking for the love of hiking, and for some inconceivable reason I just don’t find the same joy.
When I spend a third of my thru hike wondering what is wrong with me for not feeling the magic of the woods, not feeling the freedom of the hiker lifestyle, and feeling like an ungrateful jerk for the privilege of shitting into a hole I dug with a dull plastic shovel.
When it seems more logical that I need a therapist instead of allowing myself to admit
I. Don’t. Love. Thru hiking.
The relief that there is nothing wrong with me for not liking this. The majority of aspiring thru hikers who had this realization quit hundreds (or 1800) miles ago. So why am I still going?
I only have 330 miles left, but I still have 330 miles left. I’ve hiked through freezing cold, snow, wind, rain, sleet, starvation, thirst, 2 AM storms, rock scrambles, bogs, arid ridges, heat, norovirus, constipation, chronic joint and muscle pain, blackflies, mosquito swarms, and more. I’ve been pushed to my physical and mental limits and then shoved past them with no relief in sight.
Fall weather is helping, but hasn’t restored the joy I experienced during the northbound section of my hike from Georgia to Damascus. Hiking is not a relief from the world; it’s my entire world. I can’t go home at the end of the day to a hot shower and warm bed. I set up my hammock house and hope that wet wipes will stop new rashes from appearing. Instead of a restful night’s sleep, I toss and turn and have nightmares about bears attacking me, waking up feeling more tired than when I tried to sleep.
I’ve invested five months of my life to this trail. I find relief in abandoning the hope that it’s just the heat, or the bugs, or the rashes that are making me miserable and it’s going to get better eventually. I like hiking as something I do in moderation, not as a lifestyle.
There’s always something and it is what it is. I’ve accepted that I cry when I see road cyclists because I miss my bike so much. I cuddle strangers’ dogs past the socially acceptable point because I miss my dog so much. I cry because no matter how hard I pretend, instant mashed potatoes aren’t real potatoes.
I’ve accepted that I will still be a thru hiker regardless of if the emotion I feel at the end is joy, sadness, or immense relief. My desire to be a 2000 miler and finish what I started outweighs the Appalachian Trials.
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