I Hiked 342.9 Miles

So I am off the trail.

This was an extremely hard decision, but one that I do not regret. I had an amazing time meeting all the colorful, heartwarming people I had the honor to meet and share my adventure with. I chose to leave the trail because hiking every day, all day became a chore of misery for me. Yes, I knew hiking everyday was going to be tough, but you can never really understand that concept unless you actually do it. I took it day by day, step by step, but it wasn’t enough. I did finish the section right this time. Instead of trying to find a ride at Spivey Gap when I didn’t want to go any farther, I hiked the 16 miles into Erwin, TN, ate delicious town food, took a hot shower, relaxed, had a great night sleep and even went to see the new Avengers movie in 3-D before making any decision. After that I knew my feelings were more than just being tired or hunger. I was ready to move on.

What I will miss:

Of course I will miss my trail family: Ambush, Brian, Dirty Peanut, Blue, Blue Kazoo, Bullet, Sam Wise, Forrest Gump, Snack Time, Marley, and Med kit. You guys rock my world and cannot wait to see you at Trail Days! I will miss the quiet. It kept my mind free from distractions and was so blissful. I will miss waking up in the woods to birds singing and the solitude of my tent. Yeah, I could be camping in my parent’s back yard, which has crossed my mind, but it wouldn’t be the same. I will miss the ability to eat WHATEVER I want because of the thousands of calories I burned in single day. The struggle is real! I will miss the random music nights around the fire. So much talent out there! Especially Ambush and Sam Wise’s “Dear Mum”. I will miss the feeling of walking into trail magic during a rough day and downing a soda like it will be the last one I will ever have.

t2

What I got from the AT:

Although I have been on the trail for a month and a half instead of 5-6 months, I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. I gained an understanding of my bodies physical and mental limits. From days where is was so cold and wet that I felt my body going into a hypothermic state to intense heat, which caused severe dehydration, dizziness, nausea, heat exhaustion and dark urine even after consuming 6 liters of water. I certainly gained appreciation for comfort lol. I gained a true appreciation of a steady climb and then to be rewarded with a beautiful view. I also gained the understanding of a hard climb, then to be very disappointed at the top due to the view being non-existent due to bad weather or dense fog. We will not always be rewarded for our hard work, but if we don’t put the effort to make the climb we will not give ourselves the chance to be rewarded. From the people I met along the way I found trust and the understanding of the human connection. Through nature we are all connected to one another and we need this connection/companionship to make it through this life.

I learned that I am not the “bad ass” that I thought I was. I discovered I like being a “do-er” instead. Yes I did not complete the 2,189.5 miles, but 342.9 miles is more than most people will ever hike. The AT gave me confidence in myself that I never thought I would have. I have been taught to be in the moment. A lot of times people get so caught up in the future that they forget to live in the present. At least I was that way. Now every time I start to stress about something in the future I make myself shut my brain off and just observe my surroundings. I am learning to be proud of myself. The people who really knew me pre-trail know that I am very hard on myself about being successful and am a bit of a perfectionist, so this is certainly a struggle for me knowing that I haven’t completed the trail. My mom, who has been my back bone and biggest supporter, when I told her of my decision to leave the trail, sh told me that I haven’t failed anything. Which, after some reflection, knew that was true because I have gained so much from this adventure. I have gained miles, new friendships, a new confidence in pursing my life goals, and a rocking body… Sorry had to throw some humor in there! I gained a better understanding of what I want out of life. I discovered I was a different person or maybe just became a better person that I thought I was. My true self. When I came home, even after only a month and a half I felt SO loved and supported my friends and family. I missed them ALL so much!

t3

This is not over… My journey has only just begun. Thursday I am heading to Damascus, VA for Trail Days and along the way I will be picking up some hiking friends and doing some trail magic. After that I will be heading north to hike and see the sections I was really looking forward to. Then I will be heading across the country to Boulder, CO to check it out as I have heard so many amazing things about it. I am really looking forward to the rest of my journey with all the memories I will make and all the people I will get to share it with. Hope to see everyone at Trail Days!

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Comments 3

  • Avatar
    zrdavis : May 12th

    1) “not a bad ass”, says the football player. Good one!

    2) sounds like you got everything you wanted out of the trail experience. The distance covered is immaterial.

    3) Enormously proud of you. You backpacked over 300 miles on one of the wettest / coldest years in recent AT history. A lot of people wouldn’t have (and don’t) made (make) it past one week. Heck, most people don’t even have guts to start. If you feel anything other than pride about your experience, you’re looking at it all wrong 🙂

    See you at Trail Days!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Jena Campbell : May 12th

      Haha I suppose I am a bad ass then 😉 Thanks for the pep talk! I am proud of myself and am so grateful for the time I had out there. See you soon!!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Victor : May 14th

    Great post. Wise words. The trail is one hell of a teacher

    Reply

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