I Never Thought This Would End So Close To The End

There’s a scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Nigel says to Andrea, “Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. That means it’s time for a promotion.”

I keep thinking about one of the moments on the trail where I was joking around with someone I was hiking with. I was close to 900 miles into this long section hike and said “Do I look like a thru hiker? Do I fit in yet? After this many miles, I still never look like a thru hiker!” He laughed and said “You do look like a thru hiker, everything is falling apart.”

We were joking around, but he still meant it both literally and figuratively. In that moment, one of my pack pockets was functional exclusively because of duct tape. Everything was dirty. I was skinnier than I probably should have been. My life back at home felt like it was hanging by a thread, just like Andrea said the same to Nigel about her own life right before he remarked with the above quote.

My life is the smoke, and trying to stay on the trail is the promotion. A little overdramatic? Yes. The very real way that I feel? Also yes.

Since I last wrote, I made it through New Hampshire, into Maine, and through Southern Maine. I made it through the hardest part of the trail. I came home less than 200 miles from the end. I felt heartbreak on so many different levels. “Home” is a loose term right now. This all comes with the end of a relationship, one that I was so sure was going to survive the trail. The trail didn’t end us, the trail was the backdrop. There are layers upon layers to this story with two sides to it, but that’s all I can say for now on that subject matter.

I hoped to be writing about how I finally did it. About how I got to Katahdin after the turmoil in the beginning of this hike where at one point I wound up getting off the trail for two weeks because of some life matters at home. About how I’ve been coming back to the trail since I started it in 2019, how more than once some of my hikes have been cut short, but I kept coming back and I did it.

But right now, I didn’t do it. I never could have imagined it happening this way. I’ve learned that I can fight and fight, but at the end of the day, life outside of the trail can go in such a direction that staying away from it is simply not an option. I hiked on for a little while after the initial separation upon mutual understanding. But I finally officially knew that hiking on to Katahdin was no longer in the cards when my dad, who has been supportive of me finishing this hike in any and absolutely every way possible, very seriously helped clarify to me in my mental turmoil that I needed to leave it behind and attend to more serious matters at the forefront.

I tread murky waters now. I hiked through heat, cold, days of rain, tough terrain where “climbed” is a more acceptable verb than “hiked”. I gave everything I could to keep my home life functioning, or so I thought. Now I only question it. I am doing some deep soul searching, wondering what expense a personal goal is worth. I wonder if the benchmark that I thought existed, where “when my life is built around my ability to pursue personal goals I’ve done it right” is not an accurate way to think about things.

This post is short, it is vague, yet in my opinion, it is necessary. We need to show the struggles as much as we do the victories. I always thought that hikers who reached a certain point close enough to the end were definitely going to make it. I suppose that anything can happen.

I have loose plans to come back to the trail briefly before I head back to work again, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a priority right now. In adhering to another’s advice to not put a personal diary out there into post form right now, I’m signing off right here for the day. As I reflect, I do hope you enjoy some of my photos from New Hampshire and Maine, and that they add brightness to a rather somber-toned post!

What felt like a rare sunny day in the White Mountains of NH!

 

Trying to outrun a storm after hiking over Mt. Webster. Spoiler alert: I got poured on exactly one mile from reaching camp that night.

 

After a near disaster on Franconia Ridge where I had to bail off of Mt. Lafayette due to bad weather, I was so fortunate to climb up to Mt. Washington on a rare perfectly clear day and see this view of the presidential range.

 

It turns out that the rocks of Pennsylvania don’t exactly go away as the trail goes north! A view of the trail on Mt. Madison.

 

An example of what the incline is often like in the white mountains. This was heading up Wildcat mountain.

 

Unfortunately my phone didn’t capture it well, but this was my first ever moose sighting! I got to watch him splash around in the pond for a little while one morning when I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

 

I’m pretty sure this was a family of baby grouse that led the way for me on a misty humid morning.

 

This wasn’t common so it was a nice picture-worthy treat – what I think was pink mountain laurel.

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Comments 11

  • Fritz : Aug 27th

    You might not finish this go around but I believe you will finish.

    Reply
  • Ron Mittelman : Aug 27th

    Life is the journey, not the destination. Heal yourself. Regroup. Then launch again. You have so much time. More adventure. You have true grit!!

    Reply
  • MICHELLE E KINGSBURY : Aug 27th

    God has been telling me for the last year, “Hike your own hike.”

    Reply
  • Ruth Morley : Aug 28th

    I applaud you for what you have done and are doing. Real Life (outside of the AT) is what our lives are truly about. The AT is a wonderful adventure that shapes and influences us personally in ways that continue to reveal themselves through future years. But, IMHO, the people in our lives are what matter most.

    I too left the trail right about where you got off. It was in 2019, due to pelvic stress fractures and extreme mental exhaustion and distress. I said “never again!” with 250 miles left.

    I returned 5 weeks ago. Despite shin splints and knee pain after the Bigelows, I felt capable of continuing on. I summited Katahdin a week ago. My final miles leading to the base of the mountain were highly emotional for me and all the more meaningful, not in spite of all my physical and emotional difficulties during the 4 years it took me to reach that point, but because of.

    Deal with your life issues now. The trail will be there for you when it’s the right time, and it will be all the sweeter.

    My heart goes out to you.

    Reply
  • Kelli Ramey : Aug 28th

    Live your life one day at a time.
    Let it be sufficient until itself.
    Nature is and will always be there, no matter where you are.
    Breathe and be where you are.

    Reply
  • pearwood : Sep 2nd

    Dear Lil Bear,
    They taught us decades ago in Army flight school, “The most important maneuver you will ever learn in the 180 degrees turn.”
    Blessings on your way,
    Steve

    Reply
  • Peanut : Sep 3rd

    The only time I wanted to quit my thru was 200 miles from the finish line. I had some issues at home but decided to push through. The last two weeks were an emotional blur and I submitted katahdin in dark time of my life. I am still processing the emotional damage I put myself through.
    The trail is too easy to use as an excuse for real life problems. You are so strong for facing them head on and trusting your gut in the process.

    Reply
  • "Cheesehead" Pederson : Sep 4th

    Lil Bear sorry to hear you didn’t make Katahdin. I came home at Hwy 2 after hiking 944 miles. I fell and cracked a rib. Could have continued but not sleeping well and pain when reaching the trail was no longer fun. Best of luck going forward. Cheesehead.

    Reply
  • Janet : Sep 15th

    I’m so proud of what you accomplished. My son finished the trail in three takes. You will finish it when the time is right. Take good care of yourself and look to the future. Peace to you.

    Reply
  • Chris : Sep 25th

    I know it’s tough but life is more important than the trail. The trail will be there for you another day. Completing it won’t be worth it if you lose everything else in the process.
    Your Fellow Alabamian

    Reply

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