“I Quit”

On April 24, I was an hour ahead of James on the road. The day before, I had climbed Stratton Mountain in Vermont, fighting through mud and snow to reach the summit tower, and I had warned James about the conditions. This ascent marked a turning point for me, having recently overcome health issues that had shaken my motivation. With each step towards the summit, I felt my enthusiasm for hiking revive, giving me the momentum to continue this life of adventure.

Finally, I had arrived in Vermont, a terrain promising challenges far beyond what I had encountered on the Appalachian Trail, except perhaps in the Great Smoky Mountains. Each breath of fresh air revitalized me, each view reminded me why I had chosen this life of endless hiking.

It was a forced day off, with the forecasted rain pausing my adventures. After a well-deserved sleep-in, I was leisurely preparing my breakfast when my phone rang, breaking the morning calm. It was a message from James’ InReach: “I quit. Pick up 1618.”

My heart skipped a beat, surprise freezing me for a moment… but only a moment.

Since our failed attempt on Mount Katahdin, I had noticed James struggling more and more to meet his daily goals. The days when he barely managed to cover 15 miles became common. He often shared how exhausted he felt. When we met back at the van, his mornings were increasingly slow, his movements heavy as if he was carrying the weight of his miles on his shoulders.

Even though he was getting more and more tired, there were moments when a small event would reenergize him. A pancake breakfast at a nearby trail restaurant or a gourmet weekend in New York were sometimes enough to rekindle his spirit and remind him why he had chosen this adventure. These little joys, though rare, gave him a needed break and allowed him to continue, despite doubts and difficulties.

That morning of April 24, as I savored my London Fog, James’ message resonated with me. This adventure that had so animated us seemed to be reaching a breaking point. Faced with this reality, I felt a decision looming on the horizon, as heavy as the clouds gathering above me.

The Pickup at 1618

The first thing James wanted to do, once we got together, was to go to sleep. Exhausted, he collapsed almost immediately.

Once rested, we had the opportunity to talk more deeply about his experience on the Appalachian Trail. James shared his mixed feelings: pride in the miles covered and the weariness that had stealthily set in. He seemed torn, caught between his desire to continue the adventure and the pressing need to rest.

“I don’t understand. I did the PCT in 107 days, with only four rest days under much tougher conditions.”

His words reminded me of our trek in New Zealand’s Richmond Ranges, where I struggled to cover 15 km a day. I didn’t recognize myself. The tough terrain, heat, and humidity had affected me, but that wasn’t me.

The image we have of ourselves and our capabilities plays a crucial role, and failing to meet our personal standards can plunge us into deep anxiety.

For James, feeling tired every other day was profoundly demoralizing. On low-energy days, walking became an ordeal without pleasure.

“There’s no way I can make it at this pace…” he concluded, disheartened.

“But James, your body needs rest,” I responded, trying to reassure him.

“Yes, but I’m already behind because of the failed Katahdin ascent.”

After a full day of rest, James’ mindset had noticeably shifted. The prospect of quitting, which almost seemed like an escape the day before, no longer appealed to him. We explored all kinds of scenarios, from outright quitting to continuing despite the challenges.

From my perspective, I was convinced of the importance of listening to oneself, far beyond any ambition. Enjoying what one does is crucial; without it, we are on the wrong path. “What would bring joy back into the adventure for you?” I asked James.

Without hesitation, he replied: “Stopping the Appalachian Trail and starting the next trail. The thought of continuing to walk in mud and snow up to Katahdin makes me want to vomit.” His response was raw but revealed the extent of his discouragement with the current conditions and his need for a change of scenery.

We also took time to explore my own desires. The Appalachian Trail did not fully meet my need for adventure and breathtaking landscapes. What I really dreamed of was crossing the Sierras on the Pacific Crest Trail, a hike that lasts about a month. With all the delays we had accumulated, I thought it was not realistic to plan to backpack this section together.

But, against all odds, James thought it would be a great idea to do it together. He believed it would only put him two weeks behind his schedule. “The real problem is seeing the Calendar Year Triple Crown as a whole,” he confided. “It’s stressful to think about everything that’s left to do.”

Thanks to my coaching skills, I guided James through a deep reflection on his motivations and fears. Together, we explored the importance of focusing on the present moment. We began to see our next steps not as constraints to our planning, but as opportunities to fully live out our passions.

The Decision

After much reflection and many discussions, we made a decision that seemed liberating for both of us: we are temporarily leaving the Appalachian Trail to return later in the year. The call of the West was too strong to ignore, and the promising landscapes of the Pacific Crest Trail await us.

James quickly organized his trip: he is taking a plane to the starting point of the Pacific Crest Trail. For my part, I plan to join him with our van a week later.

We are ready to embrace this new phase of our adventure with enthusiasm and optimism.

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Comments 4

  • Steve : Apr 26th

    “Man plans…..” Good luck. I’ve enjoyed your posts. God speed.

    • James and Marie-Soleil : May 1st


  • David Groce : Apr 26th

    Keep on blogging’!!

    • James and Marie-Soleil : May 1st

      We sure will 😉


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