Leaving the Trail Excited

I did almost 800 miles.  That’s worth something, right?  So I didn’t finish my thru hike.  Why did I leave and what does that mean for me?

To be honest, I was complaining from the beginning.  Who in their right mind spends money to sleep in snow, like more than two days in a row?  Oh, that’s right, me.

All joking aside, for the first two weeks of my hike I discovered that thru hikers are psycho.  I mean completely out of their right mind.

I found out I had signed up for hard labor, outdoors, only to get paid in the occasional view.  At least that’s what it felt like at the time.

After the temperatures kept themselves above freezing a few weeks in, and my legs and feet screamed a little less I thought, “Oooo, feeling strong feels cool.”  Then my husband hurt is ankle.  It was partially my fault.  You can read about that incident here.  And off the trail we went for seven days.

Returning to the trail, my priority became helping my husband regain his mobility and prevention from re-injury.  On and off we went a bit until a few weeks later we re-found our momentum and speed again.  At the end of my concern for my husband returned my thoughts about leaving.

“I could be painting right now.”  “I could be writing right now.” Would cross my mind on days when the rain poured down.  When the sun was shining however, I thought, “I could do 20 miles for a few days.”  But I realized the trail, although something I was enjoying, it was more something I was enduring.  Is that wrong?  I knew that if it wasn’t my husbands dream, I wouldn’t be out here on my own initiative.  I was spending money to be near my dream–him.  And in the meantime, got to take in a lot of beauty.

As the weather warmed and became hot my heat rash grew, my soars from my pack grew, and poison ivy spread, my feet hurt more, and a matter of getting lower on funds came on the table.  Approaching the halfway point we knew we didn’t have the money for two people to finish.  And neither of us just wanted to hike through Pennsylvania and New York and be done.  It ceased to be helpful for me to hike alongside the one I love and so, willingly, I volunteered to tap out (as they would say on the Naked and Afraid show).

Today is the first day where I am at my mother’s home in Minnesota and my husband is in Pennsylvania hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Even as I sit here and write this blog, a first coat of paint is drying on a canvas that will soon be filled with color.  My feet ache and my legs still hurt but I look back on everything with such thankfulness and fondness, even the pain (although I am looking forward to not gaining new pains as the days continue  🙂

I am stronger than I have been in a decade and hope to walk a marathon this week.  That was something I had wanted to do on the trial but never got around to.  Our highest day was 22 miles.  I am glad my husband will discover his own hike now, even apart from mine.

With love, pride, gratitude and excitement, I say Adieu.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 10

  • Joshua Johnson : May 26th

    Farewell! 800 miles is no joke. Plenty of time to meet new people, learn new things about yourself, grow stronger and bond with your husband. I’m glad you did it and I hope that looking back will leave you even happier. Well wishes and paint on!

    • Heather Q : May 26th

      Thanks for the encouragement and feedback Joshua!

      • Marty : May 29th

        I am turning a historic house in Delaware Water Gap into a bed and breakfast with possibly a hostel in the barn. The house is at the point where the road from lake Lenape meets Mountain Road. I hope he stops to say hello. I will post his picture on my Facebook page The Appalachian House.

  • Paul Boulay : May 30th

    The AT has many and profound rewards and many hard tribulations. You have described several of them. For some, the rewards outweigh the tribulations; for others, not. If that equation is not in favor of the rewards, the magnitude of the AT turns the tribulations into an endurance grind, a personal test.

    For me at 21, with something to prove, that test became a part of the objective, of achieving 2000 Miler, Thru-Hiker status, something that I treasure greatly to this day. Many people will find at least one (or more) day(s) of reconning. One for me was that night at a place called Hogwallow Flat in Shenandoah NP; Jan ’79, newly alone (my buddy quit on 1/20/79) on snowshoes, broken packframe, wet sleeping bag, wet frozen boots, crappy food, frozen water and my cook stove tipped over in my tent for the 2nd time that evening.

    You cannot do this for someone else. You must want it for yourself. You must have obstinance and a redeeming personal objective to get you through those times, or the effort becomes unsustainable.

    But the journey, including the January traverse of SNP, was so so worth it.

  • Heather P : May 30th

    From one Heather who got off the trail early this year to another, congratulations on your accomplishments! I was in your shoes a few hundred miles ago 🙂

    • Heather Q : Jun 1st

      Thanks Heather P! Apparently we have more in common than just our name! Ha!

  • firehound : May 30th

    Heather you did it your way ! Relish in what you’ve attained, the adventure you guy’s had. The enlightenment you received. I section Hike, but it’s just not the same, you had the resolve to do wonderful things, to hike 800 miles! that’s no joke, be proud of you, the AT is a piece of heaven on earth, it’s been said that if thru hiking was a job, everyone would quit, I believe that ! best wishes and good luck to your Hubby !

    • Heather Q : Jun 1st

      Thank you so much Firehound!

  • William Presley : May 30th

    Smart people have sense enough to quit something when they don’t like it. Screw pier pressure or what ever other people think, just because you try something doesn’t mean you have to finish it. You only live once and if you find your into something you don’t like, change it. That includes sports, jobs, religions, mates etc. You only live once so make the most of it.

  • Ned : Jun 24th

    Heather, I am one of the five older guys you and Matador ran across section hiking in Central VA, initially at Pickle Branch shelter, and again at Johns Spring and finally in Daleville (where we finished our section). Sorry to hear you’re off the Trail, but very glad you feel good about your terrific accomplishment. I write to let you know that I have a house a few miles off the Trail in Stockbridge Mass. If Matador is still on the Trail, I’d be happy to offer him a night or two of hot showers, good food and a soft bed if not also a couple of days of slack packing as he comes through Mass. My email is above if he’s interested. All the best. Ned


What Do You Think?