Look at me now! I’m a flip flopper!
Greetings from Harpers Ferry, WV! I’m Freud, official flip flop thru hiker of the Appalachian Trail 2016. We get knocked down, but we get up again. (Shoutout to the friend who put that song on a Spotify playlist – it gets stuck in my head all the time)
When I started this hike, I thought I would go straight from Georgia to Maine passing every white blaze in between chronologically and quickly. When I started this trip, I thought I would be over half way by this point in time. When I started, I thought that reaching Katahdin would mean everything and would be the high point of my trip. But I was wrong. And I am happy.
It’s been two weeks today since Kae and I had to get off trail. We left for Waynesboro wanting to pick up where we left off. It took only 8 miles of talking for us to realize that at this rate we would not be summiting Katahdin together by the time she needed to get back home to coach collegiate level soccer. But, if we flip flopped a chunk, and went to Harpers Ferry to hike north, we could summit together and then complete the mid section after the soccer season. It’s not what we planned. But this trip is better than anything we could’ve planned. So we aren’t GA->ME anymore. But we’re going to thru hike the whole thing together, and that’s better.
Katahdin feels less important everyday. But my community feels more important. My time out here feels even more invaluable. And my appreciation for the trail grows everyday. I don’t care as much about the end. But I love this day and yesterday more than I would’ve imagined and I’m more excited for tomorrow than I could’ve hoped.
My dad, affectionately known as Lazy Fox on the trail, always reminds me to “press on.” And I love that focus. But I’m also pressing in and really letting this trail change me. Some days I don’t feel that different but I could sense a change in me when I was home in contrast to my old comfort zones.
One outlook that has changed is how I define a thru hike and thru hikers. In the beginning, I acted as if I could predict who was going to finish. I thought there was a “type.” And I wasn’t sad to see people quit because 80% do every year and it wasn’t going to be me so it had to be “them.” Now, I just want to tell everyone that this trail IS for YOU — no matter how long you can stay or how far you can hike in a day, no matter what age or athleticism, and no matter what brings you. Just come.
I also don’t care how you define your thru hike. Flip flop all over the trail? Sure. You skipped a few miles to get to town a day early? Fine. Someone choosing to do their trail differently does not lessen my title of a thru hiker. I want to pass every white blaze and call myself a thru hiker. If you want to aqua blaze the Shenandoahs and you missed a few miles in a section, I’ll call you a thru hiker too. I have been shocked how many people come out here for “freedom” on the trail and then turn around and call people “cheaters” because they took a blue blaze that cut off 3 miles. It seems odd to me that a group that comes to live in the woods and escape so much of society can be such harsh critics and rule book thumpers. No ones hike defines yours and you shouldn’t seek to define or lessen others.
Basically, I’m learning to relax. And dream. And let others do the same. Dreaming is hard for me. And it’s scary to realize that I don’t think I can go back to my old life. I came out here saying that I would return to my life exactly how it was and said I was “different” because most people came out here in transition or needing change — but not me. And here I am wondering why I don’t dream bigger all the time if this is the kind of life I can have if I take hold of all the crazy plans I think I was intended to have. I think my dreams are small. But dreams that are inspired in the Spirit are big and scary. And better. Much better.
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