The Lure, Love, and Length of the Trail – No Regrets
Lure: To tempt a person to do something or to go somewhere, especially by offering some form of reward.
I started this journey with no expectations. I was just going on a hike with my son on the Appalachian Trail. But the more research I did, the more I thought about it, the more the trail lured me into thinking I could actually finish it.
Then you register for your thru-hiker tag and your thoughts turn to “I am a thru-hiker.” Your family, friends, and even strangers support and urge you to thru-hike. Once again the lure of the trail grabs you.
Because it’s the Appalachian Trail you start to feel and maybe even believe you can only be accomplished or successful in your hike if you sit on the top of that mountain, Katahdin. It’s a misunderstanding of mind, heart, and physical abilities.
First your mind thinks you can, your heart is in it, and your physical abilities are adequate. Then your mind starts to question, your heart starts to hurt, and your body aches. It’s these times that you question what your goal is. What is it that you’re trying to accomplish?
The love of the trail overtakes you as you hike day after day. The solitude, beauty, and culture of the trail is nothing short of amazing.
I decided to stay unplugged; I didn’t want to miss a thing. The only time I plugged in was to let family know I was OK and my approximate whereabouts. This solitude and countless hours alone clear a mind and soul.
Even in the worst weather the trail had a beauty – the way the fog settled in the trees, the snow glistening, the mist coming over a mountaintop, and then there were those couple of days of sunshine when you stood on a bald and could see forever.
The culture was unexpected. I enjoyed the support, trail magic, and camaraderie. Whether someone had a backpack on or not, as long as they were on the trail folks took you in as part of the group.
Success is not generated by length but by your own perception of what you believe you should hike. It can become an internal struggle and after just over a month on trail I decided to end my journey. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.
I never expected the roller-coaster of emotions I would go though. One day determined to make it to the end of the next day questioning what you’re doing out here and the life you left behind. My mind bounced back and forth like a ping-pong ball. It was maddening. After several days of conversations with family and friends I did what was best for me. I ended my journey; it was time to go home.
Now I sit on the other side as my son, Walkitoff, continues on. He is always on my mind. What did he see today? How was the weather? Oh no, a storm is coming in. Will he be cold? For those on the trail nothing really changes except the weather and you adjust accordingly. But for those off the trail, your family and friends, the wondering, concerns, and excitement don’t end.
While I was on trail it never occurred to me what those at home were going through.
Four days later Walkitoff went through the same thing I did and decided to end his journey.
Neither of us have any regrets and are happy for the time we got to spend together. What an experience to be able to spend with your son.
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