Many Struggle, Such Doubt

This is far, far harder than I expected. Everything about my life is different now from how it was five weeks ago. And none of those differences are easier.

The weekend couldn’t have been happier: a reunion with Inti; a dreamy Airbnb spot; breweries, pizza, burgers, three pieces of fried chicken with collards, grits, AND a biscuit, wine; new friends (the Airbnb hosts made us dinner on their patio!); lots and lots and lots of time in bed; singing along to old time country songs in the car; yoga and massage; but most of all SNUGGLING.

By Monday morning I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the trail.

Inti drove me back to Standing Bear Hostel, where he’d picked me up Friday morning. I dropped off a bag of unneeded food and supplies in the hiker box, and Inti drove me down the 1/4 mile to the AT. I loaded up my pack, kissed and hugged him goodbye (“No tears this time; I got this,” I said), and started up the hill.

“Oh!” I said suddenly. He turned. “My poles!” I didn’t have them. I felt mild panic because I realized I couldn’t remember seeing them all weekend, but I calmed myself with the knowledge that they must then be somewhere at Standing Bear. We drove back, and where I had most likely left them, the same place I’d put down my pack on arrival Friday morning, in their place was an inferior and bent set of poles.

After asking around and looking everywhere, I accepted that someone had likely traded up. Not knowing this for sure of course, I didn’t take the bent poles.

It was three days, about 34 miles, to Hot Springs; could I just walk without poles? Quickly, Inti and I tried to determine alternatives: drive back to Asheville an hour, find poles (half an hour?), drive back here … that would take too long and give me too late a start to make it to the shelter with anything approaching enough energy. I decided to suck it up and walk the miles without poles.

Greatly discouraged and worried by this prospect, I hugged Inti again and set off to climb five miles and descend two and a half to the first shelter.

Along the way I scouted for pole replacements. I picked up a pretty straight stick and, while definitely not as good as a pole, it did help. My foot was throbbing, and I realized I truly needed two, so I found another one. It was thinner than the first, and after about an hour, this imbalance became unignorable; I had to squeeze harder with my left hand. I found a replacement. A little later I stopped for a snack and found another replacement, and I stuck with these until I got to Hot Springs. The value of trekking pole straps has never been so apparent. Overall, though, the sticks were serviceable.

Once I had gotten the stick situation sorted out though, that afternoon, I was struck with a sudden and atrocious desire to NOT BE HIKING. To not be working so hard. To not be in the woods, to not be alone. I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t going to see Inti that night, that this wasn’t a day hike that would end with a burger, a bath, a glass of bourbon, some snuggles, and a good night’s sleep in a clean, dry bed. I couldn’t fathom it; it was ludicrous.

Trying to talk myself out of the funk, I reminded myself that first days out of town are always tough; your pack is at its heaviest and you’ve eaten a lot and you’ve had some alcohol. The body re-adapts to being sedentary remarkably fast.

My attempts were ineffective.

That evening and the next morning I did feel a little better; I met some new people whom I like very much–Sage and Ladyslipper and Flannelheart and Dawdler–and the night wasn’t too cold. But my setup tasks didn’t feel reassuringly productive and happy, as they normally do. They felt mundane and pointless; they were a drag.

Right before I set off the next morning it started to rain, but that didn’t initially demoralize me the way it has on other times.

However, by about an hour into my hike up to Max Patch, the rain hadn’t stopped and my spirit wasn’t lifted by cardio, the way it usually is. Something must have broken with my hormones–endorphins just weren’t flowing.

The rain let up enough for bugs to come out. A gnat tried to fly into my ear and as I waved it away, I hit myself in the head with a trekking pole. It hurt, but not enough to make me start crying the way it did. I wailed. I sobbed. I could hardly breathe for how hard I cried.

My thoughts: I hate this. I don’t want to do this. I’m tired of working so hard all the time. This sucks. I want to go home. I miss Inti. This sucks. Why am I doing this? Etcetera.

I kept walking because there was nothing else to do, and I kept crying. Again, I couldn’t believe that I was going to do this for the rest of the day, that I was going to do it the next day, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that.

More thoughts: I hate hiking. I hate the woods. I hate camping.

Usually a good cry helps.

Eventually I got most of the tears out of my system and climbed Max Patch, but before I did I met Mountain Man, a southbounder who asked, “How’s your hike going?”

“Ah, not too great this morning; it’s been one of those days.”

“How far you going?”

“Well, the plan was to go to Maine, but I’m not sure about that now.”

He wore shorts, a light backpack, short sleeves. He had a bushy gray beard.

As soon as I shared my troubles, as vaguely as I had, his eyes grew loving and concerned. He so genuinely felt for me. “You’ll make it,” he said. “You look healthy.”

He told me some stories of early difficulties he’d had, and of overcoming them (he was 250 miles from finishing), and then he said, “Can I give you a hug?”

We did hug, holding each other’s shoulders since our packs were too big to get our arms around them.

“Backpackers’ hug,” I said, and laughed weakly.

Then I almost broke down again heading up the hill–that whole humility, kindness-of-strangers thing.

I wish I could say Max Patch was dreamy and gorgeous and worth it, and that I cried again but this time out of joy from the beauty, but it wasn’t and I didn’t. It was raining sideways, and it was cold and windy, and I was struck by how wrong this entire endeavor might be for me, since just about every single person who knows anything about Max Patch can’t say enough good about it, and yet I was there and all I wanted was to get off it and out of the sideways rain and into the cover of woods so I could pee and not be going uphill anymore and hopefully find a place sheltered enough to stop for a snack.

My thoughts about quitting have been momentary before, have been theoretical, but I’ve spent the two days since that morning in serious contemplation of getting off.

Here are what’s hardest for me:

-Being alone. Yes, there are many amazing people on the trail, and meeting them has been one of my favorite things about this. But I am slow, and as soon as I meet and start to connect with someone, he or she moves ahead. So there’s companionship and socializing but not (yet?) friendship. I miss Inti desperately a lot of the time and without my people it’s hard for me to even feel that I am or can be myself.

-Being cold. It’s May. It’s May NINETEENTH, in the freaking SOUTH, and today it is cold outside. Two nights ago I wore all my clothes to bed and had to lay my puffy jacket over my 15-degree bag. I still regularly fill my Nalgene with boiling water and take it to bed with me. In camp evenings and mornings, I wear my puffy coat and my wool hat. I’m done with the Smokies. I’ve been out here more than a month. I started LATE to avoid cold, and yet every single day and night, at some point or another, cold makes me deeply uncomfortable.

-Being injured. Ibuprofen is doing a good job of keeping the tendinitis inflammation down, but I still feel foot pain a lot of the day, and it slows me down, which puts me behind potential friends and frustrates me. The foot pain started in week 2 and although I’ve mostly managed it, it’s time for me to admit that it isn’t healing; it’s simply being managed. To admit that means accepting this will likely be a part of the whole hike, however much longer I’m out here. That’s a dispiriting prospect.

They say not to quit on a bad day, but what if your only good days are zeroes, town days? I have good moments most days, but I’m mentally tallying things and wondering if it adds up to a balance of good or bad. Then I think, maybe that doesn’t matter; maybe this isn’t supposed to be all good. I mean, I didn’t come out here thinking it would be a luxury vacation.

This is supposed to toughen me up, or soften me, or break me down and build me up, anyway transform me somehow; it’s why I’m doing it, right? I want a re-set from digital distraction and distractability. I want to learn that I can handle deprivation, so when I come home I’m not so picky about things like lighting and temperature and other first-world comforts. If I’m going to find work and a life that makes a real impact, it’s going to mean some sacrifice. The idea was that if I can do six months in the woods, then something as “challenging” as a smaller apartment and fewer dinners out for the purpose of starting a business or being in a lower-paying field won’t wreck me.

The thing is, when you’re this deep in the “suck” of the AT, you can’t see that kind of change happening in yourself, and maybe it hasn’t happened yet at all.

Will this get easier? Will I get better at it?

Are those even the right questions for me to ask?

I’m at a marvelous (and marvelously CLEAN) hostel right now, Laughing Heart, in Hot Springs, NC, and although I wasn’t planning to zero, I know my body, mind, and spirit need to do so.

I’m using the time for rest, reading, resupply, reflection. And soul searching, serious soul searching.

Am I in a temporary phase of extra-suckiness? I mean, maybe it was the stolen poles, but that’s not enough to quit. Maybe it was the rain, but that’s not enough to quit. Maybe it’s the contrast of a luxurious weekend with Inti, but that’s not enough to quit. Maybe, like on the day I hit a wall while training for a marathon, my body’s reached some weird point of just needing more rest.

I dread going back into the woods tomorrow, but I’m going to keep on, at least until Erwin, six days’ ahead. I’ve tried marshaling my problem-solving skills and am planning shorter-distance days (people seem to all pass me no matter what, so might as well). I’ve downloaded another book to read, and a Spotify playlist for the long, lonely afternoons. I’m going to take longer breaks and going to stop in the mornings (assuming they’re dry) for writing, which I know feeds me.

If anyone has the kind of encouragement that would help me to deeply know that this will be worth it, that there will be some lasting, transformative impact on who I am as a person (beyond simply saying “I did it;” that wasn’t enough for me to feel a marathon was worth it), please, PLEASE comment here or reach out to me. I need it. I need help on this journey.

Thank you.

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Comments 35

  • Andrew Atkinson : May 19th

    Since I had already reached out to you on Facebook I was racking my brain for something else to add that might strike a ‘motivating chord’ in you to keep you truckin along and I’m reminded of a particular message from a Mr David Foster Wallace in his commencement speech called “This Is Water”. A big part of adult life if full of ‘mundane’ ‘ annoying’ ‘inconvenient’ things in our day to day existence. But it’s in those moments when we have more power than most of us take the time realize. We have the power to decide how we are going to look at said situation. Are we going to let the mundane, and annoying get the best of us or are we going to choose to look at the situation in a more positive light realizing that “This is water”… “This is water”.

    “Most days if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this long, steep climb ahead of you with a makeshift set of poles and instead focus on the positives like how even more resourceful you’re becoming having to deal with such adversity on a dime. It’s not impossible, it just depends on what you want to consider” (adapted from his speech)

  • Lisa Wieman : May 19th

    Back when we worked together, you left your marriage, your job, even your last name(!) so you could pursue whatever it was that you needed to be happy. It was all unknown. New territory. New life, new job, new name. You became the new, happier you. You did it then and, I have no doubt, you can do it again. You don’t just dream, you live your dreams. Don’t give up. You only have one life. Live it!

  • Tinkerbell : May 19th

    Backpacking is SO hard. You are absolutely right. But you will come out on the other side changed, and that happens no matter how many miles you complete. I have a great deal more patience, more respect for and a better connection to the outside world, I’m more observant overall, noticing and appreciating the small things. I’ve noticed that I approach people differently, wanting to connect with them rather than just create small talk and get through the social encounter. Hiking long distance completely changes your perspective on life, and I only did 700 miles. It affected me so profoundly that I’m going back to try at a through hike again. That said, through hiking isn’t for everyone. It’s up to you to decide at what point you’ve gotten what you came out here to get.

    When I worked in wilderness therapy, one of the principles we tried to instill in our students was that there aren’t bad days and bad things don’t happen to them. Instead, things and days just happen and YOU get to decide how you respond to them, whether or not you let them affect your mood or your outlook. For example, you can be angry and upset that someone took your poles, or you can choose to look at it from the perspective that someone most likely walked up to Standing Bear desperately needing a new set of poles. They could have been told the poles were abandoned and that “trail magic” could have boosted their mood and very well could be one of the reasons they make it to Katahdin. This shift in perspective is another thing gained from the trail. I was definitely not in that kind of mindset when I started hiking. You’ve come a really long way, and there’s no shame in leaving the trail at any time. Just make sure you’ve gotten what you came for. Maybe it would help to make a list of all the cool/awesome/positive things that have happened or that you have seen? Maybe in your writing, try to focus on finding and recording a few happy/positive moments each day and taking time to elaborate on those moments and how/why they made you feel a certain way?

    • Adam B. : May 21st

      “I have a great deal more patience…I’m more observant overall, noticing and appreciating the small things.”
      Spot on. I hope Mathina really hears you.

      The effect you describe is with me every day of my life.

  • Karen L. : May 19th

    I have started to reply three different times and then stop because I think it might sound too harsh or too judgey or too cheerleader-like or too simplifying. I will list a few things that might help based on what I’ve observed from your posts: (1) enlist a friend or multiple friends to join you on your journey – or parts of your journey. Being alone is not for everyone, and it definitely sounds like it is not for you (or me really). Friends can lift you up, distract you, and enrich your experience. (2) don’t go from hiking, roughing-it trail woman to living the life of luxury, fine dining and then back again. I feel like that might really be messing with you mental state. Not that you shouldn’t take breaks, enjoy hot showers, eat a big burger and beer, but I think it would be much harder to go back to doing something so hard when you really switch environments like that. That’s what I have taken from your posts — it might not work for you. (3) I’m definitely not as “connected” as you, so the idea of calling or texting folks from the trail or even on town days (except for maybe Mom or Inti), reading on a kindle, etc are not what I would ever do on a trip like yours. It seems like you mind is still in VA and you aren’t really immersing yourself in the experience. When you miss Inti, write him a letter. If you are struggling, journal or talk to another hiker. Try something you haven’t done before – sketch flowers, leaves, overlooks. Get a bird guide or wildflower guide and try listening to bird songs and identifying flowers.

    THAT BEING SAID, I think you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. What you are doing is crazy hard – mentally, physically, emotionally. There’s not much you can do to prepare yourself for the entirety of the task. Listen to your body. Don’t hurt yourself. I’ve never backpacked for more than a week and never alone, so I know what you are doing is HARD. I found this little article you might appreciate (or not).
    The main thing I got from it is that you don’t want to resent the trail. You started this because of how hiking makes you feel. Can you keep going? Of course. Is it worth it? I don’t know. What you have accomplished so far has been HUGE and nobody can take that away from you. I’m proud of you and I know you will make the best decision for you right now. I wish I could join you and help you through this tough time you are having.

  • Karyn : May 19th

    *I’ll try again but every time I try to ‘leave a reply’ I get booted*
    I have no idea what to say to you so I’m just going to ‘wing-it’. I have not thru-hiked yet and you are ‘exemplifying’ what I fear when I do it next year: being alone, not making friends, becoming ‘down’ with all that happens. I agree with Karen L.: I will not be so ‘connected’ when I hike mostly because I want a simplified experience and I won’t do the frequent zero days in towns because I know it will be that much harder to continue. I advise you, if you haven’t already, make a list of WHY you are doing this and see if you have accomplished what you intended as Tinkerbell said. Also, will you regret NOT finishing once you get back to the ‘real world’ and all IT’S PROBLEMs? Or will you be satisfied having gotten as far as you have before you (not quit) ‘finished’ your journey on the trail? I personally hope you continue because 1. I think you will gain so much and will feel such an incomparable sense of accomplishment and 2. so few women start/finish the AT (not to pressure you for that reason alone). But, you need to ‘hike your own hike’. Best wishes.

  • Slack Packhiker : May 19th

    The contrast of depravation on the trail and romantic interludes in towns are both born of non-reality. Generally, life is somewhere in between, and one’s choices help determine which end of the wide spectrum a person resides day by day.

    Chin up, beautiful young lady. Hiking the AT is a privilege, and you will likely regret quitting. Of course, it will be there later, (vote carefully!) so you can have a go later in life. No harm in that, it very well may work out better for you.

    I’ve been young and restlessly searching and bailed on opportunities, but things worked out well for me in the end, as I’m sure they will for you.

    I’m about 2 weeks behind you on the trail, I wish we could meet, but I’m slow too. I’ll send good vibes up your way!

    PS, if someone swiped my poles, I’d be really pissed!

  • Grasshopper : May 19th

    Hey! This is Grasshopper! Read this post while lying in bed after one of my most physically and mentally difficult days on the trail. I’ve been asking myself a lot of the same questions, but I think it will pass. Thank you for sharing and know that you’re not alone! Had no idea this was your blog, but recognized your photo at the end. I hope you don’t quit and if you do, that it’s after much thought and on a good day. If you can stand on a ridge on a beautiful day and know for sure you wanna go home, then I understand. Otherwise, I hope we both get back in our groove and keep kicking some AT ass. <3 Lots of love and good vibes for you!!!

  • Anne : May 20th

    Mathina! You can do it! You may need to eat more when you are moving? My experience with endurance type running and hiking portions of the AT is that your brain goes in to a kind of primitive, fear mode. Maybe you need a steadier flow of Gu or some type of sugar? Once the blood sugar goes – it is hard not to feel bad.

    What you are doing is so, so very hard and also wonderful. You are in control 🙂 and if you stop, you have achieved as mich as going on because you are calling the shots.

  • Paige : May 20th

    Hey there! I loved teaching you yoga and love the impact your writing has – it is an amazing journey even if you don’t feel that way. You write well and have a great way of explaining things and providing detail. Even if you don’t see it now, your story relates to everyone; as we are all on a tough road sometimes in life – even those roads we choose to take – it still makes it hard.

    Just like Yoga, we practice to move to notice our thoughts. The monkey mind likes to get in there and when alone wow – you really get to hear it. Notice it and see it though. This walk is a meditation in motion. Instead of worrying about the past or future remind yourself to focus on right now. I’d also suggest a positive word or mantra. Listen to your heart and pick some words. Repeat them often. ie: “I am safe and strong” or “I am worthy” “I am enough”. See what your heart wants instead of your head.

    I’m sending you loving thoughts and can’t wait to hear how you are doing. You are not alone. Enjoy each step and hug along the way because everything will change. Change is the only thing that is perm. Jai!

  • George Turner : May 20th

    if it were easy, everyone would do it. I’ve wanted to thru hike the AT for longer than you’ve been alive. I managed to tear my rotator cuff and my plans have been radically altered. When I was out there, I cried every damn day, but I’d give my left testicle to be out there tomorrow. Get back in touch with your reasons for doing the first place. Your tendonitis is sucking all the joy out of your trip. Think about taking a week to let it actually get better. Rest, ice and vitamin I! You can live a rich and full life without completing a thru, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t gain a lot from actually finishing. The suck isn’t eternal… the joy will return. If you lean into the suck and get to the other side, you’ll know this forever. Quitting may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

  • Proton : May 20th

    Hi Notebook. Proton here. I read your post last night and wanted to share a couple of thoughts. You were so excited for your romantic weekend, that I think you’ve overlooked how hard it is to jump back in the cauldron afterwards. Remember, it is supposed to be fun. Go slowly so you don’t hurt as much. Take time at every vista, water source, and campsite to chat a little. Plan a couple of special dinners on the trail for yourself. Read a novel during your breaks. (audiobooks?) Allow yourself the time to adjust back to this challenging but gratifying experience after your snuggling weekend. Modify the experience any way you need to keep the fun in it. (And I took advil every day too, so don’t stress about it!)

  • Chris : May 20th

    I can’t add any motivation that others have not already offered, but I do want to emphasize something practical Anne said: make sure you are getting enough to eat. It is possible (even likely) that your brain and endocrine system are reacting to a lack of available energy sources–EXACTLY like hitting the wall during a.marathon. Eat more, and more steadily.

    Praying for you!

  • Denise : May 20th

    I’m just getting in to hiking but only day hikes so far and all with a friend. Yesterday we hiked up at Mt St Helens so these aren’t all just walks in the woods.
    That being said, I have trained and FINISHED 2 Ironman triathlons and each time the hardest part of the training was doing so much of it alone. You can go to the lake to swim a practice 2 miles with a friend but you’re still in the water alone. You need to work up to the 112 miles on your bike and no one, not one of your friends, wants to ride long every few days when they don’t need to. Most are good for 20, one for maybe 50 but most of the thousands of bike miles are alone. And my running was all alone because I’m slow.
    But I did it, I FINISHED Ironman Arizona last November 15th in 16:11:33 and I lived to tell about it.
    Hang in there, if you give up now you’re just going to have to do all this again to make up for it. Suck it up and just keep moving forward.

  • Darrell Barrett : May 20th

    Notebook. Thanks for letting me hike out of Hot Springs this morning with you. I throughly enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you for a short period of time. You know what really stinks is coming out here and meeting wonderful people like you, Avocado, Frog, Prof, Jeff, etc and maybe not ever seeing them ever again. I want you to know that I will be following you and praying for you everyday. Please don’t give up! You have successfully completed the hardest part. You are getting stronger every day and the physical part will become easier. When you are exhausted physically, your mental fortitude weakens. Know that and expect that, Of course, you will have your ups and downs (pun intended!) but, laugh at yourself, laugh at the world and let God guide your steps. Enjoy His beautiful creation, and complete your adventure of a lifetime. Otherwise, I won’t be able to see you up the trail! Encourager (Darrell Barrett)

  • Laurel "Crank" Seus : May 20th

    The hardest days for me have always been the two days after town, or seeing friends or family! And of course it doesn’t help that you’re ALWAYS hiking uphill out of town! It’s still early and you will find friends to match pace with. And then you’ll lose them for a few days or weeks. But then it’s even better when you find them again. I’ve found that when I’m super down on the trail at the end of the day, I end up sitting alone in my hammock frustrated by lack of phone service. Finding someone to talk to if I’m staying near a shelter always helps, even if I’m just awkwardly listening to other conversations at the picnic table. Laughing Heart is an awesome place and will definitely pick up your spirits!

  • Megan Hartwick : May 21st

    I’m so grateful I met you, even briefly, at Laughing Heart. You are such an inspiration to me, a little section hiker, and I truly hope you decide to continue. You told me you were too comfortable in your everyday life and had decided to thru-hike because of that. The woods and hiking can be uncomfortable, but for me, that’s what pushes me to keep going–to live this burdensome life in the forest instead of my burden-free life at home. Good luck my dear, I know you will do great things <3

  • Martha : May 21st


    This is mom. I still love you and can appreciate your problems. I’ve not been there like the other posters have, but I’ve had other things that I quit and know how hard it is to decide. I like the posts about quitting on a good day. However, I quit my USUHS job on a bad day in 1984. Not horrid, but bad. I, for one, believe you can finish the trail if you decide to do that. Dad is lying here unconscious in the icu and we are still together after all these years, some good, some not so much.

    I just want you to know that we love you whatever you decide and will be proud of what you have done.


  • Adam B. : May 21st

    I’ve worked with you for 7 years, and I’ve been in the same situation you are now in. I HIGHLY recommend you keep going. Not a day goes by were I don’t think of my experiences on the road, and can say that even the worst (which was bad!) had nothing but a positive impact on who I am now. It is one of the two things I am most proud of in my life, and most proud of about myself.

    I suspect things will get better for you as the weather improves, so don’t make any big decisions while freezing. As others have mentioned, don’t reintegrate into B&Bs, great food, and a massage…Towns are not your friends; they are pretending to like you, but they will deplete everything you hope to gain.

  • Olivia : May 24th

    I’m hoping to hike the AT next year and I just want to say thank you for keeping it so real. Your honesty is refreshing and inspiring. I hiked the first 53 miles of the trail in 2000 and it has always been there as I need to go back and finish. Before you quit, make sure you are really done. Keep setting goals. Make it to the next one, set a goal, rest, have a good meal and maybe a cry, sleep on it and decide from there. The only person who can decide how far you go is you. But know that this stranger believes you can do it.

  • Jesse H. : May 24th

    If you are brave enough to say goodbye to the world you know, life will reward you with a new hello from the world you will discover. Never give up.

  • Michelle : May 24th

    I am a section hiker to be…. I start in PA next week with my hubby. Your honesty described exactly way I don’t plan to hike alone….. And probably why I should! the posts of support above are wonderful, your mom made me cry. The only thing I can add is that life is temporary, pain is temporary, having time on the trail is temporary, having the courage to do it is temporary. In the end, no one will judge you for the choices you make excerpt you, so use this to learn to be a bit kinder to yourself and have some self compassion. You are my hero…. I hope you feel the love.

  • Bubblegum : May 24th

    I know where you’re coming from, I left the trail after 400 miles last year. I was slow, I was lonely, I was tired, I was miserable. I got home and wished I was in the woods EVERYDAY. Even as much as I thought I hated it, the trail changed me. It opened my soul to genuine love of humanity, nature, and myself. I just came back from a 75 mile section, and if the circumstances allowed, I would be attempting another thru. Your mind set is everything. When you stop focusing on your aloneness, and just embrace the moments it get easier. Even as people pass you, talk to them, get to know those around you at camp, it is likely you will run into them again and maybe you’ll be hiking a similar speed at that point or at least able to meet up at camp. No matter what you decide, you are amazing. There’s no shame in taking some extra zeros to sort out your head and help your foot, or in deciding it’s not for you. The trail will alway be there in its infinite glory.

    Happy Trails <3

  • Sloth : May 24th

    You are doing great! Don’t let the bad days get you down! Also I ran into Mountain Man a few days ago and he was under 200 miles ? thought you might like an update!

  • Erin : May 24th

    Hiking the AT was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life… next to having children. Hiking teaches that bad time pass just as fast as the clouds and rain. You have already come so far. Max Patch? Keep on truckin’. Take a few zero days and don’t feel bad for one minute. It helped when I got new hiking boots and had a rest. Consider how many miles a day you are hiking and adjust them too. Hiking for 2000 miles also teaches us what we need to do for ourselves and how much we can take. Keep trying and see if just relaxing or putting one foot in front of the other keeps you on the trail. If not, its okay. If it does- then keep going until your next challenge. The best advice any hiker ever gave me was “hike your own hike” — no matter where that takes you.

    E. (2006 PA–>ME)

  • Dale Powers : May 24th

    Nothing great comes without great effort. In the solitude, we can only confront ourselves. What was the reason you started? What did you want when you reached Katadin? Find your answers and evaluate those.

  • MamaGoose : May 24th

    “Embrace the Suck”. That was our motto in 2013 … So much rain. You’re blessed and priveledge do to be out there. Stay in the woods more…. Not the towns as much. Remember why you began the journey to begin with.

  • Lora Davis : May 24th

    What Erin said . . . take a few zero days and don’t be so hard on yourself. What you are doing is really, really hard. Deciding to quit is not failure. Even Grandma Gatewood had to quit the first time. It’s okay, if that’s what you need to do. But make that decision after a few zero days. It sounds like you are just completely depleted mentally and physically in the moment.

    I, too, have walked down a trail, alone, wailing, in physical and emotional pain. Edward Abbey understood when he penned this blessing: “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” Your trip will be transforming, and that transformation is happening right now for you.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m looking to beginnin the A.T. in 2017. ~ Blessings

  • Sway : May 24th


    I followed your blog before I began this year, it just resonated with me. I hoped to meet you on the trail. I did, actually, between Cable Gap and Brown Fork shelters. We said a casual hello and it wasn’t until about 50 feet later I realized who you were. I thought of yelling back, but felt foolish and didn’t. I was southbound at the time.

    Once again your post hits so close to home. This was my big dream, but now I’m in VA dreaming of a hundred other things I’d rather be doing. I find my relationship with the trail changing.

    Your hardship, however negative, transforms to a positive power to motivate another when you can voice hard truths some of us are too nervous to admit. I personally believe that being able to help others holds more weight than simply helping oneself (though both have their value). I hope knowing you are helping some of us (me) out here offers motivation to you. And if you have the courage and honesty to voice all this, perhaps it indicates a deeper strength inside than you give yourself credit for. We’re rooting for you.

  • Breathe Easy : May 24th

    Based on your post, it seems like the thru hike is for the experience of hardship and yet the hardship is the hard part. I wonder if instead you might focus on the wonder of the natural world. Can you find inspiration (even in the rain) in the natural world? Would a book on birds or trees or rocks help? I am not a thru hiker, and I can’t tell you whether or not you should be one. But I’d say hiking mountains from Georgia to Maine isn’t just about a challenge of minimalism, it is actually a challenge of quiet observation, it is specifically a challenge in the natural world, as opposed to simply running marathons or living without electricity. And regarding your body, maybe you need to really see a physical therapist if you haven’t. Maybe in addition to zero days you need a 2 mile day. You need to sit here in the natural world without the objective of the day and see the world working around you without your hard work. And then decide why you are really out there, on a trail, on a mountain. To be in it. And let it be. That is the advice from a section hiker. Whether or not you thru hike, don’t give up on mountains. “There are many ways up the mountain.” Be well.

  • Heidi : May 25th

    Your title reminded me of this meme!!! 😉

  • Nikka : May 25th

    This song usually helps me feel uplifted.

    You can do this! Hugs!

  • Ethan Smith : May 25th

    It sounds to me like you really do not want to be out there, but are trying to find reasons to stay. If you are not having fun for extended periods of time – why stay? Life is short, go do something enjoyable. Why stay, just to say you thru hiked? No one cares in the end in the real world.

  • Jenn S : May 26th

    To borrow words from Anne Lamott, ” I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” Let nature be your teacher and your soul will awaken.

  • Darrell Barrett : May 26th

    Hang in there Notebook! You should be in Erwin now or soon. Sorry I couldn’t still be hiking with you. Enjoy all that God has for you. You write so well, you should write a book chronicling your hike. Seriously! Praying for you and following you. Encourager.


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