NC-TN: Hard Days on Trail

Unaka Springs Road, Mile 344.5

5 weeks on trail. The honeymoon period has ended, and I am settling into the day to day rhythm of thru-hiker life. There are funky little aches and pains every day. I have survived an infected tick bite, snow, rain, wind, my period, and now I’m working through tendonitis. Have I mentioned that I love it out here? 

It’s a hard knock life for us 

In all honesty, this past week on trail held some of my hardest days yet. I took my first pain meds, which hurt the pride of this young 20-something hiker a little bit. I received heartbreaking news from a person I love. My body hurt. My mind got tired of fighting my body. I struggled mentally to keep going. The views were foggy. My heart ached for the people in my life going through hard things.

Life doesn’t stop when you’re on trail. We may feel isolated from “the real world,” but the heartaches of being a human in a dark and broken world remain. We’re all working through something out here. I believe it is healing to walk among the trees, watch the sun rise over the mountains, and drink from fresh streams. But it is a journey. 

Many of you are praying for my friends and I out here. I truly appreciate your prayers. Feel free to personally reach out for specific requests.

A friend of mine once told me to “choose your hard.” Waking up and going to work every day is hard. Raising kids is hard. Keeping your house tidy is hard. Making dinner every night is hard. Climbing mountains is hard. Carrying 30 pounds on your back for 8 hours a day is hard. Sleeping somewhere different every night is hard. An inspiring word sharpied on a privy door in North Carolina put it into perspective for me, “Keep going or quit. Both hurt.” Life off trail is challenging. Life on trail is also difficult.

So why keep going?

Why do you wake up and feed your kids and do the dishes and make dinner only to do the dishes again? Why do you go to work and attend meetings and get stuck in traffic only to fall asleep exhausted? Why do you rise with the sun and pack up your bag and walk for hours only to set up your tent on new ground? 

Is this the life you chose for yourself? Or is the grass greener elsewhere? 

It’s easy to look across the fence at someone else’s Instagram lawn and see what appears to be grass greener than your own. But I think the grass is greenest where you water it. If I consider the ground beneath my feet worth the investment, then I will cultivate a beautiful life. If I view the people around me as worthy of my time, attention, and love, then I will cherish our relationships. If I believe this path is worth walking, I will not let the hard days kill my spirit. I know why I’m here.

The trail is rugged. Every day, something hurts. Every hill, my breathing runs ragged. But every sunshiny afternoon, I am surprised by a butterfly that flutters across my path. Every campsite, I find a familiar circle of laughter. Every day, the world unfolds as the seasons change, and I am greeted by a beautiful love letter from my Maker. I made this world for you to enjoy, for you to know My love. 

Each painful step is one closer to Maine, one closer to the person I am becoming, one closer to the rest of my life.

So tomorrow, I will wake up, water my grass, pack my bag, and keep walking. I won’t let myself quit on a hard day- too much beauty awaits. 

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Comments 10

  • Homeward : Apr 30th

    Good morning, young lady. The adage “never quit on a bad day” had real value for me. Those who haven’t been there may not know how bad a bad day can be, but almost without exception, the worst days were followed by a truly wonderful, magical day! You have seen the worst the trail has to offer, weather wise and you’re still going. Wonderful things (and a few hard days) await you! Looking forward to your next post.

    • Emilia Grunden : May 14th

      Always an encouragement! Thank you. There is SO much ahead!

  • Tim B : Apr 30th

    Oh, Emilia. This is all kinds of beautiful and hard. Thank you for sharing this with us. Praying (hard) for you and your loved ones.

    • Emilia Grunden : May 14th

      I’m so grateful for you and your prayers! Praise God for His nearness at all times.

  • Stephen : Apr 30th

    Wonderful post and perspective…I too got real value from the “never quit on a bad day”. Keep on sauntering!

    • Emilia Grunden : May 14th

      Thanks for reading!!

  • Rushmore : Apr 30th

    Hard is hard! No one escapes the pain. But the sun comes out, the butterflies cross our path, and the hard dissipates for a time.
    Hang in there!

    • Emilia Grunden : May 14th

      I love this!! You’re so right. Thankya!

  • Defender-of-the-poor : May 9th

    Thank you for this post.
    I’ve come back to reread this days post
    3 x’s.
    It clearly describes life’s difficulties and describes a way to cope with them.

    • Emilia Grunden : May 14th

      I’m honored to know that these words are valuable to you. Thank you for reading!


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