One Month Post-Hike—Finding My Truth

Charlie’s Bunion.

Today marks one month since I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. One month. It feels like six.

I miss the trail. I miss the good and the bad bits. The constant pushing of my limits, mental and physical. The views-even the overcast ones-they are magical too, in their own way. Being outside, in nature, 24/7. Falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the critters in the forest. I miss the people. The common goal and support we shared with each other. The complex simplicity of trail life.

There hasn’t been a day in the past month that I haven’t thought about the hike. It will forever be a part of me. Lessons learned, friendships made, challenges met. The realization that anything is possible if I am determined enough. Finding truth in the statement: The fears I do not face become my limits.

I’ve also struggled with ‘feeling’ the hike over the past month. During the hike, I didn’t put much thought into what the end of the hike would be like. I didn’t want to jinx not finishing. I think I just assumed I’d be elated with joy at the achievement. I had this subconscious expectation that there would be emotions of joy and fulfillment and what I experienced was emptiness and sadness. 

Expectations are often a doozy. Instead, I now realize I had those feelings I was seeking almost every day while I was on trail. Each day was an accomplishment. Hitting my miles for the day, catching a sunset/sunrise, getting that hitch into/out of town.

And then it came to an abrupt end. I am grateful that my body carried me 2193.1 miles, but I wasn’t relieved it was over. Why would I feel joy at the end of something so wonderful?

Those feelings I expected do come in very small waves, most often when I look back through the photos. It’s then that I can feel a small sliver of the almost incomprehensible magnitude of the hike.


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Comments 2

  • Pete Schiller : Jan 6th

    You’ve described how I’ve felt upon finishing quite well. I finished my 2021 SOBO AT thru hike on December 9th. My feelings of “emptiness and sadness” seemed to be at odds with all of the congratulations I was receiving from friends and family who followed my hike. I’ll start a NOBO PCT thru hike on April 27th, which seems so far off. I miss life on the trail.

    Good luck on your next adventure!

    ~Rat Trap

    • Annemarie Athey : Jan 7th

      Hi Rat Trap-thanks for reading! Happy to hear that I am not alone and that my feelings are quite normal. And yes, I think that when those moments of congrats happen, the disparity between emptiness vs fulfillment are magnified. Best of Luck on your PCT trek…it’ll be here before you know it! 🙂


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