People, People, Please

Setting off on a journey alone such as the Appalachian trail seemed daunting from the moment I submitted my registration form on the ATC website. Why would I want to walk over 2,000 miles for six months by myself?! It’s almost comical looking back at how this small factor almost stopped me from walking north toward number two on my bucket list.

I met my first trail friend on the stairs of the approach trail. So less than an hour from the monumental moment of, “Well shit, I guess I better get walking toward Maine!” And I had met someone else with the same goal. After months of planning and trying to convince everyone I knew to come with me, I found someone almost instantly. Two hours later, my new friend and I found another hiker who tagged along as we climbed up Springer Mountain to celebrate the technical beginning of our mileage count. The afternoon nudged us to continue to our intended camp spot where a whole mess of other rookie backpackers were crowded at as we awkwardly got to know each other like it was the first day of school. I will never forget the night that I sat around a the fire with twenty plus others and felt so blessed to have made it the short 11.6 miles to a group of people with the same exact feelings of anticipation and wonder for all that was, and still is, to come.

Fast forward 700 plus miles and you will meet many of the same people but we are a different breed now. The novelty of every bear sighting has mostly worn off and we now have habits and smells that would make our moms embarrassed to claim us. By this point we have been put to the test and our focus settles more on the present than the still large number of miles that lies ahead.

For myself, it had been all fun and games until about a week ago. The heat, rocks, pain, and loneliness all hit at once. Looking back, I have come to realize that I got a little ahead of myself. It all started when I started to push bigger miles and got the news that a friend of mine had gone home. His family needed him back home so he made the selfless decision to put his dream on pause to take care of his loved ones. Now, by this point I have known many people who have had to get off trail for many different reasons but this one hit me hard. You see I met this man day one. In fact, I met his wife who dropped him off and he met my best friend who dropped me off at the iconic archway. He and I later met up the first night and supported each other as we expressed the overwhelming feelings of leaving behind everyone we love to attempt something to challenging for most. From day one we have been keeping track of each other. We never much hiked together but would meet up every week or so and check in to make sure the other was doing well. So Scout, your name has been added to my list of reasons to keep hiking.

Due to the mental battle, the physical struggle has also been amped up to the next level. I am very competitive, so when my mileage time started to decrease I over compensated. “I’ll just leave camp earlier so I can have more time to hike more miles,” was my idea of fixing the growing pain in my feet that has now traveled to my ankles and knees. Add in the heat plus the rocks and my new trail name should be Struggle Bus! Made it to a town and boom, my feet were beyond done which in turn made my mind want to be done. One of the most beneficial factors that will push me to keep going however, is the people. The people of the trail make the trail what it is. A journey of beauty and companionship with likeminded people.

So I am going to slow down. I am going to spend time with people I have made connections with because we are not meant to live life alone. Especially not trail life.

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