Post-LASH: One Year Later
My waterfront bar was full because it was a rainy day, forcing customers indoors rather than enjoying their vacation time out on the lake. After two couples pay their bill, the women halt at the door, refusing to walk to their cars in the rain. They then proceeded to beg the men to pull the car around to the doors.
I watch this scenario play out and suddenly I am transported back to the Grayson Highlands in early May. A terrifying storm popped up suddenly when my tramily and I were summiting White Top. We were battered by hurricane-force winds and hail, after already hiking through five days straight of rain.
And these two women thought walking through a drizzle to their car was a horrifying concept.
This was the moment when I realized I was never going to fit in with “the real world” again.
One year ago I had to make the extremely difficult decision of terminating my attempt at thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. After hiking roughly 700 miles on the most absolutely ridiculous flip-flop route ever, my body could not handle the abuse any longer. Also, my career in the restaurant industry would be compromised if I couldn’t continue to stand on my feet for up to ten hours a day. I was heartbroken, stumbling southbound through the wilderness of Maine knowing I had no choice but to re-enter “civilization.”
Even though I was upset about leaving the AT, I had high hopes for my return home. I was determined not to let post trail depression find its way into my life. I had a renewed faith in my fellow man after receiving so many acts of kindness from complete strangers, some who turned into life long friends and trail angels, and I had every intention of holding on to that and paying the kindness forward whenever possible.
However, I have noticed that as each month goes by, the lessons I learned seem to fade into the background of the daily grind. I become easily irritated with people. My once-daily workout routine slowed to four days, to three, to being basically nonexistent and I am gaining back some of the weight I worked so hard to lose. I have also tired of answering questions about my time on the AT. At first it was nice to talk to coworkers and customers, who would remind me that even though I did not finish the trail, 700 miles is still a feat to be reckoned with. Now, I just become upset that I cannot be back out there.
I had planned to finish the southern section this fall, but having to purchase a new vehicle with my earnings this year unfortunately put saving for another long hike out the window.
(I did make sure to acquire a car perfect for the hiker-trash life, however.)
But enough of the doom and gloom. I will admit that not everything about post-trail life has been horrible; another gift I received from the trail is a loving relationship. I met my boyfriend in Harpers Ferry (where I spent five days) and we have been inseparable since. So, instead of heading southbound from Damascus this fall, I will be staying in West Virginia with him. My job is mainly seasonal summer work, so I am hoping to be able to see what else this wild and wonderful state has to offer. I have already waded through the Dolly Sods, and will be writing about that adventure next time.
I am also throwing around some ideas for next year’s hike, and am slowly getting motivated again.
I hope the rest of the class of ’17 is doing well after a year back in the real world!
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