Post-Trail Life for The Stones
Well, we have officially entered into the category of “former thru hikers“. All of the thank-you cards have been sent out and all of the photos have been printed and posted. We were even thrown a completion party by our families. We are done with our 2016 Appalachian Trail thru hike that we dreamed about for so long. The trail has been hiked, we’ve seen the trail towns, met the trail angels and touched both the southern and northern terminus’. We are no longer dirtbags, living with only the stuff we can carry on our backs. The 5 best months of our lives are over.
The completion of the trail has proven to be a difficult time for us both, as it is for most thru hikers. The sense of purpose the trail provides is something that’s hard to replace. Knowing exactly where you’re going each day and what your ultimate goal is makes life marvelously simple. Heading north is your only purpose, and your only option. It’s hard to go back to the world of bills, bosses and credit scores after living so simply for so long.
There are plenty of “how to combat post-trail depression” posts out there, so I just wanted to give our loyal readers/followers a sense of what we’ve been up to since our Katahdin summit.
The afternoon after we sumitted Katahdin was a mix of emotions. Coming off the mountain and thinking about going home was all too surreal to even process. Croc, a fellow hiker we started with, and her father graciously drove us to Bangor so we could catch our flight the next morning, which was incredible! We were very stressed about how we were going to get to Bangor from Baxter State Park, and we are forever grateful to Croc and her dad. And getting a free nights stay in a very nice hotel courtesy of a friend of my moms wasn’t so bad either! But then came the airport experience. My grandfather provided us with “buddy passes” to get home, so we were at the mercy of Delta… for almost 3 days. We were forced to be around masses and masses of people, missing plane after plane, armed with only the clothes on our backs, after spending 5 months in the woods. So you can just imagine our stress level.
After we FINALLY PRAISE THE GOOD LORD made it home, we spent about 2 weeks living at my mother’s house literally just recovering. True, we were apartment/house hunting and had nowhere else to go, but we mostly just posted up on her couch, cleaned out her pantry, and watched garbage tv. It. Was. Glorious. Our bodies were in recovery mode and our hiker metabolisms weren’t going anywhere. We slept in, loved on our long-lost fir babies, drank too many sodas and took afternoon naps. But after just a few days, the sedentary life started to wear on us. Not walking north every day was strange and all the stress of finding a place to live (by our employers deadline, no less) was super stressful.
After many failures and much searching, we finally found an apartment in our pre-trail town. It all worked out, as it usually does. Next step, going back to work. This step was easier than we thought it would be. Both of our jobs held our positions, so returning to the working world was pretty seamless. And making money again after 5 months of not working was pretty exciting. Getting back to our old routine was both comforting and frightening at the same time. Some days it seems like we never left, never even hiked the trail. We are just like everyone else, going about business as usual. We are now the day hikers we used to scoff at as we passed them on the trail, who smelled like fresh laundry and indoors. The only difference is we’ve walked to Maine and lived to tell about it.
What Works for Us
Every hiker that’s recently completed a long trail feels a sense of emptiness after their time on the trail is over. The key is to find things to fill the void that the trail has left behind. These things can be different for everyone, and since we unfortunately can’t afford to immediately go back out and hike another long trail, we’ve had to find things that keep the post-trail depression at bay for us.
Talking about the trail! For me, one of the things that has helped the most is to just talk to anyone who will listen about the trail. I am no longer annoyed at all the questions about trail life (even the guns and bear spray ones), in fact I welcome them with enthusiasm! I don’t bring up our recent completion unless someone asks, but when they do, I am more than happy to tell them every detail. Talking about the trail is very therapeutic for me and I really enjoy sharing my experience with others. I’ve also turned into one of those people who gives out unsolicited gear advice. I’m lucky enough that I get to work outside in the fresh air all day, alongside people who enjoy the outdoors, so thats also a big plus.
Hike! Another thing we do is go back and hike sections of the trail in Georgia. We’re lucky enough that we live between 15 minutes and an hour of the AT, so getting to revisit the trail on the weekends is one of our favorite things to do. Going back to the trail has been hugely important to us, and every time we go back, the emotions start flowing immediately. Unfortunately, we haven’t run into any SOBO’s on the trail yet, but we’re hoping to do some trail magic or give someone a ride into town. We want to give back to the trail community as much as we can, which includes repaying the trail magic that was given to us.
Planning future adventures! We are currently planning a trip for next summer out to California. We have wanted to go to Yosemite for so long and we’re finally seriously planning and saving for it! We’re also planning to hike the JMT in the near future. Planning further trips/hikes has given us something to look forward to. We planned our AT hike for so long, and it feels good to plan an adventure again.
Working out! As much as we grumble and complain about going to the gym, working out has been helpful. Other than helping us keep our new powerhouse legs and slim figures, working out is a major mood booster. Staying active was important to us before the hike, so it’s important that we keep it in our routine. Just because you hiked 2,000 miles doesn’t mean you get a free pass from the gym the rest of your life!
Keeping the post-trail depression at bay is a day-t0-day battle, but looking through pictures, talking about the trail with others, watching long trail documentaries and looking forward to new adventures keeps us going. Being able to drink coffee whenever we want, eat meals that took more effort than just boiling water, hanging out with friends and family, and catching up on all the Netlfix we missed keeps us pretty busy.
Even though our walking days are over for now, and we no longer sleep on the ground in the middle of the woods, life is still pretty great.
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