That time I almost quit… and then that other time I almost quit.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, this trail to me is about the people. I came out here with the focus on meeting new faces, hearing new stories, and shooting portraits. It was never about the miles to me, never really about the physical hiking itself. The “Virginia Blues” hit me hard. I spent almost a week near/in the Shenandoahs just hating it. I wanted to quit every day. I’m not even sure why. I mean, I was hiking with a friend that I enjoyed hiking with, the weather was beautiful, the terrain pretty easy. I just wasn’t feeling it though. I think I felt kind of stuck in a way. My friend Neemor and I had hardly been running into any other thru hikers and I felt like I needed change, I needed new faces and I just couldn’t move fast enough to put myself in another “bubble”.
Neemor and I hitched into Luray, VA to get coffee and breakfast at McDonald’s and while I was there Squeaks called. I started with Squeaks and lost her right before Clingman’s Dome. Apart from Hot Springs and Trail Days, I hadn’t seen her in about 1,000 miles. When she called, she obviously had me on speaker phone because I couldn’t hear a thing. She was talking a mile a minute as I tried to step outside to hear better. Once I got outside, the first thing I heard her say was “Scooter said he would drive right now to come pick you up and bring you to PA! Are you down for that?!” and I just said “Yes!” without a second thought.
Do I feel bad about skipping 250 miles of trail? Not really. I can always (and most likely will) go back and do it but I knew it would be REALLY difficult for me to close the gap and catch up to Squeaks. Maybe I’m a little sad that I missed hiking into Harper’s Ferry to get my Polaroid taken in front of the ATC to go in the book (although we did stop by so I could get a picture for myself). A little sad to not cross the official halfway point and gorge myself with ice cream. To miss West Virginia and Maryland completely… But I’m so happy to be hiking with Squeaks again and to be in a completely new place and see so many new faces.
If I’m being honest, thru hiking can sometimes start to become monotonous and borderline boring in certain sections… I’m not a patient person and it was draining me. I think what I needed was an immediate change and that’s what I got.
I thought that going into New York City would be some type of “culture shock” and that I’d probably just get there and want to leave but I ended up loving it so much, almost feeling at home there. We met up with a past trail friend that lives in Brooklyn and WOW DO I WANT TO LIVE THERE. It’s obviously the complete opposite of the AT but it spoke to me in a different way. I felt really inspired in the city. I think leaving almost bummed me out.
I change my mind very frequently with my interests; with what I want to do, where I want to be, etc. and I think I got this new idea of “I want to live in Brooklyn” in my head and it was hard to shake.
Now fast forward and I just crossed into Massachusetts today. The past week or so brought a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. And once again I don’t really know why… The weather was beautiful, New York and Connecticut were beautiful, I was still around people I enjoy being around, but I was having a tough time mentally.
I’ve never been good at “living in the moment”. My thoughts always veer toward “What else could I be doing right now?” and that gets really frustrating because a lot of people would love the opportunity to hike this trail and in a way I feel like I’m taking advantage of it by saying “Oh, I’d rather be doing something else.”
All I can be is honest. I’m not going to quit. But I can’t promise that I won’t feel like I want to again. The highs are high out here but the lows sure are low. Just gotta keep walking.
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