The Big Question

“How has life been after the trail?”

The big question. The question that sparks a million thoughts. The question that causes sorrow and happiness at the same time. The question that I don’t quite yet know how to answer. Life on the trail was simple. I didn’t do much thinking. I know you were expecting me to say that I went out there and discovered the meaning of life and what my true destiny is… I didn’t find out any of those things. I didn’t have to think. I was living the most simple, yet grand life I could imagine. Life back in the “real world” has required much thinking that I wasn’t prepared for.

It has been a literal culture shock going from complete solitude to people racing past me in the streets, cars speeding past me at 80pmh, co-workers running circles around my work. I’m not in the least bit the same person that I was prior to the Appalachian Trail. Coming back to the same town, house, job, and friends but being a completely different person has been one of the hardest parts of adjusting. People expect the same outcomes from me as I produced prior to my hike. And quite honestly, I’m having a hard time living up to their expectations.

Strugglin’ but still smilin’. (Emily Treasure behind the camera).

I’m not as extroverted as I once was. I’m actually a complete introvert. This has caused people to question, “what’s wrong?” Don’t misunderstand me though.. I am thankful for their concern. But everything is “wrong”. This world is too loud, too fast, too controlled by consumerism, too focused on themselves. While on the trail, I lived in a world where everyone lived at 3mph, everyone owned what fit in their backpack, and the communities that surrounded us were more than willing to help. People say it takes 6 weeks to adjust to something new.. To make something a habit. I lived in the woods for almost 6 months. Trail life became my entire life. I adjusted, learned, and maintained that lifestyle for so long that I am now questioning everything this “real world” has to offer.


I am sorrowful and happy. I miss the trail every waking moment of the day, but I am also happy to have people in my life who continuously support me. I might be struggling to no end to keep my head above the water, but I have people who are willing to jump in and help me swim. (I like that analogy because I’m a swim coach). There’s no simple way to answer the big question, but what I do have to say is that I can’t wait until my next trail journey. If you have a thru hiker in your life, please be patient with them. They are struggling whether you know it or not. They truly love this life, but they’re having a hard time loving the “real world” like they love the trail.


-Pringles (I refuse to be called Ashley) AT SOBO 2016.


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Comments 5

  • Cinderella, SOBO '16 : Jan 26th

    love it.

    • Skooch : Jan 27th

      Cinderella!!!! Skooch here. You make it to Springer? Been thinking of you guys. Glad to walk a bit w you through Maine?

  • Dennis : Jan 26th

    Hi Pringles

    It’s bizarre how in just a relatively short time, we have reversed our roles. Last year, you very timidly expressed your fears and trepidations about embarking on the AT. Now you are a very strong, tough minded young lady. Today, with 69 days to go before I embark on the AT, I am full of apprehension….worried that my Achilles’ tendon in my right foot won’t hold up, worried that I am too old (70) to do this, worried that something may go wrong at home that will cause me to return early, worried, worried, worried…But you have done it….you overcame all of your fears to achieve a monumentous goal. It has changed your life for the better. Now you are full of confidence that will take you anywhere you want to go in your lifetime- this includes getting past your absence on the AT and facing the hustle and bustle of the real world we live in today. You will be fine Pringles!

  • Skooch : Jan 27th

    Kudos Pringles. We didn’t meet on the trail but much ? To you nonetheless. You go girl????

  • Rebecca : Feb 3rd

    Beautiful 🙂


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