The Elephant in the Room
OK. Anyone else feeling emotional about having to chuck your dreams, planning, finances, etc., into the wind this year? Yeah, me either. (LIES LIES LIES)
I am sure I am not the only on here who has worked extra hours for two years, planned, replanned, and replanned again your trek, arranged travel, drop-offs, mailed resupplies, and other things that go into a thru hike. So… you are ready to go. All your plans have been solidified. Then, you start getting notices. The ATC recommends you postpone, cancel, redefine your whole life due to COVID-19 outbreaks. OK. Let’s look at the facts (at least what they are leading us to believe).
So yeah, there is a virus and the methods of spread are published. So we just take the necessary precautions and hike on!! Hey, not all of us were planning on shelters, hostels, and hanging out in large groups. I was still in. My flight was canceled, but I rented a car!! It was in my driveway and my bag was filled with 12 days at least worth of food, so I would not have to re supply until Fontana, North Carolina. I even packed a mask and gloves for going into town.
But no. It was not to be. Areas of the actual trail THE TRAIL were closed. There were angry protesters in the towns yelling at thru-hikers, not even knowing their intentions. It didn’t matter anymore whether or not I could keep my distance from people. I would have been hated, persecuted, and hounded if I got on the trail. I read and watched blogs and videos of thru-hikers trying to go on. It was horrible, but not because of COVID-19; it was horrible because of Hiker Hatred 2020. I decided to cancel my hike because it was no longer going to be the beneficial, enjoyable journey I had planned. It had turned into a political, medical, social argument that couldn’t be won. I will admit, there is so much that we don’t know because the truth has been filtered. We can no longer believe what we are being told by the government and the media. But, we do have access to logic, compassion, and empathy.
Where are the people I thought would be supportive? Not in the hiking community. For the most part, I have come across hateful, opinionated, angry posts. Those of us who wanted to continue our journeys were thinking we could do it safely based on the information we were given. I felt I could remain six feet from anyone at any time. I had a mask and gloves packed for when I needed to go resupply in towns. I planned on mailing myself resupplies and had packed more than 12 days worth of food in my bear canister.
But the hate. The hatred and bashing was intolerable. I had prepared my mantra—“Please keep six feet away from me for my safety and yours.” That was all I was going to say. I was still going to do this. Yes. I was being selfish because it was MY plan. It was MY money. It was MY training. I was ready because of everything I had done to get ready. So, yes, I was feeling very selfish. Do I feel wrong? No. No, I do not. I feel like I could have done this in the way I would have loved to have done this—the old school way with little support from others or towns. People did this before cell phones, mail drops, and support systems. People did this in nature.
I was looking forward to decreased traffic on the trail, and being more self-reliant. That also failed. I got the notice that multiple areas of the AT were actually being closed, states were prohibiting overnight camping, and enough closures had happened that it would make my journey miserable if not impossible. At the last moment, with my rental car in my driveway, my pack ready to go, my first mail drop sent, and my husband ready to live without me for the next six months, I gave in and canceled my hike.
I spent the next two days in tears. I still have my boxes for resupply packed. I still have my backpack ready to leave and good for at least 12 days. I am not in denial, but am still shocked by the turn of events. Although my company is an essential employer, I was per diem and have no work. I had been working four different jobs to fund my hike, but had notified all of them of my last day, and now have no income. I am turning 50 this year. I am not in my 20s.
“The trail will always be there” is great for the younger folks, but for those of us battling health and financial issues, it is not so comforting. This was my year. I planned, saved, trained, and mentally was ready this year. I can’t just postpone to next year. My point is that although I appreciate all the positive thinking, and words of encouragement, I think we need to acknowledge that there is a population out there that needs to be consoled.
There is a percentage of us that will never get the opportunity to do this again. Cancer, family illnesses, pet illnesses, and financial hardships may make it impossible for us to try again another year. For everyone for whom this strikes a chord, I am sorry. I am so so sorry. I get it. There is no consolation for having to cancel a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
I am not handling this well, myself. I just want all of you to know that it’s OK to feel sorry for yourself, and that you have a friend in this.
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