The Irony in My Trail Name

Just as I’m opening my eyes to see the ceiling of my tent each morning, I’m reminded of how far from home I am, and all the comforts it once provided me. I’ve grown to like my tent, but I still miss my warm bed. I miss everyone I left at home, and the separation anxiety I feel about being so far from the people who know me makes me terrified to open up to people out here. Even though everyone I’ve come across on the trail has shown me nothing but kindness, I usually find myself to be absent minded or scrambling to find something interesting to say so I don’t come across as apathetic. I just can’t relax. Anxiety and trepidation are black clouds that have always followed me around, and even out here I can’t seem to evade them.

I told myself hiking the Appalachian Trail would potentially be one of the most challenging undertakings of my life, but telling myself that was much easier than actually living through it, day by day. For some reason I thought it would be easier to leave everything behind, hike over mountains, find inspiration and hopefully peace within myself, then go back home knowing everything would be just as I left it.

On top of this uneasy transition, my trail name just garnered an ironic twist. Usually when I tell people my trail name, at least half of them ask me how I got the name Romeo, and I reach for a response like, “I’m in love with this girl back home. She’s waiting on me and I’m always calling her whenever I can out here.” It makes me feel good saying that to the hikers I meet. It gives them an idea of who I am and momentarily puts me at ease during the conversation. But now I should probably formulate a new response when asked about my trail name, because the girl I left back home isn’t waiting on me anymore.

The third day on the trail, Rich and I had to hitch a ride into Dahlonega so he could get some new gear; he found his tent to be completely inadequate in that it didn’t provide proper breathing ventilation, and the accumulating condensation caused the inside to be soaked from wall to wall. Feeling like we would get behind on our mileage, getting off the trail didn’t rub me the right way. But we had to do it. As Rich and I checked into a Days Inn motel later that day, I felt unduly stressed out about the unexpected change in plans. I was ready to dive headfirst into the wild, yet here I was in a shitty Days Inn motel for the night. So I confided in Katie as someone to vent to.

As I expressed my anger the conversation became acrimonious. She disagreed with my reasons for being angry, and this culminated in her texting me “I can’t do this.” I was frozen with fear. Then I called her. She didn’t pick up. I called her several more times and no answer. This was gut wrenching. Later that night she finally got back to me and we worked it out. Me not being there is really hard on her, especially if we’re bickering. She’s dealing with separation anxiety as well, and it isn’t easy being so far from someone you love for so long. We knew it would be difficult, but we were optimistic. I was confident our love would carry us through anything. Ignorance is bliss when you’re madly in love.

I fell hard and fast for this girl, at a time when I told myself not to fall in love. But love just happens. You feel it and you’re forced to react. Before the trail, Katie and I were inseparable. Planned or unplanned, I’d make time for her. Whether it be staying up all night playing Mario Cart or cuddling till the sun came up, I was happiest when I was with her. We were crazy about each other. We spontaneously planned a weekend trip to New York City just for fun. As the trail loomed closer, we made plans for the future, thinking we’d have all the time in world together after I finished my hike. We were wrong, and I was naive to think love would be enough to carry us through the time apart.

Whenever you’re in a relationship and they say, “we need to talk” or “I need to talk to you” it’s usually not for good reasons. And you really get an idea of where their head is at when they start removing pictures of the two of you on social media before the phone call is even had. I’ve been through break ups before, and desolate hole they leave you with is hard to fill.

“I’m not happy. I need to go out there and make myself happy.”

I guess she couldn’t do that while waiting on me to come back. I’m not enough when I’m not physically present in her life. I had half expected this would happen after I got the text message “I can’t do this” the third night out here, but I was holding out hope that she would wait for me. I felt despondent as I hung up the phone after one last goodbye.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe my anxiety will finally take a back seat in my conscious thoughts if I no longer have to worry about if I’m worth waiting for. I’ll no longer have to fear her leaving me now, she’s already gone. I hope she finds the happiness she’s looking for now that I’m not holding her back. I love her but that wasn’t enough to make her stay.

During the mornings and nights out here I’d sit in my tent coming up with reasons to go home, the loudest and most prevalent being Katie. Her leaving me changes everything. The thought of abandoning the hike for her is no longer in the cards on the path to Mount Katahdin, the trail’s northern terminus. This turbulent change will force me to grow in ways I didn’t foresee, and I’ll be sticking with the name Romeo and all it’s newfound irony.

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Comments 13

  • Matt Perrenod (Homeless '15) : Mar 27th

    Thanks for your psts, Dylan. If you can be this open with strangers on a blog, you’ll find a way to open up to the good people you meet on your hike.

    I found that the trail’s challenge for me was about doing things I was afraid to do. All the time spent hiking meant I would completely marinate in that fear, then meditate on it, then figure out how I was (sometimes literally) going to get over it.

    Congratulations on your decision to hike. I’ll be interested to read more.

  • Chrissy : Mar 27th

    Dylan remember that we are all supporting with love from home. Your story can be an inspiration to all. The loss of someone you love is hard but perhaps when you get done and through growth and meditation you will see that she may return to you if was true love. Keep up the great blogging and think of each day as a new way to brighten someone else’s day with your great smile and humor.

  • maurice powers : Mar 27th

    Dylan…this hike was never about the two of you…itis about YOU…it is about a young man who wants so desperatly to explore new horizons that he took a chance if losing something in order to open a door to the possibilities that life has to offer. You felt the tug of this journey calling you, answer the call and let your previous self GO…you cannot be dependent on someone else for your personal happiness, only you control that. Put one foot in front of the other and let the journey be your mistress…your blogs bare your soul…the trail will lead you to sanctuary…as the saying goes…”better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all!” This hike is about discovery…don’t be afraid to explore, that is how we grow as individuals and a society…although you probably are having a rough time seeing that reflected in todays mania. Its OK to grieve about the loss of someone you love, but do not let it be an obsession…move on and grow…hope this helps even a little…your going to be fine…

  • Jesse Barkdoll : Mar 28th

    I wanna sizzle summer sausage with Dylan at the peaks of the Appalachians and watch the gleaming horizon glisten on our greasy faces. I wanna be a great trailblazer with you and chop down the brush in synchronized formations with our matching machetes. I want to… okay on a serious note, bro. It’s been a while, but I’m glad about three things: 1) You are writing, and I believe you’re born to write. 2) You’re hiking in the Appalachians and taking hold of an opportunity many people would not jump at 3) You are finding ways to cope with your anxiety and relational troubles. I think that in the end this experience will help you grow leaps and bounds and I support you all the way dude. I can’t wait to hear more of your adventures. Much love and see you soon dude – Jesse

  • Sherry Dorsey : Mar 28th

    Things always work out. You are definitely worth waiting for and she just didn’t realize that. You are doing this for you and no one else. Keep going knowing that everyone at home is thinking of your everyday. You are young and have so much time to live. Take advantage of your youth now and do everything you want to do. I can’t wait to hear more of your blog. You are a fantastic writer. I think that is your calling. Love ya. Sherry.

  • Renee A Faith : Mar 28th

    I ditto what Maurice said. Hope you will keep putting one foot in front of the other all the way to Katahdin! I think you’ll like the ‘you’ that emerges over the next few months if you continue on. Best of luck!

  • Robert : Mar 29th

    Renee and Maurice have giving you insight. What you do with that information time will tell. Life really does come down to one foot In front of the other. Mother Nature will test your soul and your heart. Most people have no idea what they are capable of. You just may learn more about the human heart and soul . Some things you can not learn from a book.

  • Kathi : Mar 31st

    You’ve got things backward, apparently she wasn’t worth going back home to! You sound like an awesome young man and I wish you luck chasing your dream. When you’re finished you’ll find a woman who’s worthy of you, and who would be happy to support your next great adventure!

  • Mike : Mar 31st

    Dylan, thank you for such a raw and real sharing of your trip so far.I don’t think theirs and man out there that can’t relate to how you feel at some point in their life. I have been exactly where you’ve been brother the only difference I was on and climbing expedition in South America. I promise you this. You will survive and with each passing day it will get better. Who knows perhaps you’ll meet the girl you were meant to be with somewhere on the trail?:)
    In the meantime keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward! Enjoy every single moment of this incredible life changing adventure your on! God a peed brother!

  • Primo : Mar 31st

    Now you are free to pink blaze the rest of the trip. You will be swimming in female attention with that trail name and heart wrenching story .

  • Frankenstein : Mar 31st

    Been there. Got married just months before my AT thru hike and came home to a woman whom cut all contact from me and was sleeping with multiple men. Life is crazy. Luckily my divorce is paying for my PCT attempt this year. And my gf just got a boob job. Life is now awesome.

  • Firecracker : Apr 1st

    You are the master of your own happiness Dylan! We folks on the trail will help heal your soul but until then, find happiness in the little things. Much love!!

  • Jamie : Apr 1st

    Stumbled on your post from a Facebook group. If she couldn’t even make it 3 days… She wasn’t interested in trying at all. Maybe 3 months, 3 days is nothing.

    It’s too bad, but that happens. Being apart from someone you’re in a relationship is definitely hard.

    On a happier note, good luck! I’m mad jelly. Wish I had the resources, guts, and positioning in my life to do it. I hope to so sections at different points at the least.


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