The Mental Journey to Now

I decided it might be time for me to articulate the thoughts that have been going through my head for the last three-ish months.


These thoughts fall along a wide spectrum.  Once in a while over the past few months I have jotted something down about what I was feeling with regards to the Trail.  As a result, I have a paper trail betraying my changing moods since I had to get off the Trail in August.  I decided I might as well share it.


Because isolating myself from the trail community is not a great solution to missing the Trail (no, really?).  It is amazing to be part of something so much bigger than myself, to be part of the AT/thruhiking culture and I need to get back into it.


So let’s do this.


Month 1

During my first month off trail, I think it’s pretty safe to say that my feelings were all over the place.  I didn’t really know what to think.  I was disappointed that I had had to call off my thruhike attempt for the time being.  But I was also glad to be home.  The chiropractor had diagnosed the problem with my back and leg and we had started down the road to recovery.  Everyone commended me for listening to my body and told me not to be down on myself because I had already accomplished so much.  I tried to believe them and sort of succeeded, what with the triumph of Katahdin still fresh in my mind.  I was getting back to work in a job I love, so everything was new and exciting again.  Being home also meant that I got to watch my siblings play high school soccer.  And I was trying to believe that there was a God-given reason that I couldn’t finish my hike this year, and I was sort of succeeding.


Then the next phase hit.


Month 2

I am not sure what brought it on.  Maybe the craziness of work.  Maybe the pain I was still feeling in my body.  Maybe the fact that thruhiking season was still in swing and people I knew were finishing the Trail.  Who knows.  Word for word, this is what I jotted down one night during this time.


“Injuries suck.


Having to get off the trail in the middle of a thruhike attempt due to an injury sucks x10.


I’ve been sitting around with these feelings for a while now.  Well, actually I haven’t been sitting around all that much, because work and life, but this negativity has been sitting around in my head.  And when I try to work out and my hip hurts, or when I’m on my feet all day at work and my feet hurt, or when I dump more money into chiropractor visits, the “this sucks” messages flashes across my brain in obnoxious neon colors.

And somehow, the “this sucks” message that flashed across my brain while I was out there dealing with Vermud or rain or southern Maine suddenly pales in comparison.


Clearly, humans are fickle things.  The grass is always greener, so they say.”


I think the negativity I was feeling at this time was also because I was stressed about money, seeing as my bank account had been somewhat drained.  You have to understand that I don’t spend money if I don’t need to.  I get home from the Trail and the five hundred and one expenses that come with adulting slap me in the face.  And then I turn around and there’s five hundred more.  Sometimes adulting sucks, too.


Moral of the story: sometimes the elemental/basic concerns of life in the woods are a welcome break from the complicated concerns of life in the real world.


Pessimistic phase complete.


Month 3


Then I turned a corner.  I’m not sure why or how or when exactly, but it happened and I started feeling optimistic again.  I am looking forward to getting back to the Trail, probably in the fall of 2018.  In the meantime, I am letting my finances recover and my back/hip/feet heal.  I had originally thought about hitting the Trail in February in Georgia and heading north to Virginia, but February seemed frighteningly soon.  Finishing the Trail in the fall will also give me time to change up some gear.  I want to get a lighter backpack and maybe try out some trail runners for shoes.  If you have suggestions, leave me a note in the comments!


I think about the Trail all the time, though.  I remember how blessed I am and how amazing it was.  I remember the bad days, and how I survived them.  I remember the good days and the glory I felt in my soul.  Sometimes it feels unreal, like it was a dream.


But the bottom line is, God willing, I will be returning to the Trail.  For that I am excited.  I want to walk through the southern states and experience the beauty there.  I want to traverse the grassy balds and meet cool people and visit the infamous trail towns.


While I am waiting, I need to get better at going on adventures here at home and taking the time to go to nature.  I need to stay in with the trail community, too.  I even entertained the idea of going to Trail Days next year.  This is a culture that I entered into and have become a part of and I need to keep myself immersed in it.  Because I feel like a better, more confident person when I am in it.  I feel like I am getting closer to the best version of myself.

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Comments 6

  • Ruth morley : Dec 11th

    Mary, I’m so happy to read your post! Ironically, I had been wondering lately how you were doing. It sounds like you’re moving in the right direction, both physically and emotionally.

    I’m following a path very similar to yours, so to speak. My feet are healing well and I am hoping to hit the trail next April, 12 months exactly after I met you during my shakedown hike heading north. I hope to be stronger, slower (fewer miles per day) and wiser this time.

    Good luck! I look forward to future posts.


  • Brightside : Dec 12th

    Great post, Vulture! It’s so funny the thoughts that go through our heads after all that time on the trail, and how those thoughts change over time. I hope you get the chance to finish the trail! The Roan Highlands and the Smokies were two of my favorite sections down south. I wore the Salomon X Ultra Prime trail runners for my whole thru-hike, and they worked great for me. I’ve been wearing the La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners since I finished and I really like those too (they have a bigger footbox so great if your feet swell). Happy trails!
    -Brightside (GA-ME ’17)

    • Mary : Dec 12th

      Thanks, Brightside! Will check out those shoes!

  • Capn Nemo : Jan 24th

    Mary…I speak as a 63 yr old (young? I sure hope so!) retired Navy Officer and retired Federal Wildlife Officer (originally from Ohio, too) ….I have tasted sweet success…and bitter failure. If there are two things I have learned, it is (1) that the “taste” either way, is solely ours alone. You sound like a fighter…..and you sound like someone smart enough to know # (2): listen to yourself. Please keep in mind that the Trail awaits you when you are ready. Bless your heart….my absolute best to you……thank you for your service to animals, and for this honest self posting. OFIFOTO! Gary

    • Mary Meixner : Feb 25th

      Thanks, Gary! Good luck with your thru! Happy trails!

  • Capn Nemo : Jan 24th

    BTW…hoping to complete my thru-hike in 2018!


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