Count on Friends to See You Through the Dark
I’ve had this post in mind since the beginning of my thru-hike but I have only just recently found the proper way to put how I am feeling and have felt into words.
Disclaimer: This is not for people with true grit who are able to handle the worst of the worst. This is more for us delicate flowers.
The physical toughness of the trail does not compare to the mental and emotional trials you are up against.
When you’re on the trail, you have tons of time for self-reflection. You come face to face with what haunts you the most. Sometimes recalling terrible things you have said or done to other people, sometimes remembering what others have done to you. Bob Peoples told me and my group, “Look at all you’ve learned about yourself and others. Most of what you learn about yourself isn’t good. But you learn what it is and how to handle it.”
For me, I’m facing the soft, gooey center that has always been inside of me, but I tended to cover it up with jokes. I have realized how my humor is often a front line of defense against the anxiety I feel.
I thought hiking the Appalachian Trail would help me walk away from my problems but it seems that I am running full force at them.
So here I am. I’m in the middle of the green tunnel of Southern Virginia. It’s 6 a.m. and I’m looking into the face of self-doubt, anger, and anxiety while scribbling these thoughts down on a plastic bag. I used to dread being alone with my thoughts and fears, but I’ve come to embrace it all. All the sudden, the terrible loneliness has become productive.
Luckily, you aren’t always alone. There are other hikers out here to distract you from you. But sometimes it’s worth the loneliness just to be alone. There’s growth to be had and a piece of mind to be gained.
Never quit on a bad day.
I’ve learned this time and time again on the trail. You can’t quit just because things got rough for a couple of days. Each time I’ve up and wanted to quit, the next day usually ended up being amazing. You’re going to have bad days, just like everyone. Sometimes you have to keep walking to hold back the tears, other times you set up camp and take a damn nap. That’s the beauty of the trail; you can do what you want.
You’re going to end up in unusual situations. You will be sad at some point, too. However, you have to use it as a tool to create something productive for yourself. Lose yourself in the forest, really feel what you need to feel.
While this has all been difficult, I’m thankful for the time I’ve been given to become an even better version of myself than before. Thank you to all my trail buddies who have helped me through tough times. Also, thank you to Hot Dog (@thelaughingmonk) for your kind words and wisdom in the Rice Field Shelter on a very rainy, very crappy day.
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