This is ME
Owning my adjectives
OK, it’s taken me over a month, but I am finally ready to claim my identity as a thru-hiker and acknowledge my adjectives that I feel fit me. I am brave, strong, persistent, resilient, and a thru-hiker. When I pass day-hikers or section-hikers, and they ask me if I am a thru-hiker, I proudly proclaim my status. No more waffling like I did in the first weeks. Yes, I am still hiking from one mail drop to the next stop or meet-up. But I am looking at the distance as a whole now. When I see the trail map posted along the way, I look at where I started and my current location and it brings tears to my eyes. I have come so far! And I still have a long way to go. However, now the journey is a reality instead of some vague dream.
I am Brave
I don’t like heights and I don’t like falling. Put them together and some parts of the trail are real challenges for me. I was climbing out of Lehigh Gap and there was a section of bouldering before the ridge and the rock tumbling scree. This bouldering was almost cliff climbing. I felt like I should have been wearing a crash helmet. And had a chalk bag. And a harness and ropes. It was quite terrifying for me. I couldn’t look down, but I aimed my phone over my shoulder to take a pic of the view. It was nearly straight down to the bridge over the river. I got vertigo when I looked at that pic. One boulder was probably 8-10 feet tall (but felt like 15-20 feet). I got my feet on the tiny ledge a few feet up the side and was hanging on by my fingertips. I was leaning towards my right hip but couldn’t get my left foot up to the next toe-hold. I had to verbally, out loud, talk myself out of panicking. “You can’t stay here. You don’t want to look to go down. You have to go up. Figure it out, Kristine. You can do this.” So I looked around for other options, then shifted my weight to my left and got my right foot on a different toe-hold. I reached up to a boulder just overhead and managed, somehow, to get myself to the next ledge. Terrified. With over 30 lbs. on my back and my poles dangling from my wrists. But I am BRAVE and I did it!
I am Strong
Not all of the climbs are so terrifying, but I have pulled myself up so many rocks and boulders. Sometimes, I am on hands and knees because that’s the only way I know how to do it without falling. Sometimes, I climb down on my rear end. But I get it done. I have also climbed steep trails that gain 500 feet elevation in just a half mile. It takes me a bit longer than others, but I do it. Under my own steam. I feel my muscles growing stronger every day. At night, I usually do a little yoga to stretch everything out. I think this has helped me prevent aches and pains. I know these challenges are easier than they were a month ago, even though they are still difficult.
I am Persistent and Resilient
Not every day is unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes, there are just a few challenging hours. One day last week was challenging all day. It wasn’t that the hike was particularly difficult, although I did climb three mountains, two of which were fairly steep. No. It was a challenging day because it was rainy and dreary, I slipped and fell on a sloping boulder and had to climb 10 feet back up to the trail. And I started getting discouraged because I hadn’t made my distance goals for the last few days. I called and made a motel reservation from the top of the last mountain. (Paid through the nose.) When I was warm, showered, and fed, I reflected on why the day was so difficult for me. I think I bonked. I wasn’t getting enough calories most of the week for how many I was using. My calorie deficit was too great to sustain my exertions for the week. I am making a concerted effort to eat enough quality calories now. I also reset my goals. Just a week ago, I was saying that I was taking it easy and my goal was to average just 15 miles per day. Now, my goals are to enjoy my hike! Stay healthy! Avoid injury! And not worry about how many miles I do on any given day. I will let the weather, the trail, and my body decide how far I go. Just yesterday I only did 12 miles, but I dawdled. And I enjoyed my time on the trail. I visited with day-hikers. I sat and had a leisurely afternoon snack. But I did not feel exhausted. And I am not giving up.
I am a Thru-Hiker
Each thru-hiker is different. This is me. How would you characterize thru-hikers? Until next time, kids, happy trails!
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