Thoughts Entering the Last 500 Miles of the AT

Less than 500 miles left in this crazy journey. Wow. Just wow! When you’re hiking through the woods day after day, you think a lot. I want to share a few of those thoughts with you all since you’ve been so great with all of the love and support. 

First off, the hardest part of this whole experience has been the 47-day period off trail, recovering from my injury. It was the most crippling feeling to watch all of my friends get closer and closer to Katahdin while I was sitting on my couch in Florida. All I wanted to do was move and make progress toward my goal. Instead, I had this unfinished business and felt like I couldn’t move on to anything until this was complete. I dealt with people telling me 700 miles was good enough and still an accomplishment, but it wasn’t enough for me. I planned on getting back on trail two weeks after my surgery… then four… then finally six, but my doctor would have preferred ten. Once I got back on trail, all I wanted to do was move. Zeros and neros didn’t interest me unless I physically needed the rest. This mentality led to me burning out quickly. It’s no secret that I was in a rut while hiking through New York and Connecticut. I was dragging my feet and greeted by bad weather and very few views. Still, I never thought about quitting. But I did take more time in town and basically cut my mileage in half. Just like a job or a sport, there are days when it’s hard to get up in the morning. A thru-hike is no vacation. Time and friends helped me get through it and I’m stronger for it. 

Next thought. Hikers with a four-month or faster pace sometimes get a bad rep for “rushing the experience.” For me, keeping this pace really heightens the experience. I’m awake as long as the sun is up and will hike about 12 hours a day. I’ll test the physical limits of my body and will stick it out through bad weather without running into town. I can feel myself growing mentally stronger during these tough times. There’s no better feeling than powering through a rough storm and finally seeing the sun come out to play. If you have a negative opinion about my pace, just keep it to yourself because this works for me. You know what they say: “Hike your own hike.”

Last thing on my mind. I’ve hiked the majority of the last 1,000 miles solo. Yeah, sometimes it really sucks, but I feel myself learning so much from this experience. I’ve become a self-starter. I wake up and crank out miles because I want to, not because my friends will be at a certain shelter at the end of the day. I feel so self-reliant and independent. Honestly, I feel like a total badass for being out here alone and getting back on the horse after everything that has happened. I’ve dealt with extreme loneliness and have had to figure out what’s missing and how I can be that thing for myself. Even when I’m feeling lonely, I know I’m not alone in this experience. I’ve reconnected with old friends and connected with new ones who have supported me so much through the good and the bad. My thru-hike has shown me that nothing worth doing can be done completely alone. I’m so thankful for the support.

So those are some of the things I’ve been feeling and I’m sure my mind will be racing a lot more toward the end of this journey. I have mixed emotions about these last 500 miles. I know they’re going to be the toughest, yet prettiest. I want to get to Katahdin so I can reach my goal, but I also don’t want this experience to end. My hike has by far been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it is so rewarding and worth every minute. 

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Comments 5

  • Avatar
    Taylor : Aug 6th

    Go Mer!!! So proud of you

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Aug 6th

      Thanks so much, Tay 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Harpers ferry walkers : Aug 6th

    You ARE badass!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Megan : Aug 6th

    So freaking proud of you. Thanks for being an inspiration. Enjoy the last of it babe!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ruth morley : Aug 7th

    Very good post. You expressed well all that you’ve experienced and felt. I too am coming back from several medical issues, and you inspire me to take care of myself but never give up on the goal.

    Reply

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