Thru-Hiking’s Addiction: My Experience Going for a Back-to-Back Thru-Hike

The other day I was browsing through pictures a trail angel and good friend of mine posted on Facebook. This trail angel, Rob Bird, likes to help hikers any way he can and take pictures of those he has kept under good company, for memory’s sake. While browsing through these pictures, I saw faces of people I’ve never met, yet look all too familiar. I immediately yearned for hiking the trail once more.

Photo credit: Robert Bird

In 2016, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. It was the best decision and experience of my life, a true turnaround from the life I was living beforehand. The experience was so indelible that I had the itch to keep traveling and seeing the world. I created a traveling blog, and decided to work and save up a little bit for the following year to do something, anything. In the back of my mind, I had the idea to thru-hike the AT once more, and with my friend’s wedding being on the east coast in July, I decided to take another hike.

My campaign for a back-to-back thru-hike

I saved up money, from the beginning of September up to the end of February. My funds were a little over $4,000. Most of my gear was still good and intact. The idea would be another NOBO thru-hike, but I knew that with one thru-hike under my belt, it wasn’t necessary to go the whole way. I prepared with a few different items, including a 3/4 size guitar and a sketchbook. Before I knew it, I was back on the AT, unable to kick the addiction.

Memories were fresh.

The first day was pleasantly warm, and I camped at the same spot from the year before, Long Creek Falls. The falls put me to sleep just like before, letting me take a twelve hour snooze. As I ventured forth more and more, I would see a landmark here and there that reminded me of specific feelings and emotions felt from 2016. Muscle memory seemed to kick in. The lessons I learned before as a novice hiker were behind me, and my perspective became more relaxed. Having already hiked the trail, it was easier in my mind. 

Expectations were different.

Coming back to the trail was a wonderful treat, however soon I realized hiking and using my “luxury” items wouldn’t go hand-in-hand with what I wanted. I couldn’t play guitar as much as I wanted without sacrificing precious hiking time. I rarely touched my sketch book. Rainy days were accumulating more often than last year. It wasn’t the recipe I was looking for. The people I would meet along the way were fun, but most I would leave behind because I wanted to hike more. It was becoming a race for me to finish by the time my friend got married, and I wouldn’t settle for yellow blazing.

I wasn’t having fun.

Though I love hiking and backpacking, the adventure was becoming more tedious than anything. I was always thinking about my schedule, and certain days would become boring. I’d call my current girlfriend, and wanting to see her more and more. Things just were different in my mind, and I always said to myself that I didn’t have to go the whole way because I’ve already done it. The last day on my hike I ended up in Waynesboro, VA, right outside the Shenandoah’s, and went to Ming Garden a Chinese AYCE buffet. I was pressured to keep up with my online blog, and hit the trail in a fashionable time. The forecast, I had learned the minute I got back on the trail, was a dreary one. Three-plus inches of rain was coming before sunset, and it was around 6 pm. With 7 miles to go before the next shelter, I hiked as fast as I could, with a slight jog in my step. The rain came down swiftly after one hour, and it was steady. Hoping there was room at this shelter, I crossed my fingers and prayed. Once I arrived, I found everyone asleep, and an open spot for me to sleep in. Soaked, I changed clothes, got dry, and went to sleep. I woke in the morning feeling less than average, and used the privy multiple times. One of my friends was not too far away from where I was. At the time, it was an easy decision for me to end my hike and get a ride home. If it weren’t for these circumstances, who knows how much farther I would’ve gone.

Now here I am, sitting back at home typing, not hiking. It is a weird situation to be in, to go out into the wilderness, give your mind and body such a shock from the normalness of your everyday life for a set amount of months and trying to adapt back to it. I’ve already been on a section hike up north since this year, and am planning another. Maybe a thru-hike isn’t in the cards for me anymore, at least not in the near future. But seeing all those head shots of thru-hikers left a bittersweet taste in my mouth, one that will wish that I could be back out there in the simplicity of nature and reminiscing on the adventurous wonder that I had everyday for five months straight.


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