Timeout, Trail: rest, regroup, return

Here are some things I know to be true:

  • Blogging on the trail is hard.
  • The trail is hard.
  • I don’t write when things are hard.

For those reasons, it’s been at least a couple of months since I’ve published any writing. But, right now, I’m writing because I’m on a voluntary trail break (*gasp*), and here’s why.

Three months ago, I started hiking with two friends. We met through one of our favorite nonprofit groups, and we all had preexisting AT dreams when we met. We spent months collaborating and set foot on Springer Mountain on March 8th, 2017.

I guess because of that common vision and commitment to this organization, I thought we would be a bit exempt from the various warnings against hiking in a group. Within the first three days (at the first indication of setback), however, the shade over my eyes was slowly beginning to be rolled away.

And I’ve spent the last three months trying to force that shade back down, because honestly, the light is bright and I don’t want to see my hopes and dreams unmet as they are. 

In the last three months, as a group, we’ve dealt with a lot. Unexpected early injury, weather we weren’t prepared for, more unexpected injury, skipping some sections to accommodate, one teammate deciding to hike solo for a while, another teammate sinking into a pit of depression and anxiety, being on and off the trail delaying acquisition of trail legs and subsequently not having any consistent trail friends or tramily, surprising judgement and cruelty from a few hikers, reunion and reseparation with the teammate who left initially, a decision to pursue wellness apart from the trail by the depressed teammate, and on and on the list goes.

My vision for the trail included none of these events, tbh.

But alas, here I sit, in cotton clothes in a cushy chair in Florida. In the middle of feeling both too much and not enough for the teammate who hiked on and grieving that I can’t fix mental illness for the other.

The sum of these for me is a sense of aloneness, and that is what has driven me to this break.

My trail vision has always included people. I never wanted to do this alone, and even though I started with two and have the support of many, I’m still finding myself alone. Maybe there’s something that God has for me on the other end of this that I need to find by pushing through. Who knows. But right now, I’m emotionally wrought from everything that has happened and have virtually no trail success to prove for it. The thru-hiking dream might be lost for 2017, for time and money are both finite in a world of student loans, medical bills, and attempting to walk across the country.

It really sucks, y’all. No way around it.

It calls into question all kinds of things about purpose and worth, value and vision. Preconceptions are exposed and tested when plans don’t hold and expectations are unmet.

I don’t know what happens now. I miss the trail and want it back. Social media gives me AT FOMO something fierce. But I don’t want to be alone, and I don’t want to be lonely, and you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think either are possible on a trail tread by thousands each year. I’m sure these are things I’ll just have to work through in time, but right now, I’m just sad and wondering what the point in it all will be. Hoping to be back soon, but for now, working on being thankful for rest and eager at the thought of a fresh start.

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