Trail Update #13: the countdown begins
May I present:
500 miles to Katahdin, and to be honest I’m not sure what to think. I wasn’t expecting to feel as conflicted about reaching this particular milestone as I do.
My thru hike is coming to an end and I don’t really know how to feel about that.
I am ready to be done. My pre-trail life feels distant and unfamiliar. I’m so physically and mentally exhausted. I’m scared I don’t fit in anywhere anymore. I miss my boyfriend and my friends and home. What will sitting at a desk again feel like? I want the conveniences of modern-day life. Being in regular society now makes me somehow feel claustrophobic and alone at the same time. I know my body is ready to relax and recover. Nobody at home understands what this experience has been like. I want to finish. I don’t want this to end.
Standing at this particular milestone sign I felt more emotional than I have at any milestone since the Tennessee / Virginia line when I felt like I had walked home.
For anyone who’s been reading my blogs, it’s no secret that this adventure hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve struggled to find consistent joy in my hike for the last few hundred miles – maybe or maybe not struggled more than most of the thru-hikers, who’s to say? We’re all tired. But still, the northern half of the hike has been far more mentally challenging than the southern half for me. Apparently the ATC says this is normal. The trail rumor mill says that the ATC reports that 50% of the northbound thru-hikers who start in Georgia won’t make it to Harper’s Ferry; and that 40% of the northbound thru-hikers who reach Harper’s Ferry won’t make it to Katahdin. ATC’s stats here mostly support these overall numbers, but they don’t discuss the breakdown of dropout locations, so I can’t say for sure whether this rumor is true or not. But my point is that you might think that if someone can walk 1,000 miles they can walk 2,000 miles, but it’s not as simple as that. Motivation and fun and money and tolerance of all the discomfort decrease. Exhaustion and monotony and loneliness and alienation increase. At least for me.
So anyway, after many conversations with my boyfriend and other wise people about setting small goals and breaking things down to manageable pieces, I’d been keeping the 500-miles-left-point in the back of my mind as the point at which I would be allowed to count down to the completion of this journey. For like the last 600 miles I’ve been holding my breath to reach this point and begin to be able to think about the end! And then I reached it and I don’t really feel relief or happiness as much as I kind of feel the jumble of feels listed above that I’m having trouble sorting in my head.
It’s All Fine
However, I have learned through these last 1,700 miles that it.will.all.be.fine. Whatever I’m feeling now will get sorted and pass and transform and everything will be okay. Bearing this tidbit of maturity and wisdom in mind, OMG YOU GUYS – I only have 500 more miles on the AT!
I’m still in Vermont, one of my favorite trail states so far. Last weekend my friend Patty – who I haven’t seen in 12 years! – came out to the trail to hike and camp on what turned out to be one of my nicest trail nights! Patty met me at Little Rock Pond Shelter where we swam and had a group sing along with some great Long Trail and section hikers and a little girl (trail name Rudolph) who was camping with her dad made us s’mores. Since being in Vermont there have been so many people around – Long Trail hikers, NOBOs, SOBOs, day hikers – and it’s been great to meet new people and hike with them for a few days. I hiked up and over Bromley and Stratton and Killington and then didn’t take the 0.2 side trail to the top of Killington partially because I kinda missed it and partially because I am pretty lazy and likely wouldn’t have gone anyway. It felt like everyone got off the trail together at the Inn at Long Trail to wait out a rainy day and eat as much Irish soda bread as humanly possible. My aunt Betsy and her friend Lisa came up from MA for a visit and zero day with Betsy’s friends (and local residents and gracious hosts) Tom and Kerry. We spent the day exploring adorable Vermont and eating all the food.
This week I’ll walk into the last 500 miles and into New Hampshire with OMG, Bec, Pack Rat and Yahtzee. And then…I don’t know exactly, but I know it’ll be okay and good and wonderful and hard and, in the end, fine. Or at least I’ll keep saying this to myself until maybe I believe it. 😉
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