Virginia Blues: It’s Hard to Cry and Hike at the Same Time

Ok, the title is a little dramatic. I only cried once in Virginia. It remains true though. I did learn that it is hard to cry and hike at the same time, turns out they both require a lot of oxygen. I do intend on explaining what lead to me bawling in the woods alone but to understand the full weight of my emotions, I must first explain to you the curse that had struck myself as well as my tramily.



I’m in a dramatic mood. What can I say? The trail has a way of dissolving your mind. 

So. The curse. It started around the time of trail days. We at first said that it started at trail days, bad hangovers and highs and all of that. Our story did start here but the grandeur of our curse occurred in the days following. Day after day, each one of us were taken out. Starting at trail days, on day one a member of our group partied a little hard. This resulted in a early bedtime and a hangover in the morning that lead to him missing the $5 all you can eat pancakes. Like I said, we’re starting small. The next day the curse struck “Ripple”, an alter ego that we will use to hide the true identity of this committee member. Mom, Dad, I promise this wasn’t me. My time comes later. She took a generous offer, a 100mg edible from a stranger on a bridge. This interaction also just happened to follow her side quest to the diner where she took 2 shots of tequila. She took it as in she ate it, all of it. This resulted in a loss sense of reality and another early bedtime. The worst part of the entire situation was when I got her nice and tucked in her tent just in time for some very enthusiastic bag pipes to begin pouring out of the nearby woods. She couldn’t believe it was real (or anything really), I couldn’t believe it either. 

Now I know what you are thinking. These are self imposed circumstances. That is true, but keep reading there is more to come.

Back To The Trail

My group of 5 all made it back to the trail safely. It wasn’t any of our days and we had no thought of a curse yet. Here is where things start getting really sucky. On our day traveling back to the trail, we had a few tramily members who never left. We were separated from them but still apart of the same tramily. On this day our fellow member, scarface, took a dive. He face planted into the trail, splitting his chin open. Being a head wound, the blood was profuse and abundant. He made it to the ER where he got 5 stitches. A bad day indeed.

Lets keep moving.

Coming back to the active tramily members that I was traveling with, we got back on the trail. We hiked 18 miles to our shelter for the night. Again, we aren’t thinking of the curse. We aren’t prepared. We make it through the day with no issues, we set up our tents, have dinner and go to bed. Most of us make it through the night peacefully. The following morning I awoke refreshed and ready to hike. I am packing my things when Fire Magic peeks our of her tent. She thinks she has noro. She has been sick all night, throwing up every hour for the last few hours. It was her day. We want to help her pack but can’t risk getting sick as well. The boys head to our next shelter while Snail Mail hikes her 2.8 miles down to the nearest road and I wait with our things so that I can hike with her when she comes back. Fire Magic makes it to the hotel and waits out her curse. Luckily, recovering after a few sucky days.

The next day. 

Today is my day. At least the first day of my impending curse. I’m not sick when I wake up so I think I’m in the clear. I feel good and make it out of camp early. This is when things change for me. I have had an existing issue with my hip. We have several theories, have talked to a few doctors and PTs and we still aren’t quite sure what the issue is. What it feels like is the absolute worst pain that I have felt in my life. Striking, hot pain that feels as though the muscles in my hip are shredding as I walk. It doesn’t hurt all the time. I wish it were predictable, then I could work to avoid the pain. Early into the day, I step over a downed tree and nearly lose my balance. In regaining it, I anger my hip and the searing pain comes back ferociously. The worst it has felt and it lasts the longest it has as well. I breathe through the pain and continue on. It happens every other step now. I want to cry, I almost do (this is not my Virginia cry though) but I keep moving. Now I am identifying each road location. I think I need to get off trail, that I wont be able to do our 21 mile day without falling to the ground. I call my Dad and pull every trick I know. I take advil, apply tiger balm, stretch and communicate with my friends dad who is a PT. I am in pain for the rest of the day but I make it to camp. It’s going to take more to kick me off trail.

A little more context. Our tramily had traveled with this guy named Food Truck for some time but had lost him. By some miracle we find him at trail days and he is getting back on trail where we got off! He joins us and our tramily expanded. 

That was for a few days…

The next day is his. 

We hike for awhile, stopping at a stream for lunch. He was the last out of camp but he is long legged and fast. I could be a mile ahead and he would catch me within the hour. It was weird that he hadn’t caught us yet. We were relieved to see him walking up to join us for lunch. Our relief didn’t last long when he says he has some bad news. He was getting off trail. He had some pain in his IT band but we didn’t know the extent of it. It was too much for him. He tracked us down for lunch but would actually be backtracking to the road. His mom was on his way to stay the night with him before taking him back home. The pain was severe and he didn’t want a permanent injury. It was heartbreaking. We had just gotten him back and he was a valued member of our team. To lose him again, for the last time was hard. I hadn’t said goodbye to a close friend yet and it was not an easy task. It was horrible having to hug him goodbye and walk away. During our long lunch he said that he would want Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus to play at his funeral. The now 3 of us sang it and waved our poles from side to side as we walked away. For as ridiculous as we looked and tried to stay upbeat, the rest of the day was heavy. The mood never recovered.

Things Start To Look Up

We make it a few days without any casualties. Instead, things start to look up. We make it through the triple crown of VA and even meet back up with Scarface! I hadn’t seen him in so long so I was ecstatic to get back to him! We thought we were clear but not quite yet. 

Dinner In Daleville

We made it into town and even picked up another hiker, Treelicker. The 5 of us, our numbers are back, all went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant nearby. We all over indulge and treat ourselves to soup and sushi and hibachi. Crease, Snail Mail, Treelicker and I had booked a room in the hotel for the night. We returned and hung out before going to bed. I was tired and sore going to bed but we’re thru hikers, thats always the case!

The curse comes back for me.

In the middle of the night I wake up, feeling sick. I run to the bathroom and spend the next hour or so sitting on the ground. I don’t want to get back in bed and risk getting my friends sick so I set up my sleep things on the ground. This confused them in the morning but they understand. We had made a plan to continue on but I knew I couldn’t. I still feel horrible. Nurse Snail Mail kicks in and brings me drinks and gets me back into bed before they all set off. 

I spent 2 zeros in this hotel room. 

I didn’t feel much better when I decide to hike again but I didn’t want to get further behind my friends. Fire Magic is still playing her own game of catch up but she has pulled big miles and is only 1 day behind our group. Now its my turn. My dad calls me in the morning and based on my voice he tells me I should think about another zero but I have more motivation to hike then to stay behind another day. 

It Is Hard To Hike And Cry At The Same Time

I decide to start confident. I am going to go slow but I am feeling good. I make it to the 1/3 of the way to Katahdin sign and get a new boost of serotonin. After the sign, the trail starts to go up in elevation. Not a lot of elevation. Nothing that would take me long or make me whine on a normal day. I am in my head though. I am thinking about the distance between myself and my friends. I am thinking about the misfortunes we have had. 

To top off my mental state, my physical state deteriorates.

For a reason that I can still not understand, my hip starts to be excruciating again. I am not trying to get over a log or through rocks. I am on soft soil, a straight trail. The pain is immense and I feel sick and the trail is so hard and so long and my friends are days away. The tears come to me. I can’t stop them. I don’t want to stop them. I deserve this cry. I am alone in the woods with no one to observe my pain or my sorrow and I want to cry. But it is so hard! I need to keep hiking but my brain can’t decide if the oxygen I am sucking on should go towards my hiking or my crying! I want to multi task but I stop walking, I need to cry more then I need to hike. 

If You Feel Bad For Me, Don’t

I don’t cry often but I recognize that it is a good thing. I feel better afterwards. I still am in pain and feel sick and my friends are still 2 days ahead but I feel better. I am only able to hike 10 miles today before I am too burnt out but I make a plan. 

I decide that I will feel better the next day and even better the next. I hike 22 miles and then 25. The 25 was a reach for me. It was my biggest day when you calculate the elevation gain and loss on top of the miles. I hike all of them though. My friends are at the finish line. The curse can’t hold me. Fire Magic caught them the day before and I caught them today! I am so excited to get the gang back together!

One More Strike Of The Curse

Scarface and I had shared the shelter before my 25 mile day. He was planning to do 22 and we would reconvene the next day. I was surprised to make it to my hostel and find him sitting on the couch. I had heard a rumor from the driver about him being there but I needed to hear it from him. 

He was done. Done done. 

He wasn’t stepping off the trail, he was getting off.

The excitement from my comeback immediately dissipates. I am heartbroken once more. Scarface was one of my first friends on the trail. We hit many of the first milestones together and enjoyed each others company for a long time. I had been trying to get back in sync with him and we had just done so! We just got him back! Sound familiar? 

I want to convince him to stay but I know that he is sad to leave and I don’t want to rub it in. We get one more afternoon and dinner with him before his wife picked him up. I hate that I have to say goodbye to another friend. I especially hate that I have to say goodbye to this friend. I promise to text him all of the drama and he promises he will respond. 

Long Lasting Effects Of The Curse

There is a lot to learn from 2 weeks of sorrow and pain and sickness on the trail. All of this has happened and we aren’t even close to being out of Virginia. Our tramily functions a little differently now. More weary of separating again but with a confidence that we will always make it back to each other. Fire Magic and I have both recovered from our sicknesses. We think that they were flukes from the food we had eaten. 

The worst part. The longest lasting effects. Losing 2 dear friends on the trail.

Yes they are still alive and sure we had been separated from each of them for some time before we got them back but this is different. They aren’t on the same line as us, ahead or behind. We don’t have the comfort of knowing that our miles will overlap in time. 

On The Trail It Is Always See You Later

We don’t say goodbye on the trail. This is a known thing among our community. We will always see each other again. Things happen, for better or for worse but you will always see them again. This is the only bit of comfort that I have when I think about my friends that were driven off trail. I will see them again. I will make sure of it if the trail does not provide. I hate having to leave them, that they had to leave themselves. It takes a lot to push someone off trail and I know that it was difficult for each of them. Losing my friends is not about me, it is about them. Taking care of themselves and doing what is best for them.

Nothing is easy on the trail. Especially leaving. 

Flash Forward

I write about these events a week or so after saying see you later to Scarface. I am happy to report that the curse has lifted, at least for now. Those of us that remain on the trail are back together. We are hiking our biggest miles yet and moving swiftly. 

My hip is still in pain but I am getting used to it. I have plans to see a chiropractor, hopeful that they can help. 

We have plans to meet up with Scarface in the coming week. When we leave him again it will still not be a goodbye. 

Things are looking up and we are feeling strong. I did not write this article to bring myself pity. I know that my title was dramatic but I would actually feel uncomfortable if anyone felt bad for me. So don’t. The end of Virginia is in our sites, less then 100 miles to go. Our final destination, Katahdin. 

It is going to take a lot more to get me off this trail. 






My name is Alex Tucker and I am fully invested in this endeavor. I plan to be consistent on this platform but if you would like to know more about me and my time on the trail you can follow me on Instagram @nobo.nomad !

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Comments 1

  • Rick "Quiet Man" : Jun 9th

    Thanks for sharing. I just came off a five day section in Virginia where I was started to feel a bit cursed. I appreciate knowing it’s simply part of the AT experience. Keep hiking and stay safe.


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