It’s been 12 days since I touched that Katahdin sign. Over 288 hours since my northbound trek up the east coast came to a sudden halt. In the last 12 days, I’ve made no progress north, I’ve showered a few more times than the previous week, and have slept indoors every night. It’s been a transition that feels so strange and foreign to me.

I began summit day with two of my very dear friends, Tumbling and Wahoo. After a few photos of the group at the base of Katahdin, we took off. An extreme amount of adrenaline began to run through my body, I was climbing quickly and my heart was racing with excitement. When I first saw the Katahdin sign, tears began building. I was so happy to have hit the finish line, but so sad that I was done. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it was over. I sat up there for awhile in silence, listening to the commotion of day hikers and trying to accept that I had just transitioned from thru-hiking to thru-hiker. The entire climb down was a surreal experience, part of me wanted to jump for joy and the other part wanted to hit the rewind button on the last 6 months.

I thought for sure I’d want to chug beers and pop champagne bottles in celebration, but the desire just wasn’t there. I was ridden with a sadness.

The following day we drove to Bangor where I was dropped off. I was sitting in a hotel room by myself for the first time in over 6 months waiting for my parents to swoop me up and all I could think to myself was when will it sink in? I had been here before, or so it felt like…….just another zero day before getting back to the trail. Except this time, I wouldn’t be going back. For the last 6 months and 9 days I had been living a big dream of mine, no matter where I woke up, I always had a purpose–follow the white blazes north. And suddenly it was over, life as I knew it was uprooted from right under me.

In the days post summit, I have been trying to decipher through my thoughts about the time I spent on the Appalachian trail to share the lessons I have learned. It’s difficult for me narrow it down to a list because I really feel like I submerged from the woods in Maine a complete different person than who I was when I took off from Springer Mountain in Georgia. I think the most important piece of wisdom I gained from this experience is genuinely believing that we are capable of so much more than we sometimes think we are. I’ve always loved Thomas Edison’s quote:


“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Considering this was my first backpacking trip, I feel like I defied the odds and proved to myself I had the courage to complete a thru-hike. For me, as I grew older, life happened and what I once felt I could accomplish seemed completely out of reach at times. Embracing a venture as challenging as the Appalachian Trail and completing it has reinstilled my confidence. I know without hesitation that I am capable of living out my wildest dreams. That I only need one person to believe in me and that’s myself.


The reintegration into society has been an overwhelming process to say the least. I’ve honestly have been cuddling my pug and cat for a ridiculous amount of hours in the day, which has made me feel a bit better. I’ve made a point to get my body moving daily as I’m experiencing a crazy amount of restlessness, but no desire to be submerged back in the world quite yet. I am noticing things that didn’t matter to me for the last half of year like gas prices and current events. I’m still putting my phone on airplane mode out of habit and carrying my charger with me when I do leave the house. I’m continually having vivid trail dreams which help subside the homesickness I feel. I long for the days of the white blazes and eating gummy bears as a sufficient lunch. I’ve looked through my photos too many times to count and reread my journal on a few different occasions. I’m so happy to have documented such an incredible journey, I know no amount of wishing could bring me back to the time and place, but having photos and writings get me close enough to relive the small details and ensure I never forget them. I miss the people the most. I got the pleasure of spending half of a year with some of the best humans to have ever walked this planet. Staying in touch with them has made the transition far more manageable. I’m hopeful things will get easier as I glide back into becoming a functional member of society again. I’ll keep the memories near and dear, while working the lessons I learned on the trail into my everyday life.


I can’t thank the community along the Appalachian Trail enough for providing me with an overflowing amount of happiness…………a piece of my heart will forever reside in those beautiful mountains!


Congrats Class of 2016


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Comments 5

  • Chris : Oct 7th

    Congratulations, Shotgun! You did great! Thank you for sharing your experiences (both on-trail and post-trail). Please keep us updated when you decide on your next adventure.

  • Hummingbird Ellie : Oct 7th

    You did it! You are a fine example why everyone should hike the trail. There are many more trails out there for you to tackle when you’re ready.

  • Jill Knox : Oct 7th

    Tears started to fall when you saw the Kathadin sign. My tears start to fall when I READ about your reaching the Katahdin sign. It’s 150 days before I hit the trail down at Springer, but every blog entry I read like this makes me feel like I’m already on the trail.
    Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story! ! 🙂

  • Cathy Rehr : Oct 10th

    Thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through you for the last 6 months. I’m going to miss your posts and pics. Congrats to you!

  • Bob Rogers : Oct 11th

    I wonder … just how many can’t (or won’t) take it and turn around walking south. That may just happen if I still have money in the bank.


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