We Made It! Exhausted, Thrilled, and Looking Ahead
Despite what the lack of blog entries suggests, our hike did not end in Virginia. In four and a half months (four months and 19 days to be exact), Lauren and I hiked all 2,190.9 miles of the storied Appalachian Trail. As for this blog, it barely survived the South.
I’ll explain. About halfway through the hike, I stopped writing. Keeping a 20-mile-a-day pace was not conducive to nightly reflection or to keeping a written record of the day’s happenings. I was exhausted and, as a result, end of day activities were kept simple: make camp, eat, maybe read (if there was light), and sleep. Writing had to be sacrificed.
The biggest hurdle was having the mental energy to write the way I wanted to. I wanted to write well, to take my time, and to craft a story of the experiences that stuck with me. I’m not sure I ever succeeded in that, even when attempting to keep the blog regularly updated. And that may have played into why I stopped writing: it just wasn’t meeting my high standards.
But here I am at the end of the journey, having completed the trail and officially a thru-hiker, feeling as though I need to post one last time to wrap things up and provide some kind of closure.
So, all that said, I’m not sure if I’ve had the proper time or distance from the end to grasp the consequences of our hike. That, I think, will come with a few weeks removed from the trail and time to reflect. What I feel now, a day after summiting, is a mixed bag. I feel nervous to be reentering the world. I’m worried I’ll be restless, or worse yet, listless (I see now how easily the post-trail blues could creep into being). At the same time, I’m relieved to have finished. The trail was long and difficult and I would be lying if I said that a week ago I wasn’t impatient for the end. And to complete this cocktail of emotions, there is, yes, still a lingering excitement. For as much as we were ready for it to be over – to have the creature comforts of a bed and home – I’m anxious to do more, to aspire toward new goals.
It will take months to unpack how this experience has affected and permanently changed us. But in the immediate aftermath, what will be most critical is how we choose to channel that drive – that still very real and urgent desire to adventure – toward our lives back home and the goals that will carry us onward.
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