Whoa, We’re Halfway There
As I hiked into Harpers Ferry yesterday I tried to make sense of all the emotions flooding my brain. So, as I sit in a cozy bed at my friend Peter’s house by the Chesapeake Bay, I am trying to sort through the adventure I am having and put this crazy life I live into words.
Yesterday I reached the psychological halfway point around 11 a.m. I hiked at an average of three miles an hour, which is the fastest I’ve hiked so far. I chose not to listen to music or podcasts because I wanted to allow myself the time to reflect.
I sadly realized that my adventure is on the downswing. I have had so many wonderful days on trail and a couple of really shitty ones, but it made me sad to think that I have less to do than I have done. At this point, I never want my hike to end. There is something so natural and primal about waking up and walking to a new location daily. Early humans were hunters and gatherers, which makes me feel like I am connected to how I should be.
Walking into Harpers Ferry was the greatest accomplishment of my life. At this point in my hike my body feels like a machine. I have a hard time comprehending that my legs have walked 1,024 miles, but here I am. I am often the skinniest one in the group but I can eat most people under the table. I now think of food as fuel; one person I met even refers to calories as energy points. My knees and feet ache all the time and I have intense shoulder pain, but despite that I love my body and most of the time it treats me with love too.
I am so proud of myself for what I have overcome to get to this point in my life and in my hike. I think it is evident to everyone who sees me that I am the happiest I’ve ever been and I never want to regress to where I was before. It is amazing to be part of a community that prioritizes happiness. Every person on the trail has overcome struggles to be out here. I’ve met people who just graduated high school or college, I have met people who just retired, I’ve met Pappy, an 87-year-old attempting a thru-hike this year, I have met a woman who gave up her veterinary practice to be on trail. Every person had to give things up to be on trail because they prioritized their happiness.
But what I love and will miss most is my friends. In the past week I have talked to Pro and Milkeye about how bizarre it is that three months ago I didn’t know them and that in another three months, or less, I won’t get to spend all day, every day with them. When I reminisce it is the time spent with my tramily that I value the most. Before starting my hike I was consumed by the fear that I wouldn’t make friends. This turned out to be so far from the truth. In fact, I think it would be difficult to not make friends on the Appalachian Trail. However, it is rare that I am still hiking with people that I met on my sixth day on trail and I will make the effort keep it that way. Pro and Milkeye have listened to me complain, they have comforted me when I’ve cried, they’ve laughed with (and at) me, they’ve listened to me screech when we cross mile markers and state lines, they’ve picked me up when I fall literally and figuratively, we all saw our first black bear on trail together, and they’ve helped me embrace the bro culture that exists on the trail. I love the fact that I am still in regular communication with Handstand and High Life even though they have a faster hiking pace and are in front of me. I love that I even have an extended tramily that brings me joy whenever our paths cross.
Hiking the AT was the best decision I’ve ever made and I don’t know what the second half of the trail has in store for me, but even if it had to end tomorrow I got everything I needed out of this trail. When my mom said goodbye to me she whispered in my ear that she hopes I find what I am looking for out here and I have.
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