Reattempting a Thru-Hike
In 2018 I started a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail. I walked 1,020 miles and then decided to stop. A year later, in 2019, I’m starting a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail again. I’d like to take you into the process of deciding to stop a trail while on it and the process of deciding to reattempt a thru-hike on the same trail.
I thru-hiked the PCT in 2016. I went into it knowing I would probably hike the AT the following year, in 2017, and I did. And a part of me always knew I was going to hike the CDT, so I assumed it would be in 2018. I mean, three trails, three years sounds pretty great. After finishing the AT I started planning. I did the research, I planned the food drops, I mapped out my hike. It was real for me.
Looking back, I think it still was. I think I needed to be on trail at that point in my life. But I was never going to finish in 2018. I was never afraid. It was a comfortable, safe decision. While a thru-hike is not the most comfortable or safe place, it had become the only place that I felt safe enough to exist. So it was easy to go back to it.
I moved through some things and some things shifted for me on that preamble hike. It took me a month and change to get to where I decided to stop. I had spent a week off trail around my birthday, which is at the end of May. Spent it with friends and family. And it would be easy to name that as the reason I stopped, but there was more to it for me.
I saw my self looking down two roads. One had my self banging my head against a wall for 2,000 more miles, which I knew I could do. I saw my self stuck in patterns I had made in the life of a thru-hiker, pushing forward for the sole purpose of achieving this accolade of the Triple Crown.
The other road had me ending the hike where I was. I would get a job, an apartment, and try to integrate all that I had learned about my self into my self. The journey I started in 2016 on the PCT had never been about finishing. That was a goal, but it was not the foundation of what I was doing on trail. The foundation has always been to know my self, as truly and authentically as I can. And of the two options, it felt more true to me to stop the hike, and integrate.
Which brings us to right now, 2019. I stopped that hike, got a job, an apartment, and just lived. I existed in the world, or at least tried to. While there was a lot of growth in places I needed to grow, I was not able to fully relax into existing in the world. There was always a rub, a chafe I had. Which could be subtle at points, but it also had moments of strength.
I think assuming I would hike all three trails, I had subconsciously locked away a part of my self behind the Triple Crown. Part of me would never be satisfied, could never relax, because I knew that it wasn’t done with me, or that I wasn’t done with it. The CDT exists in its own physical space but it also existed in this metaphysical space in my mind as this place I could hide from my self. I could hide pieces of my self from my self in this place that I had never walked.
So I came to the decision to go to those places I never walked. To face the things I’ve hidden from my self. Because I do it subconsciously and am only strong enough to bring consciousness to it on trail. The journey has always been to know my authentic self. And now, that journey is leading me to the CDT. Not for the Triple Crown, although it is still a goal. But for my self, and only my self. That was where I started the journey; it’s where I want the journey to be.
I don’t regret any of it. I don’t regret starting in 2018, or ending a month later, or starting again this year. It all needed to happen that way, and couldn’t have happened any other way. The reason I’m hiking is important to me; it can make or break a thru-hike for me. And the reason feels like it shifted to the one that got me to the end of the other two trails. Which makes me feel ready. Underneath that, there is fear, anxiety, excitement, anticipation. But overall, I feel ready. More ready for anything than I have ever felt in my life.
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