A Day Hiker Turned Thru-Hiker
It has been almost two years since I decided to plan a thru-hike of the Long Trail. In April 2017, I submitted my application to blog for The Trek in the hopes that I would be chosen to write for the website that sparked the flame, that ignited the fire for hiking within me. Then June came, and plans changed. I would like to say that I didn’t set off on my thru-hike because of injury, or finances, but the truth is I was too scared to go. I got cold feet and ended up spending my summer hiking the trails in my home state. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t try to complete a thru-hike that summer, because I wasn’t ready.
Then, in 2018, I decided it was time, but chose a different trail to hike—the Cohos Trail in New Hampshire. That would be my first thru-hike. It was local, it was in my home state, and it would only take about ten days to complete, leaving me plenty of summer to do other day hikes. Then plans changed, again, and I found myself not going on a thru-hike. This time, though, I was content with my decision, and instead I managed to hike all of the highest mountains in Vermont and Maine to complete my New England 67 list in 36 days.
Now, for four months, I’ve been interning for The Trek. I’m helping run various portions of their social media accounts, and written a number of articles that have been featured on the site. Articles that I’m proud of, and have made me feel like I can be a valuable member of the hiking community, even if I’m only a day hiker. But is that all there is to me? Am I destined to be a day hiker and never set foot on a long trail for more than a few days?
When I planned my previous two thru-hikes, I wasn’t driven to complete them for myself, I was driven to complete them to prove myself to society. To prove that I can be a thru-hiker too, that I’m a valuable member of the hiking community. I wasn’t going on those hikes for me, to find myself or to become more at peace with the world around me, or any of the other reasons one goes off on a long hike. Maybe that’s why I failed both times; because I was going for all the wrong reasons.
Now, two years later, and with hundreds of mountains and miles under my belt, I don’t feel like I need to do a thru-hike to prove that I’m an experienced hiker. My advice is valid and sought after even though I’m just a day hiker. I don’t feel like a fraud anymore. I feel at peace with where I am in my journey and I’ve been completely happy with my title: “day hiker only.”
So for the past four months I’ve read all of these amazing posts, by all these amazing hikers, and it felt OK being the reader, not the hiker. I’ve been watching and reading and living vicariously through the words penned by other hikers about their amazing journeys. I’ve been doing all of this reading and it never really hit me until a few weeks ago, when I realized they are the stars, not me.
I’m the one watching from the sidelines, wondering and waiting, for someone to tag me into the game and give me the opportunity to play. To show what I’m capable of. To strap on my hiking shoes and set out on a long hike, and join the ranks of those I’ve been envying. To no longer be the person behind the computer screen posting the stories, but the person living the story. The person walking those miles and smelling the pine trees. To be the person writing about what it’s like to take an epic journey.
So is this the moment when I say to the world, yes, it’s my turn, I think. I put off my dream long enough and it’s time for me to put it out there that I’m going to be the one going on a thru-hike. That I’m going to be the one planning and preparing, packing my bag, doing shakedown hikes, dialing in my gear, so that I can be ready. That instead of waiting another year, and watching eagerly from the sidelines as all of these other people set off on their hikes this spring, I will join the ranks.
Not because I need to prove anything to anybody, not because I need to add thru-hiker to my resume. Because after all the miles, and all the mountains I’ve hiked, it’s no longer about proving anything to anybody, not even to myself. I’d go because that’s where I belong, that’s where I need to be. That’s where I feel most at peace now, where I go when I need to reset and reflect, when I need to get away from everything and everybody. To grow spiritually and emotionally, to dig deeper into my psyche, to get closer than I’ve ever been with nature and learn what it has to teach me.
So is this me saying I’m going on a long journey? Is this me saying I’m thru-hiking? Maybe.
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