I’m Choosing Myself, or Why I’m Thru-Hiking the Colorado Trail

You’re Doing What?

I took my first steps on the Colorado Trail (CT) this past week (I was peepin’ the leaves at Kenosha Pass) and with those steps my decision sank in.  Who did I think I was agreeing to thru-hike the CT in 2020?  Later that night I had a brief meltdown.

 

Kenosha Pass on the Colorado Trail.

 

And Who the Hell Are You?

I’ve never done something like this.  I was born in Colorado but grew up moving every couple of years.  When my parents separated in 2003 my mom packed up my younger brother and me and drove across the country to form roots in Maryland.  As I moved through middle and high school, I enjoyed the outdoors but wasn’t the kid opting outside.  I was the kid overinvolved in extracurriculars searching for self-confidence like it was something left behind on a park bench.  Somewhere along my tumultuous, secondary educational journey I learned about the Appalachian Trail (and thru-hiking) and that stuck with me.

A young Taryn, who had no idea what fashion was.

Eventually time brought me back to Colorado.  I started working in a restaurant; I stopped making time for myself and I started making excuses.  After almost three years I realized that I was miserable.  I was struggling more with depression and anxiety than I ever had before.  I either slept too little or slept too much.  And then this past New Year’s I spent my night in the emergency room.  I needed help. I was at my lowest point.

OK. But Why?

The time at the restaurant shook my sense of self to its core.  Three years in that place made me question my dedication and what I brought to the table. I lost myself in the 50-hour workweeks somewhere between starting at 6:30 a.m. and leaving at 4:30 a.m., dependent on the shift. I hadn’t found that confidence I searched high and low for during my formative years; that confidence so many people stumble on during college.  The little confidence I had, the restaurant industry stomped out of me.

So my hope is the trail will help me rebuild the confidence I’ve slowly lost.  To prove to myself that I am as strong as my friends tell me. To learn that society doesn’t have to dictate my life path and ultimately to accept myself for what I’m capable of mentally and physically.

I struggle with anxiety and depression, and surprisingly I have a lot of fears.  Anything from snakes to the dark to where my thoughts go when I’m feeling less than. I’m usually in a state of war between what I know to be true and what I’m able to believe.

With that I know the trail will challenge me. It wasn’t until this last July that I slept in the woods for the first time.  I don’t know how to break down a tent when it’s raining.  I’m not used to walking with weight on my back; I’ve gone on three backpacking trips, all of which were less than two days.  And to be honest, I don’t know how to best treat a blister on my foot.

 

My very first backpacking trip ever. Despite my expression I was falling in love every step of the way.

Why Not the AT?

I chose to start with the CT for a couple reasons.  This past summer, I threw myself into the backpacking world.  First and foremost, I like the idea of starting with a thru-hike on a smaller scale.  Saying “no” to the self-inflicted pressure of bigger=better is an exercise in self-restraint and humility.

According to the Colorado Trail Foundation’s FAQ page,  about 150 people complete the CT each year.  That gives me ample alone time to work through whatever comes up physically and mentally through the 450+ miles, while still giving me the opportunity to form connections along the way.

Mainly the CT is a comfortable step toward a much larger, slightly uncomfortable goal.  I want to successfully thru-hike the Triple Crown trails (and blog/vlog them) before I turn 40.  Seeing as I just turned 28, I better get to stepping.

I hope you’ll follow along as I undoubtedly make mistakes and attempt to learn forgiveness and acceptance toward myself.  For an added dose of entertainment, my boyfriend will be joining me on this trek across Colorado.  Especially as I adjust my original plans to undertaking this trek solo.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 3

  • Deborah : Oct 25th

    I have always been a fan of your spark and dedication but broken hearted to read that it may come from a place of pain. May your steps give you peace and your journey bring you the joy that comes with self love. I would really like to meet up some time.

    Reply
  • SMB (Rocketman) : Oct 29th

    Cool that you’ve made the decision so early so that you have all winter/spring to plan/train/stress/replan/etc. You’ll do great. Maybe you’ll find yourself out there on the trail, or maybe you’ll just enjoy the scenery and have two or three earworms for the whole 485 miles.

    If you’ve worked in a restaurant for long days in Colorado, you’ve got half the training done! Your body and feet are already used to long days on your feet, and the altitude won’t be a huge shock. Sure, you still need to find the right shoes and get used to carrying the weight, but just know you are well on your way.

    Best of luck to you, and Happy Trails!

    Rocketman (CT southbound 2017; Collegiate Loop clockwise 2019)

    Reply
  • Zachariah : Nov 3rd

    As someone who can struggle similarly, this is great to read. The trail is unlike any other. It is both freeing and peaceful. Hope to meet you along the trail to hear about your amazing journey, you’re going to kick butt!

    Reply

What Do You Think?