[MAILBAG] Thru-Hiker Parents: “Do I Meet My Child at Katahdin Despite His Not Wanting Me To?”

I don’t think the title of this post does the question justice.  To get a better context, the full question is below:

“Our 19 yr old son, is close to completing his full thru AT adventure.  We live in Florida and have met him two times along the way to provide some trail magic.  We would like to be in Maine when he finishes, however, he wants us to wait and celebrate with him when he returns to Florida.  Your book has helped us understand so many of the things involved.  We want to honor his request and not be there but we also fill like this is such a milestone moment in his life that we should be there.  Do you or Mother Badger have any insight on how to handle this? We would greatly appreciate your thoughts.”

This is one is quite tough…

I guess it comes down to why your son doesn’t want you to be there.  If you think he’s suggesting this because he doesn’t want you to spend the money / make the effort (i.e. he’s being humble about his accomplishment), then perhaps the surprise would be nice.  If he’s doing it because he wants to celebrate the finish with his trail family (and don’t take offense to this, hikers grow a special and unique bond while living in this altered reality), then I would suggest holding off until he returns.

If you’re unsure, I would err on the side of honoring his request.  It’s very difficult to predict what’s going on in his head (even as a former thru-hiker), so you run the risk of upsetting him by ignoring his wishes.  I would attempt one last point of contact with your son to see if you can’t uncover the real reason for his wanting to postpone celebration.  If it turns out that he’s trying to downplay the importance of his accomplishment, assure him that your meeting him at Baxter State Park (or wherever you decide to meet) is something that you want for yourself, not because you think he needs/wants it.

Last note, trying to coordinate how to meet after the finish can be quite cumbersome.  Because the final stretch is in the 100-mile wilderness (no towns), it’s difficult to predict an exact finish date.  I finished two days ahead of the date projected only two weeks before.  Some finish later.  Without cell access, you run the risk of adding more stress to his trek by having him need to commit to a particular day.  He’ll have plenty of commitments on the other side of the trail, perhaps he wants to enjoy his remaining days of freedom 🙂

Either way, you’re great parents for wanting to be there for him.  He is very lucky.  But keep in mind, that he will be at a very emotional and potentially unpredictable place upon reaching the finish line.  He will know what’s best for him.  Just continue to shower him with love, praise, and nutrient dense food!  Hope that helps!

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