An Ode to Returning to Trail

My thru-hike of the Long Trail/Cohos Trail started Wednesday, April 28, at the border of Massachusetts and Vermont. Surprisingly, I wasn’t incredibly stoked that morning. This would be my third attempt at a thru-hike, on some long-distance trail or another. When I started the first one, I was over the moon. I couldn’t contain myself, I was jumping up and down before I even got out of the car. That excitement lasted for days.

This Time Would be Different

Getting dropped off in North Adams for the LT, I felt like this was just another hike, just any other day. My mentality was “well I guess this is what I’m doing now,” and so I got to walking.

While I walked I reflected on my last week. I struggled. I had a ton of fun, but emotionally I struggled. Every. Single. Morning. I felt like I’d been run over by a bus. I felt like emotional garbage. Getting out of bed was like fighting WWII. I felt anxious and also helpless to do anything about it, because I couldn’t even tell you why I felt that way.

Somewhere on the way to the MA/VT border, I took a short break to pull a snack out of my pack. A girl passed me with the biggest smile on her face. A smile that said, “I just started my first thru-hike.” We went about the standard greetings, and I learned she was NOBO on the LT as well. I asked her what her name was.

”Rita,” she said. “And you?”

The corners of my mouth twitched into the hint of a grin, as what I was about to introduce myself as automatically sprang to the front of my mind.

Resurrection

“Spitfire,” I said with conviction. My trail name felt strange coming out of my mouth, but I wrestled it out anyway. Once it was out there it would not be brought back, and that was my intention. I reintroduced a version of myself into the world, and now that she was free I expected her to take full advantage.

She did just that, blossoming into the familiar combination of excitement and calm that I knew on the AT. She wiped away the anxieties I had been feeling as easily as one wipes the dust off an old mirror. My insecurities melted, and for the first time in a long time I felt balanced.

I continued on my way, looking around me with a new perspective. I kept repeating to myself, “I’m hiking the Long Trail. I’m hiking the LONG TRAIL!” It was comforting and brought me peace. It was like I was home. It was like I had never even left.

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