Leaving the Trail Isn’t Any Easier

I never imagined how this whole experience would affect me. Being off the trail has been as hard as being on the trail.

So What Happened?

I don’t want to rehash why I got off the trail in the first place, but you can read about it in my blog post “Lost in the Morass of Thinking”.

Then I decided to go back…

I blogged about it, but in the embarrassment of the aftermath, I deleted it. I didn’t want to admit that I went back and left again…after only one day.

The blog post that was and then wasn’t

My Name is Rewind

Who knew how accurate my trail name would be? In true Rewind fashion, I’ve decided to go back to the trail and finish what I started.

But I thought You Were Done?

So did I. My ego did some of its best work on the trail. It cajoled, begged, sweet-talked, made promises, and was oh, so convincing. And I believed it. Mostly. Somewhere deep inside, I didn’t believe it. How do I know? Because I was miserable. Right from the time I told Tim I wanted to come home, until yesterday, when I said out loud that I wanted to go back. Once I admitted to Tim that I wanted to go back, and he agreed that I should (really, where did I find this fantastic human being?), I was happy. I felt good. I was excited.

How can I trust what’s inside my head?

I can’t. I don’t. In fact I’m highly suspicious of anything that ‘I’ tell myself now. So, I’m going to go on gut feeling and see for myself. I’m not kidding myself that it will all be sunshine and rainbows either; in fact, I expect it to be harder than before. But as they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

A fight to the death

The ego will fight it’s hardest and send in it’s toughest troops if it thinks it’s in danger of dying. And it is. It must be or this wouldn’t be so hard. This is a fight to the death and for once I refuse to back down. Obviously, there will be some failure, but without failure, there is no wisdom or success. So, off I go to don my backpacking gear for the next battle. I may win, or I may lose, but at least I will have tried.

Rewind vs Ego Round Two

As I prepared to head back to the trail, my excitement turned to fear. It took a massive amount of patience and support from my husband and his friend Chris (who picked me up in LA and drove me to Big Bear), to get me back to the trail. They both sat through varying degrees of outbursts and tears, as I tried to deal with the fear I was feeling about returning to the trail.

I spent the night at mile 275 and the next morning packed up and headed out. The hours felt like days and my mental state was unstable. By mile 280, my mind took over and I couldn’t move forward. I’ve never felt so much fear in my life. What was I scared of? I can’t even tell you. I was perfectly healthy, perfectly safe, and perfectly able to continue, but my mind convinced me there was absolutely no way I could go forward. Forward was death. And so, believing my mind, I turned around and went back. Back to the road, back to the bus, and back home.

In the end, I wasn’t willing to ‘die’ for the truth. What truth? The truth that I’m not afraid to change. The truth that I am strong enough.

It’s not any easier at home

I came home believing that was it. I was done. The trail is not where I’m going to face my demons. It was too hard and my demons too big. But as time passed, I gained some distance and perspective. I still believe that the trail is the fast track through this block I’m at. I also believe that the block doesn’t leave me just because I’m ‘safe’ at home. Everything is everything. But now I sit here, knowing I have the strength and ability to hike the PCT, knowing I can get through the fear, and knowing I have to, no matter what the cost.

But I also wonder, am I obsessed with the trail so that I don’t have to face my life here at home? Am I just grieving for the loss of something that has been the centre of my attention for over a year? Do I just want to avoid all the change that is happening here? Who knows?

If I could, I would….

I’ve never in my life felt so torn, so obsessed, so afraid of something. If I could, I would keep going back to the trail until I stayed, until I walked through that mighty fear to the other side.

What now?

Unfortunately, each time I ran away from the trail, I used up more of my funds to do the trail. I no longer have a way to support my hike. So I got a job. Hopefully two. And if it’s meant to be, I will be back on the trail in August, maybe. Maybe.


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Comments 7

  • Bob "Nixkamich" : Jun 11th

    At the end of the day the person we answer to is ourself. Good luck and safe travels. Life is the adventure we don’t realize we’re on until we look back down the road. ?

    • Annette : Jun 16th

      Thank you. I also realized, in my moment of greatest fear, that I was the only one who could help me. I need to remember to recognize the adventure while it’s happening so I don’t miss it!


  • Mig Whitt Trail Name YIPPEE. : Jun 11th

    Annette, I totally get it. The Fear you felt was real fear and yes you do have to conquer it or it will take over. Kill it in small increments. Start preparing and hike at home with your pack on, get re-familiar with all of your gear. Fight the fear by using all of the things that could make you afraid. Give it a taste of its own medicine. Sleep outside in your tent, even in the living room if you have to. I know it sounds crazy but you have to be so familiar with your fear that you know how to kill it. The trail will be there, lots of snow this year. Plan on getting back. Keep your dream, just keep on training. The two jobs will get you the funds needed. You have the desire so that is 80% of it. I am angry at the weather for having stopped me and of course the ankle injury too. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I was back on the trail. I just can’t seem to get there emotionally. I slept in my tent and what friend arrived? Anxiety, in all her glory, came to meet me in full force. The next day I put on my full pack and hiked around the hills, fear came here and there in small amounts and made me question my goal. It is far from over, this whole PCT thing. I have tons of people who want to cheer me on but like you say, the battle is within. You will find a way, I am sure of it but do not go back until you are really ready. Body, Mind, and Soul must be on board. Keep thinking positive, you will make it. I think I am going to try and do it next year or maybe this year when some of the darn snow has melted. YIPPEE.

    • Annette : Jun 16th

      Hi Yippee,
      Yes, this PCT thing is far from over for me as well. I’m working on getting the tools I need to succeed next time. Lighter gear, a strategy for dealing with fear when it comes up, and not giving up when things get hard, even little things (I’ve only just started to notice all the ways I ‘run away’ in life). I haven’t quite given up on returning this year, but I am considering trying again next year, so maybe we’ll see you out there.

  • Sandra : Jun 16th


  • Evelyn : Jun 17th

    OMG…. I left the trail at mile 213. I left Idlewild feeling great, and in two days I wanted to run home. As soon as I got back home I immediately regretted the decision. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to go back and finish my hike. I plan on getting a job and saving up money so that I can go back hopefully I’ll be back on the PCT April 2018!

  • Doctari : Jul 15th

    My “problem” has been homesickness, a few times as disabling as fear. For the most part, you’re choices are: push thru or give in. I have done both (I’m an AT section hiker) and must say, as you state, going home before your hike is done isn’t any easier. MY solution is to call home, this works for ME. I’ve had hypothermia, I now have a plan in place for dealing with that in place for if I have any more attacks because I can’t think then! Perhaps if you have a plan for dealing with these fear attacks, BEFOREHAND, you will have the ability to get past them. This has helped me with hypothermia and homesickness.


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