Plans Change: Life in a Boulder Field

I was finally navigating the rocks of Pennsylvania with courage and confidence. After hiking in Maine and New Hampshire, I knew much better where to step and was moving faster than ever before.

Then came that boulder. The one that should have been solid footing but wobbled unexpectedly. It threatened to cast me down onto a precarious pile of jagged rocks and sharp edges.

At the last moment I caught myself, breathing a deep sigh of relief. My heart was racing as I stopped to gather my thoughts. “Wow, this is a metaphor for my life right now!”

I had big plans to hike a few miles in Pennsylvania, closing up the gaps I left from my 2018 thru-hike attempt. Then I was to move up to Vermont and meet my friend Double Stack so we could hike the Long Trail together.

That would fill the 100-mile gap I had in Vermont as well as completing the end-to-end challenge of the rugged and remote Long Trail north to Canada.

My gear was ready and my plans were complete when my world suddenly fell apart. I learned that after 32 years of marriage the person I loved since I was 19 years old wanted out. My rock and my world crumbled beneath me.

The news was heartbreaking and unexpected and it’s still so new that I don’t have words for all the emotions I feel. While I didn’t know where to turn, I knew I couldn’t be away for a month of hiking, so I changed my plans and told Double Stack he’d have to hike on his own, with me tagging along in spirit.

He hit the Long Trail yesterday while I was hiking and crying my way down the long, overgrown and rocky miles SOBO into Port Clinton. I was completing the first of three sections I planned to tackle in Pennsylvania this week before heading home to face reality.

Trail therapy helps, but it doesn’t cure heartbreak. At least not yet.

As I made my way down that hill after three days on the trail I realized how much my love of hiking was entangled with my relationship. It was hard to feel the joy of the outdoors beneath in all my pain. I had two more sections planned but I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I’ll be taking a few days alone, a personal retreat to think and reflect.

My hike from Bake Oven to Port Clinton was challenging, from Knifes Edge to Pulpit Rock I hiked hard and strong. I was reminded how resilient and resourceful I am. It was a bittersweet time for me to “feel the feels,” as a friend said. But I couldn’t continue. It was too much emotionally.

I know I will return to the trail soon and I’ll find the peace I need out there. The trail provides and it will wait for me, saving its gifts until I’m ready to accept them once again.

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Marlene Wulf : Sep 10th

    I’m so sorry to hear that, Joellyn. You’ve been very inspiring in your blogs and vlogs and I grieve for you at this time. If I may offer one piece of advice it is to read the “Mars and Venus” books by John Gray. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus, Together Forever, etc. He’s got a whole series of them. I am no relationship expert by any means but they were VERY eye-opening for me. I always thought men were clueless about women, but I never realized I was just as clueless about men. It helped me enormously to understand that giving the kind of love you want to receive in a relationship doesn’t work. At the very least they will help you understand the men in your life much better and where they are coming from. Best of luck to you on ALL your trails.

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  • Avatar
    Regular Joe : Sep 12th

    I’m with you. Dumped this fall after 3 years. What pales to your 32 years felt like 50 to me. I couldn’t function day to day so I hit the trail. Made it to Katahdin. The hike may not have solved my problems, but it sure helped. You’ll get through this, I promise. Don’t let anything get in the way of your hike. Get back out there, it’s worth it. LOVE!

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