My Summer not Thru Hiking the Long Trail
“This strangely still pause between summer and autumn, greenery and gold, and the heat and rising wind that is once again readying itself to rush it all away in a climactic symphony of color and scent is ~ in my opinion, one of the best parts of living on earth.” ~ Victoria Erickson
This passage always seems to roll through my mind as the summer months come to a close. It’s not the iconic Nothing Gold Can Stay, so often quoted when summer turns to fall. But its words speak the emotions that roll over my spirit as I anxiously await the changing of the seasons in the White Mountains and what those changes mean for me as a hiker.
The first signs of fall begin to appear as goldenrod and milkweed spring up among the wheat fields. The smells of sunblock and bug spray that evoke memories of a childhood spent outside, are replaced by the smell of fallen leaves crushed underfoot along paths in the woods. Thru hikers plunge into the White Mountains like tiny ants on an ant hill, then just as quickly as they appear, they’re gone, taking with them the summer heat and leaving behind colder nights.
This time of year marks the end of long, hot, lazy days, where I can choose what I want to do, and the beginning of a loss of freedom to decide how to spend my time. I take out my messy braids and put on the mask of adulthood – step into my roll as an educator and put the needs of others above my own for another 10 months. Although I will continue to hike on most weekends and the various breaks throughout the year,
I find that it’s difficult to continue being true to the girl that I am when I’m performing the roll of the woman I must be in my day-to-day life.
Delusions of Grandeur
I started off this summer as I do most, with delusions of grandeur and plans to hike dozens of mountains. My planner was bursting at the gills as I waved goodbye to fellow educators and I began my summer hiking three times within the first week. I felt great about what lay ahead, and even though I wasn’t thru hiking the Long Trail, I was fully enjoying having that whole extra month to accomplish many more day hikes in the White Mountains.
There’s this thing people say about making plans, life is what happens when…
Well, I guess you could say that life happened. After those initial hikes, I found myself struggling to find the motivation to get out there and do what I love. It’s a wonderful feeling having almost 10 weeks off, but sometimes when you have too much time off, you waste a lot of it doing a whole lot of nothing. There was minimal pressure to get in all of the trips I had penciled into my planner because I had what appeared to be so much time to accomplish my goals. Before I knew it, July was half way over and I had only gone on 4 hikes!
The rest of the summer was bound to fly by and I still had so much I wanted to do. I began frantically rearranging my planner and trying to squeeze in as many hikes as possible over the next month. I managed to get in 11 hikes to date (August 18th), but when friends and family comment that I’ve hiked a lot this summer, I think to myself, ‘I have not!’.
Processing my Feelings
Although I set a few new personal records this summer, (longest hike to date: 15.5 miles, highest peak: Mount Washington) I don’t feel very proud of what I’ve accomplished, rather, disappointed that I didn’t do more. Summer is coming to an end and there are still things I wanted to accomplish and have yet to do, (an overnight hike, 2 hikes over 17 miles each). I’m still processing my feelings and accepting this summer for what it was. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed in myself, but I know that I will continue to hike on the weekends and have almost a whole half year to meet a goal I set for myself back in January.
I wish that reflecting on what I did this summer was a positive experience for me, but I’m not there yet. However, I’m hopelessly optimistic and cannot end on a negative note so I leave you with this:
“Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise” – Hugo
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