The Shakedown

Thanks to a Gofundme drive and the generous donation from the Mark A. Jardina Foundation, I was able to obtain the extra funds that I needed to acquire my last remaining gear items.

I was excited to test out my new gear. My fellow AT co-bloggers, Dylan and Gina, helped me select a location along the Appalachian Trail to do a shakedown of my PCT gear.

I set out to hike Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia with the intentions of hiking south to Snickers Gap, West Virginia and return in time to catch the train.

The train into Harper’s Ferry arrives and departs from the station once per day. Because of this fact, I knew I would have to brave the cold. At least for one night.

Admittedly, it was much more of a challenge than I had mentally anticipated. I was not prepared for the steepness of the Appalachian Trail.

One of the deciding factors of the PCT vs. AT thru-hike was that the PCT, though rigorous, has a gradual incline in elevation.

Due to many invasive surgeries, my body can no longer naturally adjust to barometric changes. The shakedown hike was not only a gear check, but also a reality check. The trail from Harper’s Ferry to Snickers Gap was covered in ice and snow. After several hours of hiking my body was unable to adjust; my head was pounding.

I am not familiar with the AT, and I haven’t done a lot of research on the trail. I learned quickly that the mix of weather and steep incline would make this hike difficult.

IMG_0353I held on tightly to my pack straps; my head was pounding furiously. Fighting off nausea, trying even through the pain to remember the reasons I was out trekking through the snow.

Cold, wet and discouraged I stumbled through the night, grasping to the hope that led me to begin hiking in the first place. The positive messages of everyone who believes in my ability helped me to get through.

I made my way to a campsite midway between Harpers Ferry and Snickers Gap. There I was able to set up shelter. The following day I hiked back through the ice and snow to Harper’s Ferry.

I felt as if my head was being compressed by two wooden planks while simultaneously having a nail hammered through both sides of my temple.

I felt discouraged and ashamed by my failed attempt. I cried myself to sleep after arriving home. My head felt like a bowling ball being handled by a body builder the following morning.

Sluggishly, I checked my email and found my PCT thru-hiking permit. My hike had been approved. Which was the sign I needed. It reminded me that I had no excuses.

I drove back to Harper’s Ferry and repeated the same route to account for the distance I didn’t hike the day before. This time with more confidence and strength.IMG_0348

Now that I’ve returned home from my shakedown journey, I have different expectations for myself. My PCT hike isn’t about hurting myself; it’s about healing. I also now have a new appreciate for AT hikers.

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