The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: What’s Different on This Hike
There is obviously a heck of a lot that’s different taking on this hike than the Appalachian Trail: gear preferences, experience, mentality, confidence, and life circumstances just to name a few. There’s some good, some bad, and some ugly.
But First: The Neutral
The New England Trail is a wee bit shorter than the Appalachian Trail. It clocks in at either 215 or 235 miles depending how you do it (there’s a 30ish mile spur). I haven’t decided yet what my plan is for that spur. My current thought it to day hike the spur and do the 200+ as my thru.
It’s all close. Even the furthest part of the trail is not that far. This gives me a lot of flexibility. I have a big trip to Glacier National Park coming up next month so I don’t have that much time to take off for the NET. I’ll definitely be hopping off trail at least once for work obligations, which I am more than okay with. I have awesome friends and family that will be giving me rides to and from trail heads. This also makes my re-supply a lot easier.
I’m Going SOBO
This might sound weird to be in the “good” category but trust me, this is very good. Allow me to explain. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. By that, I mean: I actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People casually throw around “oh, I’m so OCD” because of something trivial, such as they like their bills all facing the same way in their wallet. There is so much more to it than that, and as someone actually diagnosed with the disorder, it’s frustrating how casually people throw the term around without really understanding everything else that goes with it: intrusive thoughts, a completely uncontrollable urge to do things that you KNOW just don’t make sense, just to name a few.
Hiking, in general, has been a life-saver for me when it comes to my mental instabilities. But it’s not immune to my OCD tendencies. After hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO, my brain has become absolutely certain that that is the way to hike.
I know it’s a very small thing for most people. But I cannot stress enough how big of a deal it is for me to hike this trail Southbound. I feel like a rebel. I feel like a high-schooler having her first sip of wine at Thanksgiving dinner: like, the parents know and it’s okay but also technically illegal, and I’m getting a thrill from it.
Before starting the AT, I worried about everything. I worried about where to camp. I worried about my gear and not having enough or, alternatively, having too much. Prior to the AT, I had never done more than a single night on trail at a time, and those only amounted to five separate nights. I was a total newb. Now? Not so much. I’m not the most experienced hiker, but I’m no rookie anymore.
My Family’s Confidence
Don’t get me wrong. I have always had my family’s support. They were 100% behind me on doing the AT from the moment I told them. But that doesn’t mean that they were initially excited about it. They weren’t; they had their own set of worries to deal with. This time, they’re into it from the get-go. Me backpacking alone in the woods no longer worries them. To the point where my Dad actually keeps forgetting what day he has to drive me to the trailhead. (Unsurprisingly, my Dad was worried about me going to L.A. I think he knows my city sense isn’t as up to snuff as my hiking abilities.)
I’ve had some negative changes in my life since the AT. But they’re part of me and my mentality, so they can’t be ignored.
Of course. We all had to deal with this one. Ironically, my start date for The Appalachian Trail was March 20, 2019. The first day of Covid shutdown was March 20, 2020. I used to joke that March 20th was going to start marking the time every year when I start taking a lot of walks and stop showering every day.
Unfortunately, I had a bad time with Covid. I got the OG Covid: the original strain and before the vaccine. It was awful. It also gave me a heart condition. Yup, that’s right. A freaking heart condition. I went from marathon runner/thru-hiker to not being allowed to do any physical activity at all per the cardiologist’s orders because I was “at risk for heart failure.” You can imagine how I handled that.
I’ll skip the long and frustrating story and jump right to the current part of the story: I’m fine and have my Doctor’s permission to hike/run/do whatever my little active heart desires as long as I feel capable. For the most part, it’s not an issue, but I’ll just have to be mindful because I still get dizzy spells which, hiking alone, I can’t let become a safety issue. I have a very good handle on it, and there are other warning signs when I’m going to have what I call one of my “bad days,” so it’ll possibly be inconvenient, but not an actual worry.
Brace yourselves. The ugly is UGLY.
My Mother is Gone
My Mother. My friend. My cheerleader. I lost my Mother on May 6th, 2021. Then, less than a year later, on April 11th, I lost my Grandmother. Two of the most supportive and influential humans in my life. It’s hard to take on any goal and not have them to share it with.
In terms of hiking, my Mother was never much of one. The activity we bonded over was reading. I carried a book with me on the entire AT and, when I was nearing the end of one, I would tell my Mom, and she would send me another in my next resupply box. I never specified which one. She always chose. Nothing more than 8 ounces. As a non-hiker, this was how she was involved with my thru-hike. I loved it.
She was also a worry-wart. It took a lot for her to overcome her motherly worry in regards to the AT. But you had better believe that, the incredible mother she was, she embraced and supported it. She watched past thru-hikers’ videos on YouTube (though I’m not actually sure this was a good idea in terms of helping her worry). She read a book about the trail and posted all of my updates online. This hike is obviously significantly shorter than the AT, and I’ll need much less. But, do you ever stop needing your mother? Mothers are the only ones that care that there was a spider in your shoe because you left them outside your tent.
I still think about her all the time. The urge to send a text is constant. Trivial, daily things. Things only mothers care about. And I’m constantly reminded of that hole in my life that will never go away. But I also know that she’d be so mad at me if I let it get in the way. She’d be just as into this hike as the AT.
Change, of course, is inevitable. But too much can be jarring. I think this chunk of time on the NET, though significantly shorter than the AT, is going to help me feel more centered. We shall see!
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