Two Trails Are Better Than One: Why Everyone Should Hike a Second Thru-Hike
This persistent feeling that I was doing something all too familiar but not familiar at all.
I’m currently lying in my tent after a long hike through the tall, grassy farm fields of New Zealand. The familiarity of lying in this tent gives me comfort. I listen to the sound of the birds and insects as they sing me a sweet lullaby. My eyes fall heavy and I smile because I was blessed with another day out here. After the Appalachian Trail (AT), I found myself falling back into my old ways. Overthinking, worrying, and becoming my worst critic. I was still happy and vivacious and full of hope but the old ways of thinking started to creep in through the back door.
Stepping onto the Te Araroa (TA) made me feel like I hadn’t skipped a beat. Like I left Springer Mountain in Georgia and arrived at the sandy beach of Cape Reigna, New Zealand. But something was different this time around.
On the AT I had a different mindset. It was my first thru-hike and I was scared silly. It took me weeks in order to feel comfortable sleeping outside alone. I feared not having water so I carried liter after liter of water for a long time. I feared getting lost, so I checked my Guthook guide constantly and never took a side trail. I focused on getting my miles in and pushed hard to get to camp instead of hiking a bit later so I could stop and smell the roses. I was so focused on getting to Springer Mountain. Nothing was going to stop me.
As I approached the start of my second thru-hike I could feel the familiarity of nervous energy. Is this going to be another balls to the wall busting through the mountains day after day, kind of life? I wrapped up those expectation into a tiny ball and threw them off the cliff when I got to the starting line. I’m so happy I made the choice to face this trail with an open mind and an empty slate. Each trail is unique and will challenge you and change you in different ways.
Day after day I’ve felt myself release the bondage that I’ve confined myself to. I wander through the trail unaffected by losing the course. I’ll double back and get to see things twice instead of once. I carry enough water to get me to the next water source and when in doubt, ask a farmer for a drink from the hose. I don’t rush all day just to get to camp. And that has nothing to do with the fact that I never know where I’m camping. I stop and enjoy the views, the people, the towns, and the culture. I hike hard and get farther south but I don’t sweat the small stuff nor fear the unknown. I never knew how much I had grown until I got back out here and my feet hit the dirt.
When I left the AT I never lost anything. I never lost my happiness, hope, or strength I gained. I had just simply misplaced where I left it. My second thru-hike has shown me that I had these attributes all along. It has shown me how much I have grown and it has set my life in motion. Never forget how far you’ve come! Sometimes you just need another thru-hike to remind you and show you just how truly amazing you are.
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