Life after the Trail: What’s Next?
For me, the biggest surprise after my thru-hike was how quickly everyone else in my life was ready to move on.
When I returned home from summiting Mount Katahdin, my family hosted a dinner for me.
I thought for sure I would be greeted with big congratulations and various questions regarding my 172-day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.
However, it turned out to be the exact opposite with questions of “what’s next?” and “have you found a job?”
Though I was physically off the trail, my mind and soul were very much still there.
This amazing journey I had just finished wasn’t an accomplishment to be locked away in the trophy cabinet. It was something that had completely changed me, my life, and my future.
Though I had hiked for almost six months, I had only processed the entire journey in its completion for a few weeks.
The truth is, I needed time to digest the finish too; to truly figure out what was next.
The Florida Trail
I had the opportunity to section hike part of the central west section of the Florida Trail earlier this year. It was a great way for me to cope with my post-trail depression.
I learned that the Florida Trail is absolutely nothing like the Appalachian Trail. Different terrain, different expectations.
A few examples:
•lots of road walking
•not much local awareness surrounding the trail
•hitchhiking isn’t really a thing
•less abundant water sources
•more stealth camping
•thigh-deep water wading
The trail covers 1,300 miles of Florida, including both the west and east routes around Lake Okeechobee and Orlando, and the Ocean to Lake spur trail.
A thru-hike from the Southern Terminus at the Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress to the Northern Terminus in Fort Pickens is approximately 1,100 miles.
I will be setting out in January 2020 to attempt a thru-hike of the Florida Trail. I am excited to be back in nature, embracing the feels.
But I also have mixed emotions about what this means. Does this restart the cycle of “what’s next?”
Am I going to feel even more lost after this long-distance hike compared to the last?
Will this everlasting feeling of needing the trail ever go away?
I tackled many inner struggles on the last journey, and I look forward to the time I’ll have on the Florida Trail.
Follow along on Instagram as I prepare for and tackle the Florida Trail: @rainyhikes
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