When my hopes of finishing my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail ended in Andover, Maine in the Fall of 2016, I was broken–physically, mentally and emotionally. The fuel gauge of my soul was on empty. I was absolutely and totally, 3-D exhausted.
Fresh off my hike, when enthusiastic future thru-hikers asked me questions, I couldn’t muster any encouragement or excitement for them. I was thoroughly anti-thru-hike at that point. I thought it was too much. I gingerly suggested that I thought section hiking the trail in pieces would be the smarter thing to do, and I meant it.
From the time I got off the trail, I suffered from fatigue, body pain and very bad headaches. I spent many days in bed. It was a whole year before I regained my health. Though I was never tested, I did an herbal treatment for Lyme Disease and gradually started to get better.
I made tentative plans to hike a trail in the Adirondacks of New York with a friend who had invited me to join her and a group of ladies. It was my plan to then finish the Appalachian Trail where I got off in Andover, Maine, and hike to the Northern Terminus of the trail, Mt. Katahdin.
Somehow, it didn’t seem like ‘enough’. To finish the 256.9 miles seemed pointless to me. I also couldn’t imagine going into Maine ‘cold’, without ‘trail legs’. There is nothing that prepares you for hiking that area like hiking for 5 1/2 months. There is, of course, also a certain confidence that you have built up by the time you reach Maine. You can’t just grab that out of a bag, hop on the trail, and put it on.
One day around that time, as I was washing dishes (where I do my best thinking) I told Bud that I didn’t want to go back to ‘just’ finish the trail. One day…ONE DAY…I wanted to go back and make another attempt at hiking the whole trail, from beginning to end.
For me, doing another thru-hike is a personal thing. There are people in awe that I hiked from Georgia to Maine, alone, for the most part…but I can’t see it the same way. In my mind, I fell short of my goal….a personal goal…that I NEED to fulfill for myself. I failed! This is my ‘M.O.’. My ‘great’ is not good enough unless it measures up to my standards. I can see greatness in those who do as much as I did, and be in awe of it, but for myself, doing the same thing is a failure if I don’t reach my personal goal. I can’t get past it. I find myself saying, “I only made it to Andover. I didn’t finish the trail,” rather than saying, “I hiked from Georgia to Maine! Over 1900 miles!”
I need to finish this thing for ME. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it.
Also, there is this THING that is pulling me…drawing me. The siren song of the Appalachian Trail is calling me. Only those who have heard it, understand it. Once you hike the Appalachian Trail, you never really leave. It becomes a part of you. Though I know this sounds strange, I have had ‘flash-backs’ of the Appalachian Trail since I came home. I will be busy doing unrelated things, and a flash of a picture pops into mind and it is a place on the trail that I hiked. It’s often unremarkable. It’s not even a place where I stopped to eat or rest. I wasn’t even thinking about hiking or the Appalachian Trail and then *flash* …a picture, a memory, a feeling.
One day recently, I was washing dishes (again) and Bud says, “Are you going to hike the trail this year?” Talk about a random, out-of-the-blue question! Never in a million years did I expect that from him. I hadn’t even considered thru-hiking this year, nor did I expect that Bud would be on board for me to do it again so soon.
I peppered him with questions: “This year?” “…the whole thing?” “Can we really afford it?” “Should I wait, and get a part-time job to earn some money first?” “Are you sure you want me gone for that long?”
As an Introvert (INFP, to be exact) I needed to think about things first and get use to the idea of it. I wasn’t sure I could get in shape, get my food dehydrated, etc. with a mere three months preparation time.
Slowly I have gained peace and assurance. Too many things have lined up for me not to think it is ‘meant to be’. I think I can do it. I have started training and dehydrating food. I am planning on starting at Springer Mountain sometime in March.
I want to do it ‘better’ this time and to enjoy it more fully. I’m grateful to have a second chance. I know some people never have the opportunity to hike the A.T. even once in their lifetime. I feel exceedingly blessed that I have this opportunity to make another attempt…a ‘do-over’.
In the future, I will be posting more about what I plan to do differently this time and also how my preparations are going.
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