Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to Reality

My 751.1 miles on the Appalachian Trail were an amazing experience. Hiking the trail was “everything”; it was incredible, it was awful, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it was the best decision I ever made, it was an emotional roller coaster. It’s amazing how much I learned about myself once the distractions of “every day” life were stripped away. I gained a lot of confidence. I left a lot of fear and hesitation fall by the side of the trail.

I am really thankful I had the opportunity to attempt a thru hike (that is, hiking from Georgia to Maine in one stretch). A long distance hike is an incredibly tough thing to do; I didn’t realize how tough it would be when I started. Most of the time I was between 60-90% miserable, continuing to hike because of sheer stubbornness. But the few golden weeks that I had where everything was perfect (around Damascus, after the infection in my toe was defeated by modern medicine but before my leg started hurting from my hip to my knee with every step) – that was really an incredible experience.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the trail. I miss the camaraderie and have been desperately lonely at times during the past couple months (despite being surrounded by friends and family). It’s weird to not be around people united by a singular purpose. I do admit I have a bit of “hiker memory” – I tend to remember the awesome things and not so much the misery. Perfect days of partly cloudy skies and crisp weather. Getting to the shelter just before a big thunderstorm. Discovering AWE had packed me some grape leaves and pistachios for lunch. Being able to take a moment and just chill – whenever I wanted. How strong I felt when hiking up Albert Mountain and other steep terrain. How nice it was to stroll into camp and see who of my trail family I’d be spending the night with. There is an enormous amount of independence that comes from carrying everything I need on my back.

I am so incredibly proud of the people who I hiked with who are now very close to finishing. Rainbow Braid is done. M80 & Trooper (along with Willow) are almost there. Clever Girl and Dumptruck are close, I think. Lots of others that aren't keeping journals I see mentioned online...Pumpkinhead, ChinMusic, and Big Yank are still going. Shutterbug seems to be going strong on her flip flop. And every time someone I know finishes, I’m super proud of them. But there’s also a bit of disappointment there, too. That could have been me….if only…

But, it wasn’t. I’m home, back in the arms of my incredibly supportive (and like holy cow we can ACTUALLY GET MARRIED NOW) wife. I’m back in the throes of work and the conveniences of modern life. I really like the place I’m working at, I like the work I’m doing, and I do love putting money in the bank. I’m trying to keep my weight in check (surprisingly, hiking for 10 hours a day does wonder for muscle tone; and NOT hiking for 10 hours a day does the opposite). It’s hard because my IT band still acts up whenever I do anything weight bearing (even after 3 months of solid rest and stretching and PT). Don’t get me wrong – it is awesome to be home. I love air conditioning and running water and a fast internet connection like you wouldn’t believe. But there’s a piece of me that won’t be complete until I summit Katahdin.