Everyone says to “enjoy the journey.” I am, but sometimes it’s hard. Now that Katahdin, the final mountain I’ve been walking toward since March, is 220 miles away, I can’t help but want to be there. Friends keep posting their iconic Katahdin summit pictures almost every day, and I would love to be touching the summit of the mountain that initially seemed unreachable.
The other day, I stopped short because the mountains were hard and the day had been long. I threw up my tent atop the beautiful Mount Old Blue, but I felt uneasy. I loved the view, the serenity and the hushed bird chirps, but I couldn’t help but think how I had ended early. Why would I end early when I could’ve made Katahdin 10 miles closer that day? Being tired feels like no excuse right now. It’s almost as if I should simply let my feet walk until I reach the mountain. No sleep, no rest. Just walk. My feet itch to be scraping the sides of the slippery rocks in Baxter State Park. Everything I do that delays the union of my body and Katahdin seems to eat away at me. I don’t want to look back at the Maine section and regret going too fast, but I also want the rush of a goal accomplished.
To help pace me, motivate me and make sure I let myself laugh throughout the final two weeks I’m meeting up with some old trail family (The Four Day Family). They kept it slow, and had some emergency, that has allowed us to be within catching up range. I’ll take a short day into Caratunk, Maine to reunite with them. We’ll tackle the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin together. I’m happy to be getting back with familiar faces. I know they’ll keep me on track mentally, so I can’t wait for Sunday. Here’s to enjoying the journey, but also fighting to accomplish a goal.
A hiker asked me how it feels to know that I have to do all this over again now that I’ve hit the (historical) halfway point. He sounded defeated as he told me, “for me, it seems crazy that there’s so much more ahead of us.” All I could think about was how exciting it was to understand that there are about 3 months of new views, new struggles and new people ahead of me. So, here are some halfway thoughts about what’s happened so far:
1) I smile more when the weather is bad
There was a day and a half of a wild storm, so a few of us hikers decided to take a zero day in a shelter. Luckily, it was Partnership Shelter, one where the top half was fully enclosed and pizza just happened to deliver to us. We spent the whole day laughing and hanging out as the storm raged on outside. The roof started leaking and we all had to strap together our tarps to create a roof #2. We were in good company with full bellies.
Of course, there were also the Smoky Mountains where there was a foot of snow with thigh-high drifts. I thought about how nice it would’ve been to have my skis with me. We walked 13 miles over the tallest part of the AT and then down to the gap where we planned to hitch into Gatlinburg to resupply for food. The road out of the park at that gap was closed due to the snow storm, and it was coated in snow and black ice. The crew we were with convened in the only shelter at the deserted gap, a heated bathroom. Wallace, Hot Tang, Kyle (Calves) and I decided we would walk down the road into Gatlinburg, an extra 13 miles. The whole time on the hike down, we were slipping and falling. All of a sudden, you’d see poles fly up in the air and a hiker sliding around. Despite the snow pummeling my face at 50 mph, all the falls and my body pain, I couldn’t help but smile or laugh.
With days of now consistently hiking over 20 miles, the body needs fuel. I get hangry if I haven’t eaten in the past two/three hours. As you’ll see though, I have clearly developed a healthy, fool-proof eating regiment that helps keep my body in shape. Honestly though, my hiker diet is every mom’s worst nightmare. Check it out:
You see people’s true colors when they realize you’re doing something that they believe is a horrible mistake. You get the caring, harmless worriers saying, “can I put a tracker in your arm?” or “don’t get eaten by a bear.” You get the people who don’t get why you’re doing it: “I can’t understand why you’d do this to yourself” or “the PCT is cooler.” Then, there’s my least favorite: “don’t go because what if you fail.”
Everyone has said something when they find out I’m doing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Some are excited for me, nervous for me or happy that I’m stoked for this adventure. Many have tried to stop me from going. So, clearly, amidst all these naysayers, I’ve decided to use up all my teenage rebellion that I didn’t use in the first place. I’ll go on the trail despite those who’ve tried to convince me otherwise—I’ll finish or I won’t. Regardless of the end-game, it’ll be a wild ride that I can’t yet fathom. If you’re on board with my adventure, take a look at the details, packing list and all the planning I’ve done that is sure to go out the window as soon as I set foot on the trail.
The Dirty Deets: