Thoughts / Travel

Trail Life Is…

I only cried once today. Okay, I mean twice. Two years ago on this exact day, I started my journey on the Appalachian Trail. It shocks me to know that it is has been two years since I took my very first step of the 2,185.9 mile journey from Georgia to Maine. It has been two years of being broke, travel-hungry, and happy.

I remember leaving for Georgia and how I felt with no obligations, no bills, and no home. There is no freer feeling. However, I was a novice backpacker. I didn’t know the injuries, weather, and blues I would endure. I laugh at the sight of my Georgia pictures. I was chubby and happy and carrying a fairly heavy pack. Both Ryan and I struggled for this moment. We worked our asses off to hike the trail and the trail worked out our asses even more.

My emotions can’t help but take control today. I miss River (my trail name). I miss trail life. It’s hard to see many of my friends from the trail starting the Pacific Crest Trail today. I know that the PCT isn’t in my current future and that’s okay. I know I will have the time and money to hike it one day. I find myself feeling homesick today, however. Homesick for a life I once had and enjoyed and hated.

Trail life is something you truly can’t comprehend unless you experience it firsthand. I miss my stinky hiker smell. I loved the feeling at the end of a long day. I miss scouting out the best campsite and cooking a simple mac ‘n cheese dinner for me and my mountain man. I miss the highs and lows of trail life.

For me, trail life IS:

  • walking, hiking, climbing, crawling, scooting…
  • that feeling of sliding into your dirty yet dry sleeping bag after a long hike in the rain.
  • dreading the sunrise when you don’t want to hike because your body hurts.
  • starting the day out with a 3,000 foot mountain hike. Good morning!
  • putting on the same damp, sweaty clothes that you wore yesterday.
  • food rationing at its finest.
  • laughing in a shelter with your hiker trash friends while the rain just pours and pours.
  • painful.
  • having to hike miles in the rain because you can’t find a camp spot.
  • dealing with your partner’s stinky hiker smell.
  • relying on complete strangers for a ride to town.
  • meeting America.
  • dirty from head to toe.
  • wet and rainy.
  • sensational.
  • views of mountains and towns and hills and valleys.
  • carrying a full pack up a steep mountain.
  • strong in wits and body.
  • emotional and worthy of a good cry when things get bad.
  • a struggle.
  • beautiful.
  • the desire to see more.
  • tiring and frustrating and painful.
  • the action of placing yourself in nature.
  • controlled by weather.
  • full of bug spray and sun block.
  • dangerous.
  • rewarding.
  • hungry.
  • hard to explain to others.
  • FREE.

I think I could have made this list into a novel. If you have yet to experience the freedom of a long distance hike, you are missing out on the worst yet best experience of your life. When we got back from our five month and 22-day hike, no one understood. Everyone just did what they were doing for those five months. We changed and the rest of the world stayed the same. I am so lucky I forced myself into a wonderful, ridiculous endeavor because I know what it takes to change and to see and to experience.

I miss you River. I miss you A-O. Trail life IS A-O, River!

AT

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3 thoughts on “Trail Life Is…

  1. stumbled on your blog when researching my next pair of Salomons. Very cool and kudos to you. I, too, ‘was’ and adventurer in days of yore. In fact, I just finished a 16 mile day hike summiting Table Mt. in the Columbia River Gorge (I played hooky for a day from work). I hope your friends enjoy the PCT; it can be a bear. Although I currently live in Raleigh, NC and am from MN, I spent many years in Boulder, CO just down the road from you, having been born there and attending CU (friends don’t let friends go to CSU). I also had the pleasure of backpacking around Europe and Australia in my twenties. Thus, I can relate to fond memories, having very little money and thinking a jar of jelly was the greatest asset in the world! I learned the value of packing lite and to this day several iterations of that principal permeate my life as I’m somewhat of a minimalist. It’s great! I, too, am a little north of being able to fit everything in my backpack but I’ve managed to trim the fat quite a bit in the last five years.

    Stay fit, eat well and stretch!

    -Scott

  2. Pingback: 6 Hiking and Gear Tips for Petite Hikers | In Any Direction

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