When we crossed into CT on the trail it had not quite hit me that when we in New England. Then when we came into a town and I saw all the bougie white people and felt that I was a world away from the Midwest and definitely from the south where we spent so much time on the trail, then it really sunk in 🙂
We are so far north! We are 600 some miles away from Katahdin, from the end. I absolutely cannot believe it. In some ways we are so ready and others we are not. Lately I have just had so many mixed emotions about the trail… Like, so many, everyday. I know it’s said a lot, but you really, truly cannot understand the TRAIL unless you have hiked it. It is so much more than a trail, it’s a community, a journey, and an experience like no other. I know this blog has not done justice to all those complexities, but I don’t know how to explain it.
This post is all my feelings about the trail, in no particular order, because I don’t know how to draw a succinct picture of all the things.
Also, IMPORTANLY, every single trail experience is different. There is no one monolithic AT experience, and that cannot be stressed enough. So the crazy thing is, even though I just said you can’t understand the trail unless you’ve walked it, it STILL would be a vastly different experience from mine. So maybe we all understand aspects of trail life, in a general framework, but we each make that experience so deeply personal, they are beyond comparing. It truly is that different for everyone! In the end, it seems we can only understand our very own, personal AT jounrney, and do our best to value and uphold the journeys of others, rather than judge them, because each is so unique. All thoughts and feelings expressed here are simply about my hike, and my hike only 🙂
THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS by Moonbow
- The trail is not a racecourse. It is not a conquest; to me, the trail and hiking is not even about the sport. The trail is a journey, a conduit through which I experience nature in the macro and micro, a community in which I connect with other people in ways we don’t normally get the chance to, a way to experience the dynamic country I live in, and a physical, mental, and emotional challenge to aid me in knowing myself and my partner in a deeper and more genuine way.
- It’s not about the miles. I don’t want to talk miles, a rule I made early on. I don’t need to know how fast you are, and I don’t need you asking me how far I walked that day. Instead I would love to know the coolest or most meaningful part of your day. I would love for you to ask me what inspired, or challenged me that day. I would love to know how the trail has deepened your relationship to yourself, to nature, to your family, or God. I wish there was more of this intentionality on the AT, and less shop talk of miles, gear weight and schedules.
- Hiker culture is amazing, beautiful, exciting, and exhausting. You get to form deep relationships quickly, and you experience an almost unavoidable vulnerability with complete strangers. It’s been an experience with humanity unlike others I have experienced and I have learned a lot. Sometimes, I need a break. Sometimes, I miss non-hikers.
- Being on a journey away from so many people I love has brought me closer to them in ways I never imagined. I rely on them for support and love that keeps me going when I think I can’t anymore. I have formed even stronger relationships with some friends, and gotten to see some of the most important people in my life more than I expected and it’s incredible. I have reconnected with college friends and made last minute adventures to see adult life friends from far away cities. Every single person from any part of my life I have spoken with or spent time with while on this journey has been so loving, supportive and incredible. I feel beyond lucky.
- I have more appreciation for my amazing family than ever, and I didn’t even think loving them and appreciating them more was even possibly! They have been my rock. I spend so much time thjnking about them out here and I hope they know how much they mean to me in this endeavor and always
- I am so Midwestern! We have experienced the American south up close and personal, and now are experiencing the American northeast, and I am so obviously a Midwestern lady through and through. I am so happy with our decision to stay in the Midwest, and move to minneapolis together! Side note… South > north (read: down to earth > bougie)
- I don’t think I will thru hike again. The culture surrounding a thru hike does not fully allow for me to invest in nature and the experience in the way I wanted. Long distance backpacking for sure, but something that allows more of my own schedule, and has fewer people around everyday who have opinions on what is a “real thru hike”.
- Some of the people we have met on the trail will be lifelong friends, and have so profoundly affected me and I am so grateful for the amazing humans that have made this meaningful, fun, and at times, possible.
- I am so ready for real life, a house, a job helping others and working for causes I care about again, a garden, farmers markets, an LGBT community, and DIVERSITY in my neighborhood.
- My travel bucket list is so long, but I have definitely learned I want to do it from a home base.
- I will really miss the trail when that bittersweet day comes in a little over a month.
- I AM SO PUMPED to experience and be humbled by the white mountains and NH and ME.
- Finally, Lisa is the only person I could ever EVER spend this much time, in such an intense way, with. We have been challenged as a couple, as friends, as hiking partners. However, I am more confident than ever that our future holds amazing a things that I look forward to every single day.
Thanks for reading!