“Why is thru-hiking so admired? Why is it so addicting? The trail is such that once you start walking, you never want to stop. And when you do stop, your goals and dreams suddenly revolve around getting back on the trail. I don’t have any answers as to why, but I do know that thru-hiking goes like this, and this could possibly be one good reason:
Walk all day under the magical spell of the mountains, the trees, the birds and the critters, the fresh open air and the wind that softly blows through your hair. Sleep under the power of the stars, the moon, the noises of the forest that calm your being as you rest. Sometimes, there are climbs you don’t feel like climbing, miles you don’t feel like making, days you just don’t feel like hiking. However, those times are when you dig the deepest and, in turn, become the strongest. In the midst of all the “doing” of things that you don’t necessarily want to do, you realize that you’ve never felt quite so free. That although exhausted and sometimes weary, you’ve never been quite so strong. All you are doing, really, is walking. Yet somehow, you’ve never been quite so happy.” ~ Brianna Graves
I’m sitting at home watching my incredible calf muscles wither, my beer gut grow, and being comforted by the beautiful quote above. I’m in this unfamiliar place of ending a planned thru-hike before reaching my destination. But it’s not about the destination. At least that’s what I tell myself.
But it is about the destination. Ok, it’s more than that but…..
There’s this dang monument that I spend months walking towards. And all for the glory. The glory of pushing myself beyond limits unknown to most humans. The glory of seeing sights not viewable from the road. The glory of loosing my breath. The glory of getting badass leg muscles. The glory of eating lots of food. The glory of challenging mother nature at her game.
After a month off trail, I returned to the CDT only to find a very deep-rooted seed in my stomach telling me it was over. All signs pointed to done. I could have jumped north and found fellow trail peeps and been ok. But I don’t want to crash anyone’s hike. I will not force my path simply for the glory of it. But it’s dang hard turning my back on the glory of those stellar leg muscles.
My return to the CDT found me tired of the weather and lonely. While I’d made peace with being a solo hiker, the weather easily elbowed that aside. I found myself without the mental strength to push up those mountains against that weather all by my lonesome. It’s hard when sunny skies turn to hail, rain, thunder, lightening, cold by 10am. This CDT thing is no joke. There’s a reason it’s taking my hiking compadres nearly 7 weeks to cross Colorado. Add to all that the weight of missing my kitty and being needed at home.
I oscillate between acceptance of my off-trail decision and disbelief that it’s over. What does my future and the CDT look like? Do I need a hiking partner to crush this damn trail? WTF? I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I had epic times on the CDT. I hiked around 700 miles and the entire state of New Mexico. New Mexico blew me away! It was not a summer wasted.
Maybe it’s a defense mechanism but my mind is already wanting to plan the next adventure. Do I hear AT 2016? And with that excitement there is also fear. What if I fail again? Have I lost my drive for thru-hikes? What if I’m a fair-weathered princess hiker? Like Brianna said, when we dig the deepest we become the strongest. And I foresee a whole lot of strong in my future.