The thing about time is it allows you to create space between actively experiencing moments and then reflecting, reveling in the joy of nostalgia.
The highs from the trail followed me around for the better part of a year after I touched that Northern terminus. Every weekend backpacking trip or day hike before work were bittersweet reminders of the adventure I once had. There were an abundance of “I remember whens” and “one time on trails” that would tumble out of my mouth, sparked by something as simple as the smell of sap or a sunrise over an alpine lake.
If you asked me, pre-trail, why I wanted to hike the PCT, I could recite the lengthy list that’s since been burned into my brain after having to convince myself repeatedly, that there was method to all the madness.
However, with my Appalachian Trail start date rapidly approaching, I’m starting to feel like choosing to thru-hike again is a harder decision than last time.
Sure, there is something to be said about having a few thousand miles under your feet that calms the pre-trial jitters, but will my experience end up hurting me in the long run? It’s not lost on me that the highs, I’m so fondly remembering, are only highs because they came after a low. I don’t have naivety in my pack this time around. Which means, I know full well of the suck, pain, discomfort and fatigue that I am about to endure and the mental fortitude that has to be present to make this thing successful…yet I’m still choosing to go.
But that’s why we do it right? Because embracing the lows are what make the highs that much sweeter. It’s more the journey and less the goal. To pursue peace in its most wild form. To befriend our minds and bodies. To get to know our cities, states and country a little better, find greater perspective. To connect with the earth and people and maybe gain a little more faith in humanity along the way. To become more well-rounded and ever-present.
Last week someone asked me, “So you want to hike the length of the country, again…why?” While I’m still figuring out my complete answer to that question, I’m okay if it’s a work in progress and a running list. Maybe it’s just as simple as going where it feels real and where it feels right. Just like in off-trail life, I’ll trust my feet and the places they bring me, one step at a time…