On October 6th my trail family and I finished our journey together, reaching the northern terminus of the AT, Mt. Katahdin. We hiked for six months and four days, and finally competed our thru hike. This journey has been incredible, and it hasn’t fully registered yet that this chapter of my life is at an end. As I process this, I’d like to share some thoughts about the trip.
At the beginning, to me the trail was all about enjoying nature, and experiencing serenity outside of society. The aspect of hiking that I most enjoyed was getting a wonderful view as payoff after exerting myself up a tough climb. My motivations have changed. The views start to look the same after a while, and it’s difficult to enjoy the scenery when you need to stare at your feet all day to prevent tripping, toe-stubbing, and other injury. Also rain can dampen the spirits as well as your clothing. Through these challenges and tests, the thing that kept me going was the community.
The fellowship of thru-hikers is truly amazing. My trail family, and hikers in other nearby groups made this trip worth doing, and kept me from quitting. The hardships of the trail wear on you after a while, but they also provide for a collective bonding experience. Maybe I had a miserable day with soaking wet socks and a slippery rocky hill to climb. At the end of the day, I sit around camp and chat with people who had to endure that same hill, with similarly wet socks. I have never experienced a community this strong before. In Monson, seven of us sat down for dinner at a restaurant, and a random hiker we hadn’t met came over and asked to join us, and it wasn’t weird. Back home I would never think about going up to a group of strangers in a restaurant and asking to join them, but that just goes to show how great the community is.
In the past six months I have experienced so much:
- I became a practiced hitchhiker.
- I stole a shower in Hot Springs (after trying in vain for 45 minutes to find someone to pay)
- I ate ice cream out of a dumpster.
- I jumped off a 30 foot bridge into a river.
- I went skinny dipping in a pond.
- I watched a sunset and subsequent sunrise from a fire tower on top of a mountain.
- I had numerous in-depth and technical discussions about poop.
- I summited a mountain in sustained 50mph winds, with 70mph gusts.
- I hiked from Georgia to Maine with one of my best friends, and neither of us killed the other.
Thanks to everyone for their support and interest. I absolutely could not have completed this trip without the incredible generosity and encouragement of my friends, family, trail angels, fellow hikers, and random internet people. So thank you thank you thank you, for being part of the biggest adventure of my life. I’m finally a thru-hikers.