“Did you do the whole thing?” I had heard as Ryan and I shared a step on the crowded escalator in the Denver airport just last week.
“Whhhaaa.. OH, yeah. We did, actually.” I replied behind me to a curious stranger, finally making the connection to his interest from my 2,000 Miler patch sewn on my backpack.
I’ve seen his reaction in others for a year now: astonished, jealous, and impressed. Hell, I’m still impressed.
On October 15, 2013, A-O and River(our trail names) summited the final mountain of the Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin, after hiking from Georgia to Maine for five months and twenty-two days.
A day hasn’t gone by this entire year of my life that I haven’t had an Appalachian Trail flashback. I remember small things. I remember everything. I remember random road crossings and water sources. I remember all the helpful strangers and giving trail folk. I remember Georgia in spring when things started turning green. I remember the reason behind my first twenty mile day: a hobo in a Tennessee shelter is a cause to push forward. I remember so many faces and silly trail names and tiny towns. I remember those ahead of me and behind me. I remember those who quit. I don’t think I can forget the mud in Vermont, the roots in Maine, the wet and wind in New Hampshire. Pennsylvania will always cause me to cuss. Katahdin will always make me smile with a tear in my eye.
October in Maine snags at my heart. Luckily, Maine felt like giving back to the rain-drenched Appalachian Trail class of 2013 by presenting us with an October heat wave that year. What should have been a frosty picture on Katahdin was actually a tank-top-kind-of day.
I dreamed about reaching Katahdin for months. Sometimes my emotions would rise within me, causing tears from just the thought of reaching this epic moment in a thru-hiker’s journey: the end. I had walked 2,185.9 miles. On that day, hikers, those of day and of thru, surrounded the sign. I knew exactly what the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail looked like because of joyous pictures of past thru-hikers. Upon reaching the wooden landmark, I hollered in joy. However, my heart ached and I started to cry. After five months and twenty-two days of hiking from Georgia to Maine, I finished. We finished.
One Year Later
I truly thought I had peaked in life. Completing the Appalachian Trail is my biggest life accomplishment. However, one year after the trail has treated me more than I ever imagined. I promised myself I would enjoy life instead of working jobs not worth my time. In one year, I have committed myself to enjoyment like I promised River I would. Ryan and I have traveled on any given whim. We established ourselves as devoted yogis. I committed myself to writing. I discovered my photographic eye. I turned an obsession of vintage clothing into a small business. I run my day and my schedule. River would be proud.
Although my day-to-day life isn’t your average, I can’t help but feel trapped at times. Travel tempts both Ryan and I often, especially this year alone. We’ve snorkeled in the clearest Hawaiian waters. We experienced the massive landmark that is the Eiffel Tower. We threw snowballs in summer in Corsica’s treacherous mountains. We got drunk off cheap rum on a Mediterranean beach, the same beach in which Ryan proposed. We’ve slept countless nights in airports. We wish we didn’t experience the bad part of Newark, New Jersey. We ventured to the Big Apple just when they ran dry of our coveted beer. We finally summited a fourteen thousand foot mountain in our home state of Colorado. One thing that hasn’t changed is our adventurous spirits.
I’ve written about the Appalachian Trail many times this past year. I try to express exactly how trail life is to my readers. Trail life is tough and dirty and silly and hungry. You live in the woods and you want to brag about it. The Appalachian Trail has forever changed me. This day will always be in remembrance of River. She was a one-of-a-kind hiker bitch or as A-O would put it, she was Miss Appalachian Trail.
If you would like to know how my Appalachian Trail experience was, please visit my trail blog at georgiatomaine2013.wordpress.com. If you are a hiker seeking information about the trail, please feel free to contact me directly or visit AppalachianTrials.com or my author page for the site, here.