I only cried once today. Okay, I mean twice. Two years ago on this exact day, I started my journey on the Appalachian Trail. It shocks me to know that it is has been two years since I took my very first step of the 2,185.9 mile journey from Georgia to Maine. It has been two years of being broke, travel-hungry, and happy.
I remember leaving for Georgia and how I felt with no obligations, no bills, and no home. There is no freer feeling. However, I was a novice backpacker. I didn’t know the injuries, weather, and blues I would endure. I laugh at the sight of my Georgia pictures. I was chubby and happy and carrying a fairly heavy pack. Both Ryan and I struggled for this moment. We worked our asses off to hike the trail and the trail worked out our asses even more.
My emotions can’t help but take control today. I miss River (my trail name). I miss trail life. It’s hard to see many of my friends from the trail starting the Pacific Crest Trail today. I know that the PCT isn’t in my current future and that’s okay. I know I will have the time and money to hike it one day. I find myself feeling homesick today, however. Homesick for a life I once had and enjoyed and hated.
Trail life is something you truly can’t comprehend unless you experience it firsthand. I miss my stinky hiker smell. I loved the feeling at the end of a long day. I miss scouting out the best campsite and cooking a simple mac ‘n cheese dinner for me and my mountain man. I miss the highs and lows of trail life.
For me, trail life IS:
- walking, hiking, climbing, crawling, scooting…
- that feeling of sliding into your dirty yet dry sleeping bag after a long hike in the rain.
- dreading the sunrise when you don’t want to hike because your body hurts.
- starting the day out with a 3,000 foot mountain hike. Good morning!
- putting on the same damp, sweaty clothes that you wore yesterday.
- food rationing at its finest.
- laughing in a shelter with your hiker trash friends while the rain just pours and pours.
- having to hike miles in the rain because you can’t find a camp spot.
- dealing with your partner’s stinky hiker smell.
- relying on complete strangers for a ride to town.
- meeting America.
- dirty from head to toe.
- wet and rainy.
- views of mountains and towns and hills and valleys.
- carrying a full pack up a steep mountain.
- strong in wits and body.
- emotional and worthy of a good cry when things get bad.
- a struggle.
- the desire to see more.
- tiring and frustrating and painful.
- the action of placing yourself in nature.
- controlled by weather.
- full of bug spray and sun block.
- hard to explain to others.
I think I could have made this list into a novel. If you have yet to experience the freedom of a long distance hike, you are missing out on the worst yet best experience of your life. When we got back from our five month and 22-day hike, no one understood. Everyone just did what they were doing for those five months. We changed and the rest of the world stayed the same. I am so lucky I forced myself into a wonderful, ridiculous endeavor because I know what it takes to change and to see and to experience.
I miss you River. I miss you A-O. Trail life IS A-O, River!