Day 120 – July 16, 2017
Over the past month, I’ve hiked through some of the smaller states on the trail: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and I’m currently working through Vermont. This past month has of course been physically demanding. I’ve been on a love-hate roller-coaster with the trail.
For 830 miles, from Narrows, VA until Kent, CT, I hiked everyday. No full rest day without donning my pack – a few shorter days, but no true rest day. That is an outrageously long stretch without a break, and my body and my mind were essentially screaming this to me.
June was a pattern of pushing big miles during the week, so I could slow down and enjoy lower mileage with friends visiting on the weekend. During the week, I was hitting close to a 20 mile average – hiking from 7am until 7pm (with a few breaks in between). I was slowly getting pounded down by the numerical standards for a “good, full day of hiking,” that only existed by my own thoughts.
A few days before I took 3 days off in Connecticut, I remember calling my mom after a 25 mile day. I was just going on about how I wasn’t truly enjoying the trail. I was hiking and hiking just because.
Two days before that, I cut a 20 mile day short, down to a 12 miles day, solely because I couldn’t find the motivation to go further. I’d stop at every lookout for at least 10-20 minutes, and have to will myself to get back-up and continue. Mentally, hiking had become a chore.
Luckily, my long-awaited three day rest was less than a week away. I spent the 4th of July weekend at my boyfriend, Kyle’s, house in Connecticut. Aside from a few errands and cleaning gear, I did nothing associated with hiking. We went to the beach, hung out with friends, went sailing, and of course went to a 4th of July BBQ. I was surrounded and loved by so many people as Tess, not Rabbit.
After a sad goodbye, I was back on the trail on July 5th. There became on odd gap of thru-hikers in the trail, and I went the entire day without seeing another thru-hiker. Transitioning from being surrounded by wonderful people in Shelton, CT, to seeing no one, was a very rough time. Since I was gone for 3 days, most people I knew were far ahead of me by now. Luckily, at 7pm, a hiker named “One Gallon” arrived at camp. He’s an amazing hiker, yet is so humble about it. His hiking resume includes 40,000, most of which come from his Triple Crown (completing the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail). I’ve spent the past 10 days hiking on and off with him, gaining knowledge and listening to stories.
Since then, I’ve run into a whole slew of new thru-hikers, but none that I truly connected with as well as I have with others in the past. This “loneliness,” mixed with overcast and rainy days, has made for a roller-coaster of emotions.
On the 13th of July, I was hiking through mud on a dreary Vermont day, surrounded by people I didn’t particularly connect with. Everything I owned was damp and I wasn’t enjoying myself, to say the least. My thoughts spiraled to, “Well, I haven’t really enjoyed the past bit on the trail. And today sucks. I still have so much left! Why am I even still out here?” Why don’t I just end the misery and quit?” July 13th was the first day on the trail that I’ve considered quitting.
Luckily, I chose to go into Bennington, VT to buy some more food for the next stretch, but more than anything, it was a mental refresher. I had a chance to remove myself from the trail, talks to locals, and get pizza and ice cream. I cut the day short and only hiked 1.5 miles more, once I returned to the trail. Some conversations with others, including “One-Gallon” and “Canada,” helped turn my mind around. Oh – and the guy hiking with his cat, who sits on his pack all day!
Since the 13th, the weather and my outlook has brightened, and I’m enjoying the people and the lush terrain of Vermont.
Two notes/quotes have kept me going on the trail:
1.) “No pain, no rain, no Maine.” – unknown
2.) A message from Abby Pressley, a friend who hiked last year, “Enjoy each moment, lonely, rainy, discouraging, or scared. There are 1,000x as many moments of glory and all of these shape the faith off saints.”
Here’s to many more miles, and even more smiles 🙂