I’ve done a lot of difficult things in my life. Finishing some comes easier than others. One of my coaches made me promise a long time back to always finish what I started. No matter the situation, cross the finish line. Finishing the Appalachian Trail hike is another of these great challenges. I’m happy to report that just over a week ago, the trail was done.
At the end of the trail on Mount Katahdin, Maine.
People talk about ‘bucket lists’ and ‘life goals’. I’ve never been a person to subscribe to either. I’ve tried to go through life living each segment as perhaps the last experience I get to try to live. Many fellow hikers or friends assumed the AT was something I’d dreamed of doing. To the contrary, much like both my sports: it came to me.
So, to finish was not an act of checking something off some list, it was an act of simply being able to finish what I started. I wasn’t proud to have something else on a list of life achievements, or stoked I had finished in a certain time frame, or even having had some pretty epic days of physical exertion. It was more a sense of satisfaction for having gone about the whole thing in a good way.
It’s the approach I not only had but maintained the entire way that pleases me the most. An approach of mindfulness.
The trail was a 139 day/2189 mile thru-hike following the Appalachian corridor. Starting at the southern terminus of the trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia, ending at the Northern terminus on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. I hiked between six and twelve hours a day, carried all my gear, food and supplies, filtered all my water, made and broke camp every day and walked every inch of the trail. I was a purist and it mattered to me to not only do these things, but do them well. To rest when I needed to and bring myself back into the moment I was in when things became difficult, as they often did.
I walked these miles/hours/days/weeks/months and reconnected with I self I realized I hardly knew. The first third was with my husband, Peter aka Windwalker; the last 2/3rds alone. I was RedFeather on the trail. I was neither Olympian nor athlete; I was not an advocate for anything but movement and the meditation of walking. By walking these miles I reconnected with that self and came out knowing who I was better than before. I connected with nature on the deepest of levels and felt one with the earth and animal kingdom. I came to appreciate things most deplore when walking: roots, rocks, mud and rain. Rivers to be forded were an experience to have and a cooling of the often sore and scorching feet. I met folks along the way experiencing their own epic adventure and shared, encouraged their pursuit, as they did mine.
With Dragon, Yellow Beard, Little Goat, Willow and Pa Bert (who was finishing his THIRD thru hike of the AT!)
With my buddies YoYo and Tweet
Between and Mother Nature, a Mother and Son team from Germany!
Would I recommend a thru-hike for someone else? I don’t know. It’s a long, long way to go from Georgia to Maine, or from Mexico to Canada on the other long distance trails. What I do emphatically encourage is to get outside and move. Walk around the block. Go to a park. Get on a trail. Even just go and sit under a big tree and feel the strength of something so grande.
We need to get back into nature and this hike allowed for an abundance of this for me. I’m grateful for having walked every step of the way, and look forward to the next hiking adventure that might come to me as this one did.