Friends, allow me to direct you to this excellent post by Phoenix about the unfiltered reality of thru hiking. She nails it. I don’t need to write my own now, because she’s said it perfectly already. Please check it out.
We’ve had a weird stretch since leaving Damascus. We left on our fiftieth day out and had an awesome one. It felt like a vacation and a celebration. Then we both got a little sick and spent an entire day in the tent while it rained, hiking a pathetic 2.6 miles in the evening, just to have gotten somewhere. The next day we saw the wild ponies, which I’ve been looking forward to for more than a year and perfectly lived up to expectations. There was a crappy campsite (literally, it was full of crap) and a 23 mile day, an unexpected zero. Basically, it’s been a lot of emotional (and physical) up and down, really quickly.
Eric puts it this way: thru hiking is like waking up every day and having to pack your apartment and move to a place you haven’t seen but have signed a lease on, where you will be living with roommates you haven’t met. Sometimes you will meet a Phoenix and Johnny Appleseed, or get a sweet spot by the river with, inexplicably, a bench (this happened coming out of Damascus). Other times you will hike 23 miles and arrive exhausted at a shelter where people are setting off fireworks, there are multiple handles of whiskey, and someone remarks, “I hope no one plans to sleep tonight!”
You might need a watch, and for three weeks you might look for one when you’re in town and somehow, inexplicably, be unable to find this simple thing. And then out of the blue someone gives you an extra watch they happen to have.
Or, you might long for a margarita when you’re deep in the Bible Belt and all the towns are dry, for weeks.
You may be pushing it on a humid afternoon and want nothing more than to stop. And then you turn the corner and there in the forest is a canopy, an ice chest full of soda, a box full of moon pies. And an undeniable reason to stop for a little bit.
You need a ride, a meal, laundry, food, somewhere dry. And you have no idea how to get it. And then someone hands it to you. Or just as often, no one ever does. And then you just keep going, either way.
Things out here can turn in an instant, from bad to good and the other way around. The thing to do seems to be just ride, just take it, whatever it is, as it comes. It’s how I was striving to live before we came out here. And it sounds simple. But it’s so, so hard to remember:
Hold things lightly, by the edges. Every single thing. Because the suffering and the joy both are not handed down for forever.