Trekking the first 30 miles, we’ve met quite a few South Bounders (SOBOs) who are near to finishing their journey. Our conversations with them remind me constantly that the trail is not just one thing; it is many things to many people.
For us, this section of the trail is a beginning, but for them it’s the end. One section may be a wicked mountain ascent for me and a jolly day hike down a hill for someone else.
Around six days into our actual hiking we met a newlywed couple called Ragamuffin and Mega Mo. They had some advice to pass on to us:
- Never decide to leave the trail in town or on a bad day
- You WILL have bad days.
- You will cry.
- It will get better
These words were especially helpful to me, since three days into our hike, I had a major meltdown. One mountain after another broke my spirit and wore me down until I finally fell down in tears crying, “I can’t do this. I hate this. I want to go home.”
A lot of people don’t talk about those experiences, but many have them. Something like fifty percent of people who try to thu-hike don’t make it out of Georgia. It’s not that those fifty percent couldn’t do it and the other fifty percent could. It’s that the second fifty percent chose to keep going.
The things that kept me going were the following: Pete, my family, and you.
Pete was very mad when I said I wanted to stop. Understandably. I was leaving not just the trail, but him, too. He came with me to town and asked me to at least sleep on my decision. I agreed.
All I wanted was to go home and spend the holidays with my family. I justified that I could leave, spend the holidays at home, and come back later when it would be warmer and ‘easier’. (I knew in my heart that if I left, I’d probably never come back.) And, I knew my family would rather I keep working at this goal, despite how much they missed me.
At the time, I’d just started to write regularly and get feedback from you. I hated the idea of letting you down by giving up.
After a restless night, I realized that if I left then, I would have lost. I would have done with this trip exactly what I’ve done with the rest of my life, skated through life on the path of least resistance.
I told Pete that I would commit to getting at least to Helen, where are first food drop was supposed to be. (Only 50 miles into our 2,178 mile trip.)
We’ve hiked four days since we left that hotel, and despite cold weather with a still insufficient sleeping bag and an Achilles heel injury that has us taking yet more zero mile days, I have been happier on the trail than I could have imagined. Following that rule of not giving up on a bad day reminds you that there are more good days than bad and gives you just enough extra energy to make it to the next summit.
Then, as you keep hi
king, each summit becomes a reward in itself.
I may not end up finishing the whole trail, we’ll see. I want to, but what I know I will do is follow the guidelines. I am committed to trying to get out of Georgia. I will not stop on a bad day. I will continue to challenge myself to do even more than I ever thought possible. I will hike as long as I choose to, but if I stop
it won’t be because “I can’t”. It will be because I make a choice.
As it stands, this
trail has strengthened me already, and I see why people continue to come back over and over again.