Done

After the Hike

I’m in Kansas drinking an iced coffee at one of my favorite local coffee shops. This is a luxury I could have only dreamed about a week ago. I’ve decided to quit hiking the trail. I’m sure I’ll be back but definitely not this season.

This month of hiking has been the most difficult physical and mental challenge of my life. The thought of staying on trail sparked different but equally-as-strong emotions as the thought of coming home. Staying on trail meant sadness and anxiety. Coming home meant disappointment and embarrassment. Staying on trail and being sad and anxious meant spending way too much money on comforts like hot meals and hotel rooms. Coming home meant being unemployed without a real goal. Staying on trail meant destroying my body and taking way too much Vitamin I (aka Ibuprofen). Coming home meant saying goodbye to my trail legs and improved cardiovascular fitness.

In the end, it came down to the fact that I wasn’t hiking the hike I wanted to hike. I wasn’t doing it how I wanted to do it. In the last week of being on trail, I slept in more beds than I had slept in during the entire rest of my hike. My body hurt too much and my mind was becoming too sensitive to appreciate the experience of constantly being grimy and damp with legs covered in mud and hair tangled with leaves. I was hiking to get to a bed and a shower. When I realized this, I understood that it was time to come home.

I’ll hike on the AT again, yes. By the time my life is over, I hope to have done the whole 2,179 miles, but right now I’m happy to be home. I hiked almost 400 miles in 28 days, and I can live with that.

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16 thoughts on “Done

  1. Oz, I am so very proud of you! It takes a tremendous amount of courage to even consider hiking the AT, and I think it takes an equal amount courage to know when to say when. Thank you for sharing your adventures with me. Please know that so often your trail stories restored my faith in humanity, in the goodness of people. Best wishes as you embark upon your next adventure. I know it will be a great dandy! Love & hugs, s

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  2. Good for you. Nothing wrong with an ambitious goal. Also, nothing wrong with completing that goal in stages. Most ambitions get accomplished that way in reality!!!! Bit by bit over the years with company or without, you can hike the rest of the AT or the PCT or the divide. Or Not. Trail legs can be gotten other ways 🙂 enjoy the rest of your summer and your next adventure.

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  3. I grew up with the AT in my back yard and made several day hikes and even one overnight hike on the trail when I was in HS. Now some 40 years later I’m living on the west coast with the PCT in my back yard and a whole page of hikes on my bucket list to complete. I retired last year because of a disability and I am now thinking “Would it be possible to make an attempt at the PCT?”. Then I think just start and go as far as you can then I will have my answer.

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  4. Ali
    We are all so very proud of you. You’re the ONLY person I know who has come anywhere near to doing what you’ve accomplished. You are an amazing woman. No reason whatsoever to be disappointed!! Actually all of your “moms” back here can breathe a sigh of relief 😀. Many of us read your blog & said a daily prayer for your safety!! You are an inspiration

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  5. I think you should be proud of yourself. You found out alot about yourself. What you can do, what you can’t do. You have become more aware of what you need and what you don’t. You found that home is a great place, one of peace and comfort and love. You will not take for granted the small stuff, like having a clean warm bed to sleep in, or a hot shower, or a cold glass of ice tea or your friendships, like you might have in the past. I know I’m proud of you for what you have accomplished. It takes a lot of courage to hike the trail by yourself.

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  6. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. This is a life experience that many only dream of. You had the courage to go, and the courage to say enough for now. That is honorable and wise. Welcome back!

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  7. Ali, You did great. I am so proud of you. You did more than most would do. I am glad you are home drinking ice coffee in your home. Love You Lots. Grandma D.

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  8. I came home at mile 310 this spring. It took me a good month before I finally was able to accept being back home. I had a hard time fitting in back at work. I wished often to be back on the trail, but knew at this time it wasn’t meant to be. Congratulations on your accomplishments. The trail isn’t going anywhere maybe someday I will meet you on the AT…or another trail. I have also been doing trail magic from my home of northern Mn to people who I met and are still on the trail. Stay connected via the net and encourage the people you met and became friends with. I finally going on a week hike next week and hope I’m not going to soon as ankle still gets tender but I’m tired of resting. Be gentle with yourself and share your stories.

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