EpiloguePublish date: Nov 1, 2019
I hiked around Shenandoah today. Climbed my first mountain in over two weeks. As I passed day hikers, I still received the “you look like you’ve done this before” and “you’re not even out of breath!” comments. It felt good, but I wondered how much longer I could hike like this.
The fact that the trail is really over didn’t hit me until I said goodbye to my group in Portland, ME. Even then, the full truth has been hitting me in waves. I’m still itching to walk anywhere at all. I’m reading my journal and looking at my photos, trying to relive a moment in my mind because unless I conjur up a specific memory, the whole trail feels like a blur. Just a thing I did. I talk to my hiking buddies still, relating our post-trail experiences, which has been really helpful.
Readjusting is a bit different for all of us. One hiker, who is getting her PhD in psychology, wrote a deep dive about what post-trail depression really is. I’ll paraphrase her point: I’m reluctant to let go of the version of myself that the Trail brought out, and the Trail itself for facilitating my being that way. I don’t think that version isn’t better, or truer… I’m not exactly sure how Bam (my trail name) is different from Maggie. I know that Bam wore contacts instead of glasses, played more card games, and put her phone on airplane mode a lot. She smelled terrible. She also seemed pretty confident, and open, and honest. She’ll probably remain a part of me forever, but in what way I don’t know yet.
I don’t really know what’s next. In the long term, I’m much more intent on keeping outdoor adventures in my life. In the short term, I’m just trying to hike as much as possible while I apply to analyst jobs. I’ll make D.C. my base and travel around a bit.
The Appalachian Trail was a lot more fun than I had expected. I anticipated having really low moments, but nothing ever felt very “low”. The closest I got was when I said goodbye to Andrew, or maybe the day I hiked with a cold, or the night I thought I was going to camp alone. Maybe it was that endless rain in Virginia, or the effort of each step back in Georgia. Honestly none of it felt very demoralizing. I never experienced gear failure or injury, which helped. Anyways, there was too much to be thankful for. The countless hours I spent just thinking, or not thinking. The giving, sincere, and often hilarious community of thruhikers and trail angels. The basic stuff, like a shower or a salad, that felt so much more special. The feeling of moving forward, releasing endorphins and feeling strong. The simplicity. The unexpected opportunities and feeling increasingly open to them. The forests and the mountains. I’m happy to be done, but I could honestly keep walking.
Anyways, thanks for tuning in on my adventure. I had a lot of fun writing this.