Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Year Later

The ambient parking lot light that leaks in through my apartment window faintly illuminates the map of the AT hanging on my bedroom wall. It's not enough that I can make out the state lines, or even the continuous path marked across those fourteen states, but it makes no difference. I've looked at that map so many times that I don't need to see it to recall the memories that it contains. I studied it hopefully at Standing Bear Farm in Tennessee, unbelieving that the past few weeks had gained me only a few inches of progress. I felt a rush of excitement when I saw it displayed at Grace Hiker Hostel in Waynesboro, Virginia, because I had almost made it halfway. I was proud to see it hanging on my parents' kitchen wall when I left Massachussetts to go home for my sister's wedding, and I stared in sadness and disbelief at the same map in the bathroom of the Lakeshore House laundromat in Monson, Maine, knowing my journey was nearing its end.

No, I don't need to see it, but in daylight hours I find myself standing in front of it, studying it as closely as I did for those seven hiking months, feeling the same hopefulness and disbelief and pride and sadness and excitement. One year later and, when I allow them to be, those feelings are strong as ever. I don't think they will ever diminish.

In daylight or in darkness, the map is my portal. I can stand on a mountain as I fold the laundry or I can close my eyes and fall asleep to the rhythm of footsteps and trekking poles. I can relive any day, any hour, any step.

Tonight I choose to be on Abol bridge, standing silently in the golden hour and crying for the inevitable end that stands so closely in front of me. I feel the exhaustion in my body and the excitement in my heart as I watch the shadows lengthen in the sunset for one last time. And tomorrow...

Tomorrow I will choose to walk across the tablelands of The Greatest Mountain, reliving seven beautiful months of freedom and adventure in one final mile. I will kneel behind the weathered sign and hold my arms in the air because I know that I will always be a thru-hiker.

7 comments:

  1. hover, this post just took my breath away! thank you for expressing the feelings of a thru-hiker so eloquently, lovely and accurately. you have reminded me to stop what i am doing today and remember a single moment during my thru-hike. be there in my mind, and for that moment, smile so sweetly--the only smile of its kind! thank you for posting. happiest of trails to you!!!

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  2. Stil my favorite blog of the AT...

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  3. beautiful!! i loved your blog... i'll be heading out in march 2013 to find my own trail.

    ps: we need a bear bag update too

    thank you
    rayana adra (acorn)

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  4. Hover,
    So great that you are still posting occasionally! Many inspired me to hike the AT (you most of all) and I was successful in that regard! I began my Journey on the AT March 20 this year, at Springer and finished on Katahdin on September 24. I now know how you (and many other thru-hikers) feel at the end of such an amazing experience. The joy of completeing such an immense undertaking. The greatfulness to all those who helped along the way (ie. the AT family, Trail Angels, etc.) and the sadness that comes with it all coming to an end. The last night on the trail was very difficult and the climb up the Big K was an immensely gratifying experience. To see that Northern Terminus sign in front of me, that had been placed so vividly in my mind for weeks, will never be forgotten. I have been home a month now and my thoughts constantly drift back to Maine, the Whites and even "Rocksylvania". Your experience and journal definitely gave me the drive to go for it and I thank you for that. We thru-hikers and section hikers are a part of the great community that is the Appalachian Trail and will forever be. I saw yours and Bear Bags summit photos hanging at many hostels and places along the way, and although we have never met, I feel like I know you and Bear Bag so well. Good luck in all you do, and perhaps our paths may cross on the AT someday!

    Chris "OVERDRIVE" Hood
    GA->ME 2012

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  5. Thank you so much for writing this blog and posting your videos. I've decided to bite the bullet and do a thru hike in 2014. I'm a young, single female traveling alone (unless something happens in the next year and a half), so it was very helpful to read about your fears and the wonderful friends you made along the way. Your story has really inspired me and I teared up while reading several parts. Your gear reviews have helped a lot as well. I can't wait to hit the trail!

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  6. Very good blog and awesome videos. Inspireing and makes me want to do a thru as soon as I can. If you write a book please advertise on YouTube. I would buy it for sure. One of the beat blogs and video journal about the AT. Thank you very much.
    -Joe

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