When I set out to do my AT Thru Hike in 2012 I was pretty confident I’d make it all the way to Katahdin, but I was prepared to settle down after my hike. In fact, the last month of my thru hike couldn’t end fast enough. I had plans… I was going to go back to work and live the exact same life I had lived before the trail. When I fell upon the Katahdin sign on September 11th, 2012 I cursed the last 2184.2 miles and bid them good riddance because I had gotten the hike out of my system. What happened next I was totally unprepared to deal with. I absolutely missed hiking. I missed waking up tired and sore and hungry. I missed smelling terrible, putting on socks that were standing up on their own, and having greasy hair. About a month after my hike had ended I attended The Gathering in West Virginia where I got to see other hikers again. I did some trail magic for some of my friends who had flip-flopped and were now heading south. It was almost as if I had a white blaze-sized hole in my heart. In my mind before leaving for Springer that day in late March, I had visions of myself standing alone on top of mountains, conquering every peak, taking in epic sunsets, and basically looking like I just stepped out of a granola bar commercial. I wasn’t interested in zero days or hiking in a group or even finding a hiking partner. I thought I’d finish quickly and come back to civilization rejuvenated and ready to pick my career back up. In reality, sometimes I hurried up and over a peak to miss a hail storm, found myself stopping in town for a quick bite to eat and staying for a few days, and hiked all the way from Tennessee to Maine with the same person. I learned to love talking to strangers for hours and connecting with people in a new way. I hadn’t had the thru hike I wanted originally, but I got the thru hike experience I had obviously not even known I needed. In early 2013, after going back to my pre-trail life for only six months I decided I just couldn’t take it anymore. I quit my job, packed up my stuff, and went to work for a hostel in Maine, working from May until October in some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen. I worked with and helped hikers prepare for a southbound hike and I helped NoBo’s get back home after their journeys. Those several months had me working up to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week for very little pay in terms of money, but were hugely rewarding in so many other ways. I got to stay connected to the trail community I loved. I got to meet people from all walks of life who were essentially going through the exact same things I had gone through. It was like hiking the trail, but was missing some of the essential parts – mostly the physical act of hiking. Now here I am two years after my hike and a year after moving away from the trail that I love. While I still get some hiking in, nothing compares to those months I spent living with only the gear on my back. I have learned since 2012 that while I love the community and camaraderie of the AT, the trails that are less-traveled are truly where I feel I belong. In 2015, I will be taking on four long distance trails with my hiking partner since 2012, NoKey. We will be hiking The Benton MacKaye Trail, The Finger Lakes Trail, The Northville-Placid Trail, and The Long Trail starting in the spring. These shorter, but no less beautiful and rugged, trails are truly gems and deserve to get the exposure of the more popular National Scenic Trails in the U.S. I’m very excited to share the journey with everyone reading out there!