The End and The Beginning

Today marks the beginning of my final work week.  Over the past few days, many emotions have run through my head, fear, excitement, sadness.  I cannot believe this trip that seemed like lightyears away has finally arrived.  In just five days’ time I’ll be saying goodbye to all of my friends and family and this is a huge deal for me.  I’ve never really left a place before.  I mean, we all move on and grow up, but I’ve really always been able to see my friends and family.  For many years, I felt like I was so alone in this world and in the past few months so many people have demonstrated to me that not only am I not alone, I am loved and supported.  When I first thought up this whole thru hike idea, I said “I’ll do that before I’m 30, I just have to!”  When it evolved very quickly into “If not now, when?” it just felt like the right thing to do.  I never imagined how much it would affect the people around me.  I had no idea was going to be missed like this.  It’s still hard for me to process.  

It’s very surreal to be putting all I’ll need on my back and walking 2,184 miles.  I was reading some back issues of AT Journeys last week at a doctor’s appointment and they have a column written by hikers called “As I See It.”  I read this excerpt and it was really poignant to me: “When I ascended the Trail from Katadhin Springs Campground that morning, I was still a hiker who had traveled from Georgia with a dream of making it to the Katadhin summit.  Granted, at that point, less than six miles from the summit, my chances of fulfilling that dream were pretty high.  But I will be honest, I was two miles from the summit when I asked myself ‘I wonder if anyone has gotten two miles from the summit and turned around?’ With iffy terrain and relatively high winds, I thought it was a valid question to ask.  No one was around to push me to continued, so I could have turned around if I really wanted to.” 

This spoke to me.  The major part of me hiking the AT isn’t the destination of Big K, it’s the journey I’ll take to get there.  Sure, I’ve been saying for months Maine is the part of the trail I am most excited to see.  Summiting Katadhin has been in my dreams for months.  Summiting a mountain does not make or break me though.  For me, there is no failure in this trip.  If I get hurt in Pennsylvania or I get sad in New York or I miss my family, there’s no shame in that.  I absolutely want to finish this and walk each one of the five million steps of the AT.  I’m sure I’ll hate a few of those steps.  I’m sure I’ll love a lot more of them though.  

Every year, roughly 1700 people start the AT and less than 400 people will reach the end.  My mantra has been “Be the 17%” all winter.  I have a lot of confidence that I will be a 17%.  Never in my life have I wanted to be a statistic.  For the first time ever, I am absolutely certain I will complete something.  For the first time ever, I have no doubts about wanting to do something.  As I said in one of my very first posts on here, I feel more confident out on the trail.  I know who I am and what I am capable of doing.  I feel beautiful on the trail.  I feel empowered on the trail.  I know that I belong there.  

So, this is my last long post for quite a while.  My posts will pretty much consist of photos with captions for a while with a few posts thrown in when I can get into town.  Thanks to everyone who is supporting me in my journey.  I couldn’t have been anywhere  near this prepared if it weren’t for all of you.  Your love and support are really helping more than you know.