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Larsen Reflects from the Appalachian Trail

I think sometimes it’s hard to appreciate an experience until you are watching it fade into your past. It makes me wonder if sometimes the memory is better than actually living the experience. It’s hard to contend with the fact that it’s day 88 and I only have nine days left to traverse this wonderful and complicatedly beautiful trail. I think you would become quite jaded if all aspects of your life flowed this freely through you.

I don’t know where the time went. The days have started to blend together in that way that only happens in a state of constant motion. A faded cacophony of memories, passing conversations, blended landscapes, and routine. I get up every morning and wonder if I’m really absorbing any of what surrounds me, a world untethered from reality.

But if I really think about it hard enough I can conjure intricately woven memories that are only slightly blurry at the edges. Connections and conversations with individuals I will probably never see again. But then there’s times where through happenstance paths cross, new connections are formed, and you realize everything is so much smaller than it seems.

In certain ways it’s kind of vexing to feel like I’ve accomplished so much yet am still so far from the end. One’s mindset is one of those things that takes decades to whittle into a perfect form. To truly understand how to never ever lose control, It’s easy to fall into those pits of self doubt where instantly your mind is your biggest enemy. I think above all else that is what hiking teaches me the most. Learning to move fluidly with the fluctuations of mind, learning to push past comfort.

There’s no escaping looking at myself in the mirror every day and coming to terms with the blunt reality. I don’t believe thru-hiking changes your life, you come out the same person. Rather, it gives us the opportunity to reflect, the opportunity to enact change in self. I am struggling to dissect this reflection, struggling to understand where I want to place my energy. But lately there has been no state of reflection, just a state of motion. 

I think Appalachia was integral in helping to strip me of complications. The immersive feeling of being shrouded by the spindly limbs of Red Spruce & Balsam firs as I claw my way up steep rock slabs. A contentment to sit with the discomfort and even cherish it. The terrain in Maine is the perfect mixture of irrationality and beauty. A palette of different shades of mosses carpet everything around me, the trail is worn and eroded in places. Gone are the bouts of oppressive humidity that leave you clawing for air, heavy like wet wool. In place are wind-ripped summits of ranges that are returning to the earth. A blotchy sun that permeates in soft pulses, a sky shrouded by wispy clouds. I find myself marooned in a space that resembles confinement, a mix of the physicality and sublime. To spend so much time in an environment but still be vastly alienated from the place itself. How sometimes I feel inexplicably lonely and numb in the tranquility of a rain storm. The weight of wind, a thin breeze, moments in time that exclude the staggered and rhythmic motions of time and movement.

In these spaces sometimes it all stands still, where everything can disappear in the dark blink of an eye. The experiences in life that leave me hurt and callused. To disappear into the time, it all feels so sweet, an emptiness, a willingness to wade into the shallowness of vulnerability and fragility. Not irretrievably lost are the youthful aspirations that mingle with the woes of adulthood. A futile devotion to arrange awareness in a jagged mix of imperfect shades of color and the light of shadow.

I am susceptible to the influences of my space. On fire is the setting sun, casting me into a lull. I watch the withering sedges as the light casts irregularities upon them. My breath breaks my day in rhythm. The truth in reason, the divine and organic. Wholly still and composed. I will continue forward, it's the rhythm that softly gurgles deep inside that propels me forward.


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