It’s hard to believe that in only 6 short weeks it will be spring. Which to me, means my imminent return to the East Coast. It feels oddly untimely to be leaving California, like a band aid being torn off too early. Maybe I haven’t fully gleaned all I could from the communities and landscapes I have seen and shared.
Lately, I find I am constantly questioning myself. Can I complete more than 5,000 miles of hiking both the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail? Am I dreaming beyond the confines of reality? Who am I to think I can take on a goal of this magnitude? What is the inherent privilege of being able to refrain from working for almost 9 months? What is the worth and intention of doing a trip like this?
I try to remember my younger self when I hiked The Appalachian Trail for the first time. What I see is a kid trying to find meaning, a kid that was trying to find himself among the expanse of adulthood, among the pressures of academia, and the comparison to peers. In many ways, the AT was an escape for me, a way to try and prove my self-worth. I remember how alone and isolated I felt in those first days. I was scared of the immensity, to hold the weight alone. As days turned to weeks and weeks to months, I moved South in the pursuit of an end. Now, four years later, I wonder if this is the end or the beginning? At this point in my life, I find that I am in need of a longer trail, a larger degree of separation between myself and reality. As the trip grows nearer, I find myself yearning to feel the vastness of distance, the days of relentlessly pushing past, eroding an idea of what it meant to endure but to truly let myself go to the unwavering hand of the natural world.
This past year, I have been consumed by work, to save as much money as I can, while I can. The high mileage weeks that I maintained for months have fallen by the wayside. There are less than two weeks left till I hang up my hat and resign from working for the next 6-8 months. A definite privilege indeed, but also a huge stressor. The next two months are going to be dedicated to preparing physically and mentally for my summer ahead.
Attempting to complete the AT and the CDT is daunting. It’s looking likely I will be starting the season off with a northbound Appalachian Trail effort. I think in a lot of ways I am hiking this trail again to understand what was lost in my younger perspective. To see what the trail imprinted upon me. The AT hugs this fine line between wilderness and anthropocentric infringement. I am excited to fully immerse myself back into the trail culture and lifestyle, a place that feels like home. I am excited to experience the similarities and stark differences between two very different trails.
As I leave California, I hope to find solace, beauty, and internal peace with my thoughts. I wish to let my emotions move at their own pace; to lose touch with expectations. I look forward to moving through an ever-changing landscape again and I am excited to push through my perceived limitations.