Saturday, November 12, 2016

48 Hours

I honestly can't believe that I am two days away from completing this thru-hike. All that separates me from finishing is 36 miles, where I will end my hike at Davenport Gap Road. Over six months ago, on May 13th, I hobbled 0.9 miles from the shelter we stayed at down to Davenport Gap Road. I then sat, in the rain, on a rock waiting for the Shady Creepers to come pick me up to go to Trail Days in Virginia. Little did I know, that a weekend of rehab in Hot Springs, NC wouldn't be enough to get me waking again, and that I'd need four weeks at home to get myself healthy enough to hike once more. I had spent so much time thinking about Katahdin and what it would be like to finish there. But in reality, I am going to be more excited to sit on the same rock I sat on back in May.

My month long departure from the trail, incredibly hard return to the trail (twice), and the strength it took me to do all of that will be perfectly summed up by that lonesome rock on Davenport Gap Road. It is the most nondescript dirt road, but to me, it is everything. It's the pain I went through in the Smokies, the determination it took me to rehab and return, and the strength it took me to come back to the trail to finish what I started. All along I thought Katahdin was what mattered most, and it definitely has personal ties for me, but this rock I sat on for three hours in May, could mean more to me than the hardest climb on the trail.

I have been thinking about the end of the trail for the last few weeks and have had so many emotions surrounding it. I've realized, that by completing my thru-hike in this southern section, I've been so fortunate. I've met amazing new people, have laughed endlessly, and have had the best four weeks. The trail has been amazing down here, and I have loved every mile. The last few weeks in Maine were so physically and mentally challenging. I had this constant "I want to be done" feeling while hiking up there - even though the hiking was some of the most beautiful on the trail! Down here, however, I haven't had that thought. I've really appreciated every single second of the trail. I think that knowing the end is near, not being constantly exhausted, and having more energy, I've been able to enjoy more of the trail. My mindset is now more on the lines of "enjoy every minute, because it's going to end soon." I feel that my perspective has changed, and I'm so grateful that I am taking in every last second of this trail while I have it. All of my friends who have finished already, keep telling me how much they miss the trail and its lifestyle. I think that has been super helpful in making me appreciate this even more.

I don't take any of this for granted. I truly understand how lucky I am to have the time, the means, and the determination to finish this trail. I don't underrate how small the trail community is and how supportive we are of one another. I have met some of the most amazing people both on trail and off. On the trail, one of the most cliche expressions is "this has restored my faith in humanity." It's so true. Whether it be the hitchhike pick up from the random local, a day hiker giving you food, or another ThruHiker telling you about the upcoming water sources. There are so many people in this world who are more than willing to help out random strangers.

Along with that, this trail has given me time to think. It has cleared my mind on so many fronts. I've been given the ability to prioritize what is most important in my life and what I want to accomplish. I've created long bucket lists. I've figured out what I DON'T want to do. I've realized it's okay to do things for myself. I've learned that I want to help people more. I've been broken hearted over the state of our country. I've been broken hearted over people. I've instantly loved random strangers I was hiking with. I've appreciated nature. And most of all, this trail taught me not to sweat the small stuff. Perspective is a hard thing to gain, and this trail has provided me with that luxury.

So I'm not sure how I'll react in two days when I finish the trail. I would imagine it'll be a mix of proudness, accomplishment, sadness, happiness, and excitement for what comes next. I do know, that I'll never forget these six and a half months. 

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