Did you find what you were looking for? I was asked that a lot when I finished my hike and it kind of caught me off guard. My initial thought was that I didn’t know I was looking for anything. Was I supposed to be? I think it’s a great question though. Why did I go on such a long walk? Was there something I was searching for? Maybe, running away from?
It’s hard to run away from anything on the trail. Maybe a porcupine, they are pretty slow, but everything else finds a way of catching up to you. Well, at least it did to me. You are left to yourself and your mind wonders just about as much as you do. Part of me was running away from time. Maybe that sounds like a foolish thing but I wanted to do something with it and hiking the AT seemed to be the perfect way to spend it. By the way, you have nothing but time on the trail. If that’s what you’re running from, that’s all you’ll find. After about 5 miles that becomes a quick realization. How many times can I think the same thoughts over and over. I guess I didn’t realize my brain was so repetitive.
I love to survive. That might sound weird but my favorite days on the trail were when I was most challenged. When I was emptying my guts at 3am trying to get to a town. Being stuck in a crazy thunder-storm in my little hammock, (I always made sure to pack a couple hammocks in case I get stuck in a storm again). Walking in the rain. Hiking 27 miles to get to a grocery story before it closes because I was completely out of food. You don’t forget those stories. You forget the stories that are easy where nothing really happens. I think part of me was looking for stories. Maybe something to impress my grand kids, if I get that far.
There were so many reasons I hiked. Most are too vague to tell. I think I needed to clear my head. I needed to process my life’s events and anxieties. All those things we refuse to find time to think about. Well, I shouldn’t say we. All those things I never seem find time to think about. Getting my heart right. Learning more about who I am. Learning to be alone. You don’t have to be alone on the AT, especially if you are a NOBO(north bounder). But you know that might have been one of the best things about it.
So back to the original question. Did I find what I was looking for? Yeah and more. If you have the means to go on such an adventure, I know that you won’t regret it.