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The Thing About Thru-Hiking

The thing about thru-hiking is…you’ll hear about people who do this thing, this crazy thing, taking time out of their lives to hike thousands of miles in the wilderness, and you’ll think YES. That. I want to do that. You’ll keep it a secret for a while, finding a few hours here or there to pore over thru-hiker blogs, learning about how they did it – their gear, their planning, their journey, their struggle, their triumph. The spark inside you burns deeper. You shift from dreaming to doing. To buying gear and planning. Figuring out the how and the when, how much it will cost, what gear you will carry. Telling the ones you love who inevitably shake their head in disbelief, and ask “why?!”

And no matter how much you try, you won’t be able to articulate it to others to their or your satisfaction. No one who hasn’t felt this spark will understand. Even if they express awe and admiring wonder at your crazy endeavor. They. Won’t. Get. It.

But you go anyway. You put on a brave face for your loved ones. Tell them there’s no need to worry. You’ve done the research, the planning, the buying of gear and dehydrated food. You have a spreadsheet with mileage goals and resupply packages stacked in neat little rows in the closet, ready to be mailed out to mysterious places you’ve never been, but whose names you know well. Tehachapi. Kennedy Meadows. Crater Lake. Snoqualmie Pass. Stehekin.

You’re ready. You tell them and yourself that you’re not scared. But deep inside, you are. You’re venturing into the unknown. The wilderness that is both outside and inside yourself – this vast wonderland of deserts and mountains and valleys out there and the deep well of guts and strength and willpower within. Every day you’ll dip into this well, deeper and deeper, wondering when it will run dry and finding through all of the pain, suffering, self-doubt, and mental demons thrown at you that somehow it never does run dry so long as you keep stubbornly putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. One. Step. At. A. Time.

Miraculously each steps adds up to hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of steps which carry you 2,650 miles from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border and you’ve done it. Your dream. This crazy, beautiful, incomprehensible act and it’s done, it’s finished. By now you’re tired of sleeping in your tent and going days without showering. The dehydrated food and instant coffee is a little old. And bugs. You’re really tired of bugs. Not to mention the daily drudgery of digging a hole to shit in the woods. You’re ready to trade in the nomadic life for the creature comforts of home, a sense of normalcy. You float home in the brilliant glow of your triumph, excited to see your friends and family and share all the glorious and gritty tales of your adventure.

And they’re happy to see you. Thrilled for your achievement. Still in disbelief that you did this awesome thing. They rave over your pictures and want to hear “all about your hike”, but in a few sentences. Maybe twenty minutes max with a few follow-up questions for the extra curious. And that’s it. You feel deflated. But you can’t blame them. They don’t get it. And that’s ok. If you’re completely honest with yourself, even you don’t completely get it. How could you possibly sum up this story, take the long line of steps in your journey that took you from the dreaming to the planning to the walking to the completion of your dream and tie it up with a neat little bow in a few sentences or paragraphs?

You post photos on Instagram of breathtaking landscapes that most people will never see in a lifetime. Remote places you can’t drive to or even reach on a long day hike. Your phone won’t stop lighting up with notifications of “likes” and comments. But you know the photos only show the spectacular highlights, which in themselves seem like a good enough reason to go out there. Jaw-dropping scenes like these were a huge part of the allure of doing a thru-hike. But when you were actually out there, you discovered it was so much more. The sum of so many ineffable things impossible to capture in a photograph.

You can’t photograph how ridiculously heavy your pack felt when you put it on fully loaded, at the heaviest it would ever be, laden with six days of food and six liters of water for the first long waterless stretch of trail. Or the slight panic you felt inside when you realized you could barely lift this bag out of the trunk of the car, so how could you possibly put it on your back and walk with it for the twenty miles you plan to conquer that first day, let alone twenty miles the next day, and the next day, and the next day. But for the first of many times on the trail you act like you know what you’re doing, that you know you’re going to make it even though you’re completely clueless, and then it’s on, you’re strapped in, it really doesn’t feel that bad and you start hiking.

You can’t photograph the nearly sleepless night you spent camped in a dry creek bed in the desert listening to an animal pacing back and forth near your tent while your friend is cowboy camped nearby and you’re too afraid to turn on your headlamp to try and get a better look at what’s stalking you, you just know that it’s big and whenever you think it’s gone away, it comes back, softly but persistently padding through the tall grass while you toss and turn on your air mattress, clutching your safety whistle and gazing at the host of sparkling stars in the dark sky overhead and sleep somehow eventually finds you and mercifully cloaks you in darkness for a couple of hours. Then the dawn comes and you wake up and pack up your tent and keep hiking.

You can’t photograph the inner tumult of fear, doubt, uncertainty as you trudged through the snow to the bottom of Forester Pass, looking up at the tiny “v” shaped pass you’re supposed to climb to several hundred feet up, but the switchbacks are covered in snow and won’t you slip and fall trying to get up there in only your trail running shoes? But there are the footsteps of those who have gone before, kicked into the snow in a vertical line going, up, up, up and the only way out is forward so you put your head down, put one foot into the snow, then the other, diligently concentrating on each. And. Every. Step. Then suddenly you’re on a solid, rocky trail again, you reach the scary part you’ve heard about, the infamous snow chute you have to cross with a sheer drop to the left all the way down, but you find that the fear and dread you’ve built up in your head is so much worse than the thing itself and before you know it, you’re across, you’re at the top, you’re at the highest point on the PCT, your face is scorched from the sun reflecting off the snow and your head and legs and everything aches, but you’re elated, on top of the world. There are several more snow-covered passes to climb so you keep hiking.

You can’t photograph the terror you felt inside as you inched your way down that one sketchy snow field coming down to Sonora Pass then suddenly found yourself, slipping, sliding down a steep snow slope with sharp rocks beneath until you somehow stop yourself and, instead of bursting into tears like you want to, just start to kick in steps sideways while you cling to the snowy mountain face with numb hands and feet and somehow drag yourself and your pack back to a safe place where you then proceed to shake and cry and let go of all the feelings until it’s all out and you feel empty and exhausted. Then you get up, shake it off, and keep hiking.

You can’t photograph the day you woke up and started hiking at 4am out of Seiad Valley to beat an intense July heat wave while you tackled one of the biggest climbs of the trail and one moment you’re hiking along behind your friends, headlamps swinging in the darkness trekking in a neat line steadily up, up, up the switchbacks and the next moment you inexplicably start to have an intense emotional breakdown with waves of self-doubt gushing up, through, and out in the form of tears that you try to suppress, but can’t, so you just stop frequently and let your friends get ahead because you can’t explain to yourself or them what’s happening, you just feel like your legs are made of lead, and your insides are going to explode, and no way can you make it up this 5,000 foot climb, and is this where it all ends? But you find your way to the top of the first climb and sit, breathe, feel the wind in your face, and take in the incredible views all around you – where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going – and then you get up and, no matter how hard it feels, you keep putting one foot in front of the other until you’ve almost gone 30 miles for the day and climbed more than 8,000 feet which will be one of the most physically demanding days of the entire hike. And still you get up the next day and you keep hiking.

You can’t photograph the speechless wonder you felt while standing surrounded by the most spectacular scenery you’ve ever seen in your life – ascending above the clouds in the San Gabriel mountains before descending thousands of feet to the dry desert valley below; climbing steep passes in the Sierra Nevada and seeing nothing but snow-capped granite peaks for miles; on the rim of Crater Lake gazing across the wide expanse of its impossibly blue waters; on the brink of the Knife’s Edge looking out toward Mt. Rainier then tracing the backbone of high exposed mountain ridges through the Goat Rocks Wilderness; walking shrouded in clouds and mist along rocky ridgelines in Washington, then turning a corner and seeing the clouds lift to reveal a bevy of crystal clear alpine lakes nestled in an emerald green valley far below. You take a thousand photos which are beautiful in their own right, but can’t begin to capture the essence of everything you’ve seen and felt.

You’ll look back at these photos in wonder for years to come, but you won’t just remember those magnificent landscapes, you’ll remember the miles and miles you walked, trudging through hot desert sand, traversing miles of snow fields in the Sierra, inching up and down steep rocky trails in Yosemite, racing through forests trying to outrun yellow jackets and clouds of mosquitoes, stumbling across jagged lava fields, gliding along exposed ridgelines in Washington when your hiking legs felt stronger than ever and your whole mind and body began to harmonize with nature as if you were a part of, not separate, from the land and air and creatures around you, and everything seems to hum and beat with the rhythm of your footsteps as if you’d tapped into the hidden heartbeat of the universe.

So the thing about thru-hiking is, you didn’t really take time out of your “real life” to go live some pretend life out in the wild. All of these things were just as real, sometimes a thousand times more real, than so-called real life, and even though you can’t explain it in a neat little consumable package for everyone else, you can look back in wonder at the places you’ve been both outside and inside yourself, all the sensations you’ve experienced – the pain, joy, suffering, highs, lows, fears, triumph – and realize that you loved it, all of it, none of those things could be had without the other and, inexplicably, the days you suffered the most were probably the best days of all, when you found the deep scary place in your head that said “no” and you resolutely, persistently said “yes” and pulled yourself up to the top of the mountain and found out how much you were capable of.

Best of all, the journey isn’t over, it’s never over, because you found that the incredibly transformative power of a thru-hike wasn’t even in the trail itself or in the accumulation of miles and experiences. That following your dreams means loving and embracing the work, even the hard parts, yes, especially the hard parts. Reaching the end of the trail wasn’t the pinnacle of some magical transformation or reception of transcendental wisdom, but finding the keys that unlocked new ways of living and seeing the wild, wonderful world around you, that there are no answers, only questions. And the journey continues by living those questions, living moment by moment, waking up every day and doing the work, often failing, but always trying and stubbornly moving forward, one step at a time.

89 comments

  1. Great post! Have you had any of the post thru hike blues?

    1. Thanks, M! Yes, a few post hike blues…took a while to set in and then wham! There they were. I’m doing a lot of running though, which helps, and starting to think about what the next adventure may be. 🙂

  2. This is magnificent. It literally brought me to tears.

    I am past the blog reading and gear buying and well into the explaining to others, but I still have years to go before I get to “But you go anyway.”

    I will go. And I really hope that one day I can explain my own experience as brilliantly as you just explained yours.

    1. Thank you! I’m humbled by your kind words. It took a while for me to find the space and clarity to sit down and let this flow. Definitely had a few emotional moments while writing this, so it is gratifying to hear that it touched others as well.

      You will go, and it will be hard and magnificent, beautiful and painful, all of the things you imagine it will be and so much more. You’ll know when the time is right. Best of luck to you when that time comes around.

      DC

    2. Very well put. Look at the Colorado Trail, Arizona Trailor even the John Muir Trail to warm up your legs and heart.

  3. This is the absolute best post-hike blog I’ve read in the last two years (and I’ve read a lot!). Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can’t wait for April!!!

    1. Thanks, Dustin! Happiest of trails to you next April. I’d love to follow your journey if you decide to keep a blog.

  4. I am completely in awe of your journey and the decision to follow your dream in the first place. This post is relatable to those who dream of a thru hike and to those with other dreams that seem equally “crazy” to the world. I read every word of Proton’s blog after you recommended it. There was something so positive and motivational in every post along with the amazing views, of course! I can’t wait to see what your next adventure is and to pick your brain when my husband and I do some more serious hiking sometime in the future!!

    1. Thanks so much, Angela! I’m glad my journey and words could inspire a little bit. Happy to be brain-picked about hiking any time. I just may not know when to shut up about it. 😉

  5. I won’t even begin to bore with unnecessary words…what you wrote was beautiful.

    1. Many thanks, Bon. Peace and happy trails to you.

  6. Very well written. What an adventure. You are a very strong woman and we are all very proud of you and your bravery.

    1. Thank you, Laurie. 🙂

  7. Sus,
    Thanks so much for writing this. My compliments won’t be as eloquent or as vivid as your descriptions, but you’re writing always has been some of the best that I’ve ever read since you were in your teens.
    I love you, and look forward to seeing you.
    Love,
    Dad

    1. Thanks, Dad! Love you, too.

  8. Wow…best post of the year from all the blogs I’ve read…love it.

    -GoalTech

    1. Thanks, Goal Tech!

  9. Took me right back there! Well written and emotionally spot on.

    The blues took a while to really manifest themselves for me and running is also my therapy until I can find something else to consume my overactive mind.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Hollywood (Class of 2016)

    1. Thanks, Hollywood! I think I met you briefly in Beldentown when you were with Morning Glory. 🙂 It’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only one with delayed onset post-thru hike blues. Running definitely helps a lot. Good luck with whatever adventures are in store for you next!

      Dreamcatcher

    2. Hollywood, you all of us a post, what happened, where you at, you need to post a final blog, we all miss you..glad to hear you are still alive!

      Bon

  10. You are a gypsy goddess. And a great writer. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    1. Thank you, dear! 🙂

  11. This is one of the best pieces of writing about the trail I have ever read! You have covered it all: the indescribable reason for doing the trail, the excitement and fear in the beginning, the swirl of emotions throughout the hike and the post-hike experience. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Alissa, thanks so much for the kind words! Happy trails ~ DC

  12. This really does just get to the heart of how I feel after the trail. Thank you so much for such a well written and beautiful piece.

    Sunrise Chatterbox

    1. Thanks, Sunrise Chatterbox! There has to be a good story behind that trail name. 🙂

  13. Me too DC
    Saunter

    1. Thanks, Saunter. Planning the next adventure yet? 🙂

      1. PCT 2017 . And yourself?

  14. Susanna,
    Once a Dream-Catcher always a Dream-Catcher…
    My favorite line:
    “the days you suffered the most were probably the best days of all, when you found the deep scary place in your head that said “no” and you resolutely, persistently said “yes” and pulled yourself up”
    So true.
    Dream on,
    Larry

    1. Thanks, Larry. Will do!

      Always dreaming,
      DC

  15. This was beautiful and I can relate so well to it. I never realized when I was hiking that being done would be the hardest part, but that’s so hard to explain to people and you did it so well. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Dilly. I know what you mean. Even a month out it’s hard to fully grasp, and I want to talk about it all the time, but sometimes I also don’t. I’m glad my attempt at explaining it resonated with a few other hikers. We’ll probably all have to just do another thru-hike eventually to really figure it out.

  16. This happens in very small part to my husband and I each summer before we take on another section of the PCT. Our lives won’t allow a full summer out there, but the trail calls to us constantly. We are in our 60s and our friends say, ” You are doing that again? Using your whole vacation? Why don’t you go on a cruise?” Yes, yes and um, no thanks! I know they don’t get it. We can’t stay away. Thanks for sharing. It totally hit home even for we who walk slowly for short distances, if 100 miles is a short distance. Congrats on your amazing acheivement!

    1. Thank you, Cinda. I can’t think of any better way to spend a vacation although it seldom feels like a “vacation” in the traditional sense. Keep on adventuring!

      DC

      p/s 100 miles is not a short distance! 🙂

  17. Loved reading this! You’re lighting my spark again to do this! Beautifully written!

    1. Yes! Do it! 🙂

  18. Thank you – you brought tears to my eyes. I am still trying to figure out what is happe,ing to me. Life is a gift and out of all the “don’t get its” that’s one that I continue to repeat. We hit the “awareness” lottery and have been given the ability to explore and continue to expand. I miss the trail! Thanks Again “Climbhigh!”

    1. Awesome trail name, Climbhigh! Thanks for the kind words and keep on exploring. 🙂

  19. I dream of a long thru-hike some day. But I know the feelings you describe so well, as they are the Irish twin of returning “home” after living overseas. Beautiful piece of writing.

    1. I love that comparison. Thanks for reading and sharing, Christine!

  20. This is so beautifully written, thank you. I have spent the last year wanting to thru hike and letting the ” your to old you can’t do that ” comments stop me. Reading your words I could feel the emotions of hiking. Even tho I am 68 I will do this. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. You will, Karen. No one is too old. There were plenty of men 60+ out on the trail – no reason women of any age can’t do the same. Good luck when you do get out there!

  21. OMG! I love this! My hiking partner and I have been dreaming of doing the PCT for years. We have been trying to plan just a small portion of it for the last 3 years. Hopefully we can finally fulfill our dream of doing a very small portion of it this summer. Wonderful, wonderful writing here.

    1. Thank you so much! Good luck on your future PCT adventures. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to offer whatever advice/recommendations I can.

  22. some day…..probably not anytime soon….but some day . And that is enough for now…. I hope!

    1. Yes…someday, you will have the greatest adventure of your life. Happy trails when that day comes!

  23. This is exactly the way it is.
    With a few logistical exceptions, these are the feelings I experienced while doing my Run across the US this year (Oceanside, CA to Ocean City, MD)
    It’s very hard to explain to people who “don’t get it”. Having some blues now. But I’ve done some other epic adventures before, so those are an expected consequence.
    Here’s my Facebook page where I chronicled my journey if you’d like to read about it:
    http://www.facebook.com/RiseUpForTheFallen

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jan! Now that’s an adventure I definitely can’t fully wrap my head around. What an amazing accomplishment – congrats. Will definitely read more about your journey.

      1. Thanks!

  24. This is the most revealing and profound piece I have seen regarding the thru hike. My granddaughter and her boyfriend thru hiked the PCT last year and I finally got it that I will never get it. Her journey is so personal and intimate and hers alone that it must remain so, locked forever in her soul to nourish her for the rest of her life or until the next thru hike.

    1. That’s beautiful. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Judi.

  25. Wow – absolutely gorgeous writing. Thanks for stoking my JMT memories and making me cry a bit.

    1. Thanks, Dave. I’m definitely planning to return and hike the full JMT someday – once is not enough!

  26. I can’t add anything of worth to what others have commented, but thank you for so beautifully expressing your thoughts and experiences.

    1. Thank you, Robin. I so appreciate the kind words from everyone. Happy trails!

  27. Hiked the trail years ago, your writing brought me back. Thanks for putting that feeling into words so well. The dreamlike qualities of this other world, just as true as the concrete one if not more, the triumph and despair and terror, and the stubborn dumbflundedness in trying to explain the significance to anyone else. Maybe everything is like that, secret knowledge contained to those that attempt it, but it seems especially true in nature. See you on the CDT!

    1. Thank you, Lennard. I love that – “secret knowledge”. You can’t explain it, but you know when someone’s talking about it. So true. I don’t know about the CDT…maybe someday! I’m thinking shorter adventures for the next few years, then possibly a longer thru-hike. Good luck on your next adventure, whether that’s the CDT or something else!

  28. Exactly how I feel now in my pre thru hike preparation. I still have a few years to go but I’m sooo anxious to start. Love your writing style.

    1. Thanks so much, Paul. Best of luck when you get out there – enjoy every moment.

  29. Oh wow. I know that that is not particularly eloquent but I am at a loss for words. This left me breathless and speechless. I have read so much, talked to so many, but this piece has captured my raw and wild heart. Thank you.

    With gratitude,
    Lynn

    1. Thank you, Lynn, for the kind thoughts. Your “raw and wild” spirit comes through in only a few words. I’m glad my words could inspire.

      Happy trails to you and yours,

      DC

  30. Pretty long winded for something you have to do to get….just saying. I don’t really tell anyone who doesn’t already know, you just have to do it to get it, nobody else really gives a shit.

    1. No doubt, if you don’t do it, you won’t get it. Writing about the experience, especially after returning from the trail, seemed futile at first, but ended up being a really cathartic exercise and helped me explain to friends what was harder to explain in conversation. For me, it was worth trying, even if only for myself. For others like you, I can see why it seems pointless to explain. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeff, and best of luck on your future thru-hikes/adventures, whatever those may be.

  31. Mis respetos para ti Susanna, las distancias, el esfuerzo, y el tiempo son distintos ahora los sentimientos que expresas son idénticos a los que yo sentí en El Camino de Santiago 500 millas y tu tienes una gran ventaja; eres escritora y sabes decir lo que uno siente, me alegra haberte leído y conocido a través de tus palabras, apenas acabo de entrar en tu blog y no se si has escrito sobre tu vida como senderista con mas extensión, ya lo averiguare y si no es así, le ruego tómese un tiempo y háganos disfrutar de su verbo, siento que le queda mucho por decir. Nuevamente gracias por hacerme recordar.
    My respect for you Susanna, distances, effort, and time are different now that you express the feelings are the same as I felt in El Camino de Santiago (500 miles) and you have a big advantage; You’re a writer and you know say what you feel, I’m glad I read and known through your words, just just enter your blog and do not know if you’ve written about your life as a trekker with more extension, I’ll find out and if not so, I beg you take some time and let us enjoy his word, I feel that much to say. Thanks again for making me remember.
    I’ll take the license to translate “the thing about hiking” and publish it, of course with your permission

    1. Roberto, Thank you for your inspiring words. I would love to hike El Camino de Santiago someday – I met a few on the PCT who had hiked it and found it to be an incredibly life-changing experience. Yes, you may certainly translate and share what I wrote. I’m honored that you would do so!

  32. Hi Susanna, Wonderful piece and not long winded at all. A very personal piece, well written and fun to read. I thank you for sharing it and appreciate the work put into it. I sent the link to a few friends of mine who I hiked the CDT with 30 yrs ago. I’m sure they will enjoy reading it as much as I did.
    Thank you !

    1. Thank you, Mark!

  33. DC, in honor and tribute to your clear, refined eloquence, may I leave this prose. I wrote it only at the Monument 78 Journal .

    I have hiked.

    I’ve hiked to meet the serene faces of harmony and peace.
    I’ve hiked for glimpses of fragility that moves boulders.
    I’ve hiked to instill in my heart the indelible images of majestic mountains, lavish meadows, expansive valleys and forbidding canyons.
    I’ve hiked to renew my faith in humanity by quenching in the life giving generosity of trail magic.
    I’ve hiked to redeem for the shortcut taken in life rat race.
    I’ve hiked to conquer the fear and isolation of forgotten freedom.
    I’ve hiked to balance Nature’s aloofness for man life and death with her acceptance of his rapturous appeal for a fine thread to heaven.
    I’ve hiked to purify the vision of infinity with simplistic deeds.
    I’ve hiked to sense the indomitable spirit granted on each step.
    I’ve hiked to pause in cathetral forest and breathe in the stillness of forever time .

    Lastly, I’ve hiked to know and realize that I have destroyed nothing to get here except the fear and doubt that prevented me from discovering my true worth.

    Half-slow. PCT 2015

    1. This is so, so beautiful. Thanks for your sharing your words, Half Slow – this truly spoke to my soul.

  34. You capture so well the feelings we have while in the wilderness on a challenging hike. Thanks for sharing.
    Sekihiker

    1. Thank you!

  35. What a wonderful insight into thru hiking. I haven’t been the length of the trail but have section hiked some of the Southern California trail and met many thru hikers. I enjoy the spirit of oneness they all seem to share. Thank you for taking the time to share! You are so right that not many get it!

    1. Thank you! It is a very special community to be a part of.

  36. A very good read. And although I’ve never through-hiked, except maybe Isle Royale, I relate to almost every word. When I’m backpacking, I do feel like life is more real, and despite every photograph I take and share, very few people will ever get it. I have struggled to articulate it over the years. Many people get day hiking, but few get carrying everything on your back and sleeping on the ground. I’ve been living up here in NE Oregon for a year surrounded by prime backpacking areas, but haven’t found anyone to go out with. Risks I took hiking solo when I was young and childless I don’t feel quite willing to take now. Anyway, I’m looking forward to moving back to California where I know more people to go backpacking with me. And perhaps when I retire at age 57 and my son will be 23 we’ll embark on a PCT journey together 🙂

    1. Yes, such a different experience! I hope you do find your way out to the trail. You’ll have an incredible journey beyond your expectations.

  37. Such a concise picture of the world of outdoor adventure. I am planning and packing and planning and packing right now for an April 2017 departure. I have suffered many times on the side of a vertical wall, only to reach the summit and relish every moment of the journey and I look forward to what you have described so eloquently this coming year!

    Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thank you! Yes, the work is truly what it’s all about. Good luck with your 2017 hike and let me know if you have any questions I can help with.

  38. I’ve been home from my thru – hike for a month now and thought I was recovered. Tonight after coming home I read your post and for no reason at all, tears started pouring down my face. You captured it. Your writing absolutely nailed it.

    Much love and respect,
    -Miles ’16

    1. Thank you, Miles! So true. I thought I was recovered, too, and I’ll look at some pictures and *boom* I’m homesick for the trail.

  39. I’m only a section hiker who aspires to be a thru hiker, scared that I’m getting to old to do it.
    Your writting is incredible and I makes me feel that yes I can do it too.
    Anet

    1. Yes, you can. Thanks for the kind words, Anet.

  40. DC, I just read this and it brought tears to my eyes. Then I found out you wrote it. It’s brilliant! It speaks so clearly to me. Of course, you took me along for this amazing ride so I shared so much of it with you. You are amazing. I love you. Did I tell you how awesome you are? You are awesome!!! Proton

    1. Thanks, Proton! And thanks for being a part of it. What an unforgettable journey!

  41. I only can say “wow”! After two miserable attempts on the PCT a very deep longing for this trail hits me from time to time and I haven´t felt it so brutally for a long time. Just had some difficulties reading the last paragraphs because of the tears in my eyes. 😉
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and emotions about a great adventure and life changing experience.

  42. Feelings buried so deep that only recent thru-hikers can bring out, feelings that only other thru-hikers can relate.

    Thank you for writing and letting me remember those moments. It has been 20 yrs since I’ve done my thru-hike and continue to struggle, perhaps forever, on sharing what it’s like. All the best!

  43. At age 60, my first thru-hike was a “crash and burn,” but I intend to try again in 2018 at 62. You perfectly captured my own experience, from reading everything I could, to boring the crap out of my friends, to buying equipment, to finding myself on the AT. Thank you for putting into words the unexplainable. Plodding Bison, AT 2016, Now known as Determined Bison

  44. This is such a great post. I hiked the JMT last summer and am hooked by that almost ethereal pull to get back out there to the mountains. This April, I start my PCT thru-hike.
    Your writing about the trail communicates something that I’ve been trying to put in to words for a while now. Knowing others feel the same way is really heartening. Thank you. 🙂

  45. Grounded beauty wrapped in loving oneness……thanks so much

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