I love this quote from Art & Fear because it perfectly sums up my experience, so far, with hiking the Appalachian Trail.
I stopped again. But I have not quit.
I’ve been dreading coming back to the blog because coming back would mean sharing that I stopped. I stopped fifteen miles short of Katahdin and with 70 miles left to finish in the Smokies. I was sure I had it this year. Sure I would finish and be able to move on to the next thing—the Long Trail or the Tahoe Rim Trail or the Mountains to Sea Trail.
But I didn’t finish.
And I spent the month of September healing from another injury and grappling with the shame of not finishing what I’d set out to do.
Until this quote from Art and Fear leapt from the page and into my heart and reframed the whole experience of shame I had around quitting.
I’ve come to understand is that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Because I’m not a quitter. I’m someone who chose to stop.
And I will choose to start again.
After hiking from Springer Mountain to Fontana Dam in June, I headed north to Rangeley, Maine and got back on the trail on July 30 and picked up where I got off last year because of a knee thing.
This year I hiked 205 miles to Abol Bridge, where I cried “Uncle,” called my husband and went straight to Walmart to buy a cane.
Forget Texas, don’t you dare mess with Maine.
I think I’ve officially had all the injuries that a long distance hiker can possibly get. IT Band Syndrome. Sinus Tarsi Syndrome. Labrum Impingement. This time it was a little more serious. I had a stress fracture in my pelvis, probably from that one slip and fall (out of several) where I landed on my ass in the splits.
I’m kind of impressed that I kept hiking as long as I did.
So, the task remains incomplete and I continue to refine my understanding of what it means to “hike your own hike.” I meant to hike more slowly. To take zeros in every town. To do fewer miles.
But I got caught up in thru-hiker-think and in proving myself that I forgot there’s nothing to prove. I forgot the joy is in the journey, not reaching the end. I forgot that the last one there wins.
The silver lining, as always, is that I get to go back next year to a place that keeps calling me back. I get another chance to start again.
Meanwhile, here are some things I’ll remember about Maine.