There’s a phrase used in the drum corps community that goes something like this:
“For those who know, no explanation is needed. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible”.
It attempts to sum up the fact that it is impossible to put into words what it feels like to go through a season of DCI with the highs and lows and camraderie and accomplishment and challenges that come with leaving the real world for a few months on end and heading on tour to do something so immersive and disconnected.
That phrase is also exactly how I feel about the Appalachian Trail right now. I came out here for a myriad of reasons that are hard to decipher even for myself, other than the fact that I like hiking and I just felt a strong compulsion to come to the trail where I knew I would be in an environment where I function better and knew that it would be something I made happen eventually. I chuckled at the cliches such as it being assumed that I was trying to find myself or prove something to myself. The trail doesn’t have to be some transcendental experience, but rather just a love of the outdoors and the hiking community. Yet in this moment I find myself at a loss for words to sum up the last few weeks because I feel like I’ve been shown something I didn’t even know I was looking for, and I don’t know how to admit that maybe the cliches can be real.
I would have thought I would have been a mile pusher. I remember coming out here saying that my goal was to do as much of the trail as possible in the time I had for this section. The trail was another completion goal, another check mark of something I wanted to do.
I’ve crossed paths with people and places in the last 240 miles of trail that have shown me something so profoundly different than the way I was functioning before that sometimes I feel this last piece of me still hanging on, clinging or searching for some little anxiety to worry about because it’s almost incomprehensible to fully let go and realize that in some moments I feel so happy and at peace that it’s real and it’s ok.
I’ve been shown that the trail is not going anywhere and if I stop thinking about the completion of it but notice what pieces of it are currently surrounding me, it’s ok. I’ve learned that my goal most days is just to be, and just being and letting go can feel like more of a challenge to maintain than always pushing myself. Calming down and not worrying about it when I take one extra day in town or hike a shorter day has turned into something that feels more like a personal accomplishment than the numbers and miles and elevation gains.
The goal of finishing this trail isn’t lost in that, and in fact is stronger than ever. It’s just that what I thought was important at the beginning of the trail has shifted so drastically that I wonder how I’m going to proceed with my life as before, or if I’ll come home and forget what I was shown.
I thought I would write more often and write about more trail logistics, yet here I sit feeling like I’m already spending too much time on my phone right now because I feel like I should be taking in the evening. I can’t wait to write more when I’m back home about trail moments I’d love to share.
The logistical update for now is that I’ve completed just over 240 miles of trail. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is complete, a section I’m happy to be through because there are more camping restrictions that sort of create a schedule/limited options in terms of the hiking plan each day. The higher elevation also brought some colder nights. On Thursday I grabbed a ride up to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days, a festival that happens every year. It was a blast of a weekend, a vacation from the vacation, and now I head north from here with friends I made a few weeks ago. I’ve jumped ahead about 200 miles from where I left off, which means I’ll complete the 200 mile section from the end of the Smokies to Damascus, VA later on.
Take in what is in front of you every day.