August 30, 2014

Dandelion's Break Down

Tomorrow will mark 3 months on the trail. Some days it feels like we were climbing Katahdin just yesterday and other days it feels like so long ago. 
The Mid-Atlantic section of the trail has been a huge mental challenge. Honestly, that's a big reason why I haven't posted lately. The trail has drained me mentally. Everyday has been a battle to keep going. I'm constantly reminding myself why I am out here and trying my best not to take this journey for granted.
I hit my lowest point a week ago in New Jersey. Springer Mountain seemed farther away than ever. I was tired, dirty and hungry. I didn't want to walk any further and I certainly didn't want to sleep in the woods since we had a bear encounter the night before. Why didn't anyone warn me about how much the trail can suck sometimes?! Like really really suck ... for days. The pain, fatigue, monotony, mosquitos, boulder fields, body odor and lack of water had the best of me. I knew that this journey would not be a walk in the park; however, I did not know that there would be weeks of misery. 
I like to believe I'm generally a strong minded person. I find the positives in circumstances easily, but I couldn't find any positives during my break down in New Jersey. "Maybe you are not as strong as you think you are", I thought to myself. 
I miss my friends, family and cats; I miss good smelling shampoo; I miss cooking in a kitchen; I miss being able to walk in the mornings without limping! I found myself questioning why I was putting myself through this torture. So I did what any 25 year old would do, called my mom sobbing. She instantly went into mom mode to help me regain my emotional strength and reminded me that I was living my dream and that "I can do this." Yet, every fiber in my body was saying "just go home to your warm bed and cuddly kitties." The one thing standing between hiking and quitting was my pride softly saying "no way, you aren't giving up now." I sat hopelessly quiet for a long time not knowing what to do. Looooong story short:
FireSquirrel and I ended what we now call "the worst day yet" in a semi-clean, overpriced hotel room . . . safe from bears. We then decided to take a few days off the trail to try to shake my funk. 
8 Days Later
After a few days of rest, milkshakes and soul searching I found my internal strength.
I'm feeling much better- taking it day by day. Although, Pennsylvania hasn't helped the situation. I never thought I would hate rocks so much. They slow you down and you can't enjoy the trail because you have to look at your feet the whole time. Reading the trail registers make me feel better because it seems like everyone is feeling the same. We all curse the rocks! One hiker hated PA so much that she decided to do a flip-flop, meaning she skiped to GA and is hiking back to PA, leaving it for last.  
Voluntary Discomfort  
For all of you who think we are walking through fields of daisies and waking up to colorful sunsets everyday ... well ... now you know that is most certainly not the case. We are usually walking through clouds of mosquitos or boulder fields and waking up to nothing but the stench of our sweaty clothes. 
However, (and that is a big HOWEVER) despite our recent struggles, we are still happy and grateful to be out here.
It's true that the bad days just make the good ones even better. I appreciate sunny days, cool breezes, shelter, clean springs and flat ground more than I ever thought possible.  Even though the trail has pushed us to our limits it continues to reward us with jaw-dropping views, memorable critter encounters, interesting trail towns and kind strangers. Oh, and don't get me wrong, we are blessed with days where we do walk through fields of flowers and wake up to beautiful painted skies. 
My Prayer
One thing I wanted to achieve during my thru-hike was to become a stronger spiritual person. NO DOUBT that has happened. I tend to be a pretty private person when it comes to spiritual beliefs. Though, one thing I am not shy about sharring is that there most definately is a creative most magnificent God that has helped me overcome the toughest obstacles.  My prayer last week is that he would simply help me fall back in love with the woods. (sounds strange) Yeah, how does a hiker not like the woods? Well it happened. I was mad at myself for not enjoying nature like I did at the beginning of my thru-hike. I prayed and prayed for my burning desire to be outside to come back. I can happily say- it did. God has helped me see things through new eyes. He has walked with me over the PA rocks and protected my weak ankles during each clumsy fall. He's calmed me during the nights when I've been afraid. He has even kept me company during the times I hike alone to ensure I keep a positive attitude. Yeah, it's safe to say that I'm gettin' down right spiritual. 

MidAtlantic Recap to come! 
A lot has happened since the last time I've posted. I feel like some stories are worthy of sharing so I'm going to get to work on a Mid-Atlantic recap! It will probably take up my whole zero day but that's ok because it's YOU who helps us keep on going! 

Thanks for all the support and love. BIG thanks to my sweet friends Rob and Nicole Anderson for our thoughtful care package. The bug spray came in super handy! Also, thanks to the most loving and supportive parents- mom, Tanja and John and my sweet Nana. All of the supplies you send us each week, well, kick ass. Lastly, thanks to all of you who send us encouraging texts and Facebook messages. You will never know how much that fuels our strength. 

Happy trails~ dandelion

1 comment:

  1. Good post Amber. I knew you would find your inner strength again. You are one of the most positive, strong young ladies I know and God was trying to get YOU to realize it! Love you so much and believe that you and Stace will have learnt great life lessons to pass onto your children one day. Mum T xoxo