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March 6 2023, Chattahoochee Gap to Deep Gap Shelter: I have often preferred to travel alone. Sometimes, like today, I apparently missed having a close companion. More so, the close connection with a man. I pondered what it would feel like to have a partner to travel with… to walk with… to hitchhike with… to stargaze with. I’ve had plenty of magical experiences with men from all over the world, but never long term with just one person.
I guess it will never be—at least not at this moment in time. I feared to my core that with another person I would draw back from the wild and often intense situations that led me to the richest experiences. The escapades on the road and on trail felt as though they brought me to the edge of my salvation. And it appeared that the path of solitude was the avenue I was given to receive the deepest insights that would over time blossom into self-reflective awakenings.
And so it was, that I kept walking—never allowing anyone to get too close or too comfortable. I was sure many people perceived me as the type of person that wore my heart on my sleeves. In a way I did, but when it came time to commit, I would guard my heart in fear that I would lose something I held dear—the nomadic life.
My friend Brendan joked, “It’s funny how your fear of commitment extends past personal relationships and into hiking.” He wasn’t wrong, haha! For those of you who haven’t been following along, I tended to get antsy being on one trail and would often hitchhike to do another trail in between the one I was on. Guess I wasn’t ready to settle for just one trail, either!
When I made it down to Unicoi Gap, I got offered a ride into Helen, however the inspiration guided me to keep walking. I told them I appreciated it, but that I’d be on my way. The woman in the backseat gave me a cold banana and a honey-crisp apple. Something about the way an apple tasted on trail was magic in itself.
I had an extra boost of energy and hiked a pretty big mileage day. I went down to Deep Gap Shelter; it was extremely empty compared to what I experienced the first week. I met a girl named Pinto who worked in the military and wanted to thru-hike the AT to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. I was pretty sure that made most of us on trail! We ate dinner with a hiker named Randy along with an ATC volunteer. Eventually, a guy named Eric joined us, too.
I loved how simple it felt out here. No talk about politics or what was happening “out there”. No drama, except for maybe some blisters someone happened to pop that day or a climb that kicked someone’s ass. What was shared on trail were moment to moment experiences.
Mostly everyone I met was experiencing the AT as their first thru-hike. I saw so much of myself in them. I could sense the anxiety and excitement they were undergoing.
Hiking your first thru-hike felt similar to your first romantic relationship. You were meeting yourself in ways that seemed new and exciting, yet heavy and intense. Left alone with your thoughts confined to your mind, you were required to take responsibility for the feelings that would inevitably arise. Your body reacted in ways you hadn’t seen, your mind tempted you into giving up, yet you had an impulse to push past the perceived pain.
Over the years, I felt I built confidence in the path in which my footsteps had guided me. I felt as though I could offer advice to those who were open to receive. I felt more in tune to what worked and what didn’t. I remembered how often I dealt with thoughts of giving up, wondering why I would ever put myself in situations that required so much physical exertion and perseverance of mind—but through inspired guidance, here I was… still on my feet. With my home on my back, inspired more than ever to feel through each step as Spirit showed me the way back into my heart.