One Year Later: First Appalachian Trail Anniversery
When I first began thru hiking the AT on March 3rd, 2013, I definitely KNEW that I was unprepared. I wasn't sure what coming my way at all. But it is funny to think that in reality I was exponentially less prepared on the day I finished. I had no idea about the torment I was walking into with the post-trail life. It was nice for a moment but then I soon missed my trail family with a severity I can not put into words. I failed over and over at settling back into the routine of "regular life", which felt like fighting the current of a river I was thrown into and could not escape. The months directly after the trail were quite possibly as hard as many of the months on spent the trail themselves. From September through February, I battled a strong lack of direction and misunderstanding of my own life, like I was living someone else's.
I felt aimless and alone. It was my own fault and it was everyone else's fault. I couldn't talk clothes, or make up, or popular music, or movies. They couldn't talk demolishing buffets, or mosquito hell, or bad bog experiences, or great poop stories. I had gone from a family worth dying for to a separation I didn't know how to over come. I dealt with it by bring memories back to life in a written form. If I had no one to talk trail talk with, at least I could keep these thoughts alive on paper.
But things change; hurt lessens; time pulls out the old and brings in the new like the rolling tide. I quit working so much and, subsequently hating my life, when I got a job at REI. I was seeing growth and opportunity in my writing. Most importantly, I began to build another family. Co-workers is a lack luster term for the people I share my job with. It doesn't suffice. They are becoming a whole other family. They have reminded me that I can have brothers and sisters in all stages of life, not just living in a tight, migratory pack in the woods.
We ride our bikes together; we plan big trips together; we drink beer together; we share our dreams and ideals with each other. To have a family again is an incredible feeling. I have always had an amazing family by blood; supportive and loving and fun. But to find strangers and make them into a family because you share life together is one of the most beautiful parts of being a human being. We can (and I have) had so many families over the span of my short life. They help us through life and make it, much of the time, worth living.
Still, there is something special and deep and raw about my trail family. The ease at which we can pick up and feel like we are there all over again. Like we hold the key to a secret world we used to exist in and when we travel back together it is like Neverland; no time has past. It is a beautiful feeling to reminisce. It is one of the great powers of humanity that we carry such strong memories with us for so long. To dive into this world with a brother or sister I made on the trail is a treat I relish.
So today, being my first Trail Anniversary, my world was rocked when I got to spend part of the day with Duffle Miner!! We had last been together while sitting outside of the Kroger in Waynesboro, VA, waiting for the shuttle of the aqua blazing company to come pick him and Jean Genie up. I sat with them until he arrived and then we said out final goodbyes, not knowing if we would cross paths again during out hike. Now he was headed up to the Kennesaw REI to buy a new pack. His was both beautifully and horrendously disheveled by its days on the trail. I had the honor of fitting him for his pack! It was a reminder of how great dealing with experienced hikers always is because they actually know the feel of a pack and can make the decision for themselves. It took no time and then we headed off for lunch and coffee; several hours of catching up, of trail stories, of updating each other on other hikers. The perfect way to spend K-Day!