To Die and Not Have Lived At All

I can feel the trail reminding me why I wanted to hike it in the first place. I am enjoying myself.

  Hiking the Appalachian Trail for the past few days has been really enjoyable. I have met people from all over the world hiking the trail for a thousand different reasons, I have learned so much already. I am filled with excitement for the rest of the hike even while part of me feels as if I haven’t any clue what I am getting myself into, I will add.

My first day on the trail was good. We were dropped off midday at Cooper Gap, 12.8 miles north on the trail in hopes that I will eventually catch up with my two friends ahead. (I have previously hiked from Springer to Cooper so I haven’t missed any of the trail no worries) Mom and I hiked five miles to Gooch Mountain Shelter where I met many other thru hikers, a man named Supe, Two Sticks, a man from the Netherlands, three brothers and their friend, and so on. They are all really special people I can already tell.

  The campsite looks like a tent community with a shelter in the middle and a big fire for all the hikers to sit around. The sun would be setting soon so all the hikers had one thing in mind, dinner! Everyone’s dinners were something along the lines of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, or some pasta or rice concoction.

  It felt good to meet other people who were just as crazy as me, we got along fine. One man, Two Sticks shared his story with me after he talked with me for a while and it is funny how many people are going through what you are. I asked him why he decided to hike the trail, and he told me about his brother who suffered from severe brain trauma after a car accident the year before. He won’t ever really be able to live on his own again; he was 27. Two Sticks said that his parents turned over protective and worried about taking chances after this happened, but he changed for the opposite. After seeing how quickly life could change and immobilize him, something in his mind changed. He told me he began at that point to fully understand how important it is to seize every day you are given because it can be taken from you in the blink of an eye. So he is taking on the daunting challenge of thru hiking 2200 miles simply because his brother cannot. He says he is now taking each adventure as it comes and living passionately and intentionally every day.

  Sleep the first night was a bust. We rolled over each other all night because of the hill we had to pitch tent on for arriving late to the site, as well as waking up freezing and wet from the dew.

  Day two was a really great day. Mom and I hiked about ten miles from Gooch Mountain to Lance Creek; it was tough but we played leap frog with our friends from the day before pretty much all day. Preachers Mountain and Ramrock Mountain had beautiful overlooks, I could see forever it felt like. The hills rolled as far as I could see, and in the valleys little farms were nestled.

  Lunch on Ramrock Mountain probably takes the spot for my favorite memory of day two. The view was great and I got to know some hikers more- the three brothers and their friend, Supe, Sydney (a really cool girl hiking by herself, she has really cool purple dreds Jordan!), and Butterscotch who got his trail name because he will testify butterscotch is the tastiest and best way to avoid dehydration. It is also Butterscotch’s first time hiking…ever!! He was born and raised in New York and decided one day that he wanted to hike. Sounds a little like Forrest Gump to me, he just one day decided to start walking. Crazy.

  At sunset we all sat around the fire at Lance Creek in our little tent community and told ‘would you rather’ jokes and laughed about how much slang varies from England, the Netherlands, and the USA. It left me feeling cozy.

  Mom and I sat by the fire until late talking about how small we felt in the mountains. We are so small, our problems are so small in the scale of life as it goes on forever. Everything will be resolved, and most of the time it is as far from what we had thought as possible but there is a plan. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, life is too extraordinary for it not to.

I slept bundled in my eno trying to avoid pressure points on my hip bones. As I was falling asleep I heard the squealing of a pig for ten minutes. I suppose it was lost or something. I don’t think I have slept that well in a long time.

  I woke up in the morning feeling so refreshed; both Mom and I were ready to get to Mountain Crossing/Neels Gap. The water sources were dry so we had to do nine miles with no fillup, so we rationed more carefully. Today was a tougher day but the evening at Mountain Crossing made it all okay.

The sights at Blood Mountain made the seemingly all day uphill trek worth the sore knees and back for sure. We stood on a rock face on the summit that gave us  view of the horizon in every direction you looked. It is definitely the prettiest overlook on the trail so far.

Today I experienced what a lot of hikers experience apparently. I thought myself mad. When hiking ten or so hours a day it can be easy to get trapped in your thoughts; that’s why it is so important to stay positive on the trail. You have plenty of downtime to think yourself to whatever mindset you desire. And even though I felt the anger rising, I also felt a peace taking its place. When I said above that I feel the trail moving me, this is what I meant. Just like in the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon, my desire is to feel the anger and sadness and defeat from all the demons in my past. I want these demons to overwhelm me and pour over so that I am able to leave those burdens here on the trail.

For dinner we ate cheeseburgers and chips while we listened to Two Sticks sing and play the guitar. Card games and music carried on through the evening while it hailed and stormed like hell ten feet from us. I felt warmed by the good spirits around me.

    I am thankful for my mom this evening as she paid for the two of us to sleep in a hostel. $18 for a night inside to escape a storm is a pure luxury on the trail even after three days. I feel bad for my friends who are camping out back at the moment.

  I am loving it out here so far, I am excited for what is to come, good and bad. This is a quote from my favorite drama, The Dead Poet Society written by Tom Schulmen. Your movie sir (if you ever read this) has been one of my inspirations for living my life the way I do. Thank you.

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Comments 2

  1. This… “my desire is to feel the anger and sadness and defeat from all the demons in my past. I want these demons to overwhelm me and pour over so that I am able to leave those burdens here on the trail.”

    As hard as it feels, we must feel, we must allow ourselves to sit with the pain. You’re getting stronger and freer with every step dear Abbey. Keep on keepin’ on!


  2. Well said, dear. I, at 64 years of age, struggle to face the past and present fears and guilt. Sometimes I feel as if I just woke up yesterday and realized what I’ve ” done and left undone ” to quote the general confession in the Book of Common Prayer, an old and great book of prayer and worship used in the Episcopal/Anglican churches. I was raised on it and am glad about that. (Thank you, mother and daddy). I’ve wandered about and can be satisfied in most any congregation of Christians, but love to return to my roots now and again. I’m glad you’ve decided to face your demons early in life. May we all learn sooner rather than later, to embrace joy amidst sorrow. You must be an “old soul” to be so wise. Love you forever. Ma

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