Harpers Ferry, while not the true midpoint of the trail, is the mid point for me. I’m currently staying at the last nice place I will stay on the trail, a B&B overlooking the main strip. I had my last drink on the trail at the bar down below. Tomorrow at 6am, I start the latter, more disciplined part of my hike. Can I walk to Maine? Yes. Do I have the discipline to get to Maine on time, with my present budget? Well, that remains to be seen.
I tried to climb out of Harpers at 10am this morning. I stopped in for a cold beverage, and that was the end of my hiking for today. I met a few other friends I’ve not seen in five hundred miles, and really, there is a reason they were behind.
I am faster and stronger than most hikers out here, but my lack of commitment has held me back. Sure, I had some knee issues at one point, but I’m confident I can catch Turtle Goat and even FloMo. I’ve ducked under too many roofs to avoid weather/discomfort/challenge/loneliness, and too many of those roofs had pints on tap. With an entire life to potentially spend indoors and imbibing, I owe myself the next three months away from that. I need the next three months away from that.
I made the decision to continue North, because I’d regret heading to Maine right now. In my mind it would be giving up my thru-hike, in every real way that I had set out to accomplish it. In the same way, I’ve decided to quit drinking for the rest of the hike; something I had intended to do when I left Springer.
I’ve spent my entire life comparing myself to other people, and deciding I wasn’t as good as them. That is something I have to address on this half of the hike. The truth is, I’ve barely touched the beast of a fucking hiker I actually am, much in the way I’ve lived well below my potential for years.
Those who have quit in the last three hundred miles, did so during the most ideal hiking conditions we’ll ever get on this trip. It’s 90 degrees before 9am now, and there will be snow on the ground when I reach Katahdin. I’ve woken up in single digit weather, with my boot laces frozen many, many times before the AT. I know exactly how bad it’s going to get, and I know damn well I can handle it.
Three days off trail gave me much needed clarity. Two of my cousins are about to leave for college, and the other will be entering his senior year faster than he can imagine. Being around their energy, during this time of limitless possibility in their lives, was very refreshing. The trick is remembering that that time of limitless possibility stretches far beyond a few prime years.
My body is rested, my water bottles are full, and I have clean socks for the morning. Tomorrow, I’m going to start hiking this the way I’ve been wanting to hike it for weeks.