I walked into the bathroom. My brother-in-law had purchased soap, shampoo, epsom salts, a loofa, tooth paste, and a toothbrush for me. The items were arranged neatly on the counter top. When my eyes assessed them, my first thought was “trail magic!” and I literally broke down into tears.
I was completely overwhelmed by this simple kindness, and equally grateful to be among family. I knew the roof overhead was solid, and would not be stripped from me at 11am, like so many others had been before. My tears continued as I bathed. I thought as I so often had, about the baptismal back into society. Hopefully, this would be the last one for a while.
Roughly forty hours previous, I walked out of the hostel atop the Yellow Deli in Rutland, VT. The course of events which brought me back here will be exposed for inspection someday, but not today. Game Warden informed me that I had left my shoes here, and so I came, arriving around ten in the morning. I met the Twelve Tribes member who helped me the night before (sadly, I cannot remember his name at this time) in the hallway. I shook his hand firmly and thanked him for his help during the wee hours of that morning.
Casper had my shoes, and Game Warden asked me about the events of the previous night. I told her I was probably off trail at this point. The Twelve Tribes member gave me a generous helping of food for the road, and despite repeated invitations for me to stay, I knew I had to be on my way.
I left the hostel, but paused for a moment outside. Realizing how hungry I was, I dove into the bag of goods, and wolfed down two bananas. Game Warden came down to check on me. I told her I was going to try and get myself together, and get back on trail, but she knew it was goodbye. We bid farewell and she went back upstairs.
After this, I decided the trail was worth one more try. I resupplied at Walmart, and took the bus out to Killington where I left off. It didn’t feel right. I found a field, one I camped in a couple nights ago, and took a lengthy nap.
When I woke, my intentions were clear. I walked across the road to the Inn at the Long Trail, hoping to get a ride. I was invited to sign their log book, which I did, and dated 9/3. In the comments section, I simply could not write down that I was leaving the trail. The pen was poised, but I could not write the words.
Three hitches got me to the bus station in White River Junction, the driver of each leg congratulating me on my accomplishment. Soon I boarded a series of buses headed for my sister in Columbia, where I was greeted by the kindness described above.
I made it a bit over 1700 miles before calling it. I have much more to write, so stay tuned if you care to.
To those who question why I left the trail, I leave the account above. When your mental state is so eroded that you cry at the sight of hygiene products, it’s time to go home. When you miss your family to the point of tears, yet push past that for weeks on end, it’s time to go home. I had roughly 485 miles left.
I will bag the Whites, Washington, and Katahdin. A mantra I developed early on for myself on the trail was to “take care of myself today, so that I can have a tomorrow.” This justified every hostel stay, shower, meal, etc. All of them seemed needlessly extravagant at the time.
The truth is, each of those peaks will be there tomorrow; long after all of my tomorrows are gone. I will face them in the future. Now it’s time to take the best care of myself, so I can give them my best, when the moment is right.
My intention in writing this has been to be honest about the realities of my thru-hike. In reality, very few make it. This will not be my last thru-hike.
Words cannot accurately express the gratitude I have for having taken this journey. So many people ask:
“Are you hiking alone?”
The beautiful thing is, no one does. I have been bestowed such innumerable kindnesses in the past four-plus months, I often wonder if my karma will ever recover. This has been the single most challenging, wonderful, soul-wrenching, and rewarding experience of my life.
If you’ve ever desired to do a thru, just do it. At the worst, you’ll make a friend and learn a few things along the way. Why not go for it?
Thank you for reading as always!