I almost quit today. I made it into Daleville at 9:30am, and I was relieved to find that the coffee shop next to Kroger still existed. I spent a solid four hours loitering there in 2016, and this morning I had an important question to mull over.

Standard operating procedure took precedence of course, and before I could even sip my black house brew, there were more pressing matters. Whatever decision I was going to make, I’d still need clean hands and charged devices. I found the restroom, and a power strip in the corner.

As I connected my beloved NU25 Nitecore to the charger, I became suddenly self-conscious of how grimy the headband had become. A few minutes later a crowd came in, all wearing perfectly clean boots from Keen, Salomon, and Asolo. I consoled myself with the thought that, rough as I looked (and felt) I was at least the real fucking deal.

I priced bus tickets from Roanoke to home, and they were temptingly cheap. Then I perused the AWOL guide on my phone and redid the milage calculation to Pearisbug; 93.8 miles. I decided that at the very least, I’d quit there. One more resupply. Four days.

The best advice I’ve ever received for long distance hiking came from one of Seven’s “Hiker Trash Videos” on YouTube. He emphasized the need to compartmentalize the hike into smaller hikes. The only focus should be getting to your next resupply.

Wendy’s opened, and I moved my operation over there for a few hours. I ate twelve dollars worth of value menu items and drank five soda refills. Then I noticed a young biker come in, asking about outlets. I invited him over and moved my pack. We shared the only available outlet, and a round table in the corner for about an hour.

Andy is riding up to NY, then back towards AZ. He’s taking his time, living out of his motorcycle, and doing handyman jobs along the way. We talked about everything from Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, to Sawyer water filters, to the state of the US job market. A vagabond of a slightly different flavor, we were both a novelty, yet still familiar to each other. Soon he headed on.

I spent the next hour on the phone with my sister Katie, and then on FaceTime with my mother and my other sister Kelly. It was so nice to see their faces!

Ultimately, I decided to stay in town tonight, and prioritize rest. I’ve eaten a five ounce salad, a pint of ice cream, 12oz of steamed vegetables, a 32oz green smoothie, and half a pound of chicken tenders. It’s nearly 1am now, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that I could put away a large pizza too. Instead I’m going to eat any leftover food from my pack before going to sleep. I’ve lost six pounds in the last 250 miles.

Apparently there is a letter waiting for me in Damascus. Jelly informed me of this tonight, and it’s exactly the kind of mission I need right now. It gives me a much needed waypoint within this massive state. I’ve hiked over 280 miles, and I am just barely over Virginia’s halfway mark. To put that into perspective, I just hiked the distance of the Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York sections combined. Yet it barely feels like a dent within this state, which comprises a full quarter of the Appalachian Trail.

My goal is to read that letter in two weeks. It’s all I have for long term morale right now, but it’s enough.

There is so much liberation and peace to be had in breaking goals into their smaller component parts. It’s the opposite of anxiety, which as my friend defines it, is “feeling a profound need to accomplish everything at once.”

Anything worth doing is impossibly large. Anything worth doing will bully you with its size and complication. Take smaller bites.

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