For all I knew Goodfoot was ahead of me and I needed to catch him. I packed up quickly and headed out, soaked in my wet clothes. I made great time over the rocks and roots on the ridge. Falling and straining my ankle didn’t even slow me, I was on a mission to get to Bland today. The rocks like ice kept dropping me to the ground over and over as I climbed and descended the ridges.
Goodfoot and I had talked about the phrase “Hike your own hike” the day before and I thought on it as I walked. This journey in its purest form is just a hiking trail, but it’s not just a trail. For many it’s a spiritual journey, a calling, right of pasage, and others an outlet for thier ocd tendencies. For a trail that was never meant to be anything other than a long distance trail of beautiful views, it carries a great deal of weight. Only a handful of people finish this a year and already some of the better hikers had quit.
This spiritual journey can only be achieved when you are free from the social party atmosphere that follows the trail. The quiet alone time, miles of solitude that you hike through. Alone with your thoughts and feelings, with no one to sway you in either direction. Peace and acceptance can be found here, forever thinking and looking inward are all that you can do to keep from getting stir crazy. But not everyone finds peace on the trail, I had heard that this year has already had a hiker suicide. The details are unimportant but a hiker had taken thier own life in one of the towns when they had been forced off the trail. For many people this trail carries a huge weight that can probably only be lifted by finishing. In finishing maybe those people find peace in thier lives.
Others are called to the trail for its beauty and remoteness. It’s been said many times that no matter where you are, you are area ways area ways days walk from civilization. I can tell you that it doesn’t feel that way up on the mountains. The picturesque views lend a feeling of solitude and one in a million as you trek across the land. The adventure a crossed mountains calling you, pulling you towards the next adventure. Some come just for the glory of the trail, because it is a huge undertaking and they want to prove to themselves they can do it.
This right of passage for some is how they measure thier lives. What makes a man? A driver’s license, being able to drink legally, what right of manhood do we have in this day and age? The large amount of teenagers and early twenties on the trail are looking to prove something, maybe to themselves or to thier friends and families. You see them running down the hills fearless, and with out worry of injury or death. When everything is given to you now a days it’s hard to hold something and stand firmly knowing you accomplished something momentous. To me finishing this has more worth than added college degree. More people get a degree in one college in one year than the entire amount of people who have ever thruhiked. For those looking to prove themselves I can definitely relate to thier cause out here.
Thoughts flowed from one thing to another and I found myself thinking about what it takes to do this trip. To me it’s ten percent gear, thirty percent skill, and sixty percent luck. Having good gear helps but plenty have done this with next to nothing, it just makes it more comfortable. Having skill in backcountry survival and first aid is great and definitely helps, although out here its about learning process. That process can be learned by anyone who hasn’t even done this before. There are plenty of people who knew nothing and ended up finishing the trail.
The biggest variable out here is luck, one false step and you are done. One of my friends went out to get water in the middle of the night, slipped and fell down the mountain side breaking his back. Another jumped to Cathcart Frisbee and fell on the way down, smashing his head on a rock. Each step on a slippery rock could result in anything from a bruised ego to shattered leg. one or two people have been helicoptered out to the hospital for just that alone this year. I find myself praying going down the steep wet rocky steps, hoping to not be seriously hurt. All it takes is just one misstep and you and your trip is over. I met a guy named Second Chance early on who was one of those people. He had been forced off the previous year and was attempting to finish again.
These quiet moments on the trail as I blasted through twenty two miles of Virginia were wrought with thought. I have found that in leaving the social groups I was once in, I am able to recenter myself. The needed alone time with myself and thoughts was far more important than hanging with friends. Hiking your own hike comes down to one thing, doing the trail how you see fit. Getting the most the you can get out of it your way. No one person is the same and no one person has the same hike or expierence. The purists view is to hike every single step of the trail, backtracking, being anal about every inch of the trail, while others are more focused on the once in a life time events, or what other reasons they may have. There really is no difference to me in how you do it, as long as you do the trail, that’s what matters. I set out to hike this for me, this journey will continue to provide, shelter, and take care to do that for me.
It wasn’t long that I found myself so deep in thought that I was at the road to Bland. I would have to come in the following day to get my package for now I needed to get camp set up and get some rest. Hiking another mile to the next section of the trail I pitched my tent and had dinner. I was shortly followed by who other than Goodfoot and another hiker. I was so excited to see the two of them. We spent the night taking and goofing off before bed.