Home > Hiking Trails > Appalachian Trail > Thru Hiking Saved My Life

I’m trying to add content to my new blog, not an easy task when working from your cell phone, and I am amazed at all the depressing things I’ve written over the years.

This journal entry for instance, hidden deep in a forgotten folder on a thumb drive at the bottom of my pack, written in Virginia on my 2011 Appalachian Trail thru hike:

Once a failure, always a failure.
If it wasn’t for this damn chili dog I’d gladly consider wiping my existence from the face of the planet. But the chili dog with extra onions deserved to be enjoyed.
I take another bite. It’s all really about the chili dog, the only thing I love.
It is all I have been thinking about, all I wanted.
I remember a time when I decided to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, I didn’t love anything then either, but I hoped, it is so stupid to say, I hoped that after I hiked the whole damned trail that I would stand on Mount Katahdin and all of the Earth’s energy would shoot up through the mountain, up through my body, and suddenly everything would be clear.
I’d know not only what to do with my life but where I’d gone wrong and how to make amends.
It’s stupid.
So stupid that I hate myself for thinking it was an option.
The truth is I was broke, in the middle of Virginia, and I hadn’t figured a damn thing out.
I was halfway to Maine and nothing had happened yet, no great realizations, no personal revelations.
Why was I even still walking the trail?
I hate hiking.
Sweat all day, walk up hills, smell bad, go without food. And when you do get into town you have to watch your budget and not overspend on food, all so you can keep on hiking.
Did I mention that I hate hiking?

Wow.

That thru hike changed my life.

I am so grateful that I kept hiking through, pushing through the pain, indecisiveness and uncertainty.

After that hike I knew something had changed. But thing’s didn’t change overnight, it would be years for it to unravel many of the knots in my life.

In the meantime there were plenty of people who were more than eager to say very negative, hurtful things when I tried to share my experience in an attempt to understand and integrate everything I’d learned. People I’d hoped who would have understood the very dark place I was attempting to emerge from.

Not only did that impede my growth, but it pushed me deeper into the heavy consumption of alcohol, as a form of self punishment for thinking that anyone would care.

Luckily there were some people that stuck by me through all of that. And I’m not just talking about people who know they are my friends. I’m talking about coworkers, customers at the bar where I worked, and people in the online hiking community who might not have known they were a sort of post thru hike trail angel.

And for them, all of you, I couldn’t be grateful enough.

Since then I’ve gone on to hike over 8,000 miles before I stopped counting back in 2016. My life isn’t perfect, and certainly not for everyone, but I am thankful every day for being here to enjoy it.

I haven’t written much in the way of depressing material for quite some time. I rarely drink anymore. In fact, I’m not sure if I would have believed back then that it was possible to be this happy and content with life.

The thing about sitting alone next to a campfire in the desert is that nobody is there to see you cry.

Just to be clear though, it’s the smoke getting in my eyes.

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3 Comments, RSS

  • Thank you for sharing! It is very real and I know someting about dark places in my own heart!

  • Okay, I’ll finally comment. 🙂 Right from the start you were always kind and engaging, something that seems to be very rare these days. By putting yourself out there you help people feel less alone and you give them hope that things are possible. I’m currently reading this book (well, several books, but I’ll reference this one) called When Things Fall Apart by a Buddhist nun- Pema Chodron. The first line reads, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” You’ve gone through a lot of life, a lot of challenges, and you’ve made it through, closer…wiser. You deserve this contentment, dare I say, this happiness, and I will continue to support you in any way I can. Much respect, from one human to another.

  • Chris, I think it’s great that you’re willing to be so honest with your blog posts, and to share the deepest thoughts of your journals. It’s refreshing to see blog posts that are not all rainbows and sunshine, and that relate the true essence of the author, warts and all. Your writer’s voice is a good one – keep honing that craft. I enjoy hearing about your travels and freedom, and your work inspires me to plan to spend more time in nature myself (though probably not to the extreme degree that you’ve chosen!).