I’ve spent some time on this hike talking to other repeat offenders—second timers on the AT, triple crowners, PCTers who are finishing the AT right now. There’s comfort in those discussions, a language of emotions and familiarity and exhaustion and bliss that doesn’t happen with people who are doing this to themselves for the first time and likely won’t do it again (smart people).
You remember those episodes of Survivor near the end, when the finalists did a little retrospective on all the moments and competitors they’d met along the way? This trail feels like that now—every discussion is a retrospective of the journey as it nears its end. “Remember that time in Virginia when…?” “Remember So-and-so, how he started with that 68-pound pack?” It’s all cementing the moments in our heads and hearts as we make our preparations to finish. It feels like a wake.
And despite all the suffering, and how difficult long-distance hiking is, when I sit here in my room eating my Ben and Jerry’s and working out my train schedule to get home in a couple of weeks, my heart tightens and burns with the desire to get out and do it again. I love it and hate it more than anything I’ve ever experienced, and my eyes well up at the thought that I have to leave. I’m ready for a break, but I don’t want the ending.
I was thinking I’d do the CDT next, but after all those discussions, I’m thinking I’ll go back and finish the PCT instead. We’ll see.
After 1000 zeroes.