… I made it.

I hiked from Georgia to Maine.

The Appalachian Trail was a beast. When people ask would you do it again or when is your next long hike all I can say is, “I’m Good.”

My business cards make sure people know I can climb mountains.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it. I’m extremely proud of myself and Leo for making it. The worst was probably about 4 months in, realizing how much work I had put in and I still had two more months of struggle, of scrambling, of straight ups and downs.

However, that’s the thing about the trail. You know.

You know what’s coming.

You know how many miles you have hiked. You know how many states have been checked off and how many more you have yet to come. Guidebooks tell you about monster climbs, scarce water sources, and where you can grab a burrito. The hiking app GutHook will even pinpoint your exact location on a map of the trail. You can watch your dot slowly move towards Maine. Maybe you’ll meet someone new and interesting, but after months on the trail you have your bubble of people moving along at your general pace. You know who snores (they always find a way to set their tent up next to you), who has goals to sleep with a wide variety of people, who thinks they know more than you, who is always down to party, who will make you laugh if you run into each other while filtering water. You know.

Then one day its done, and you no longer know. You no longer have “angels” leaving you goods in the woods to brighten your day or to nourish you. You no longer have the simplicity of just walking forward and that being all you have to do to check off another successful day. You no longer have your path mapped out for you.

Some become obsessed with the next trail. Preparing for the next adventure. OR planning a return to the trail the next season. Reliving the experience as quickly as it ended. The draw of trail life too enticing to just be over one day. Some have jobs lined up and partners waiting for them, their lives quickly going back to safe and well marked. Then there are others, those like me, where the trail ends and there are no more trail markers leading the way. No waiting partner to help ease you back into normalcy. No job to throw yourself into. No books nicely laying our what your future ups and downs will be.

You may have goals. An idea of where you are headed. Scrambling up a mountain to realize its taking you in the opposite direction you want to go. Sliding back down to be trapped in a valley till day light. Another day of trying to find your markers. Trying to find your way.

Life is an unmarked path through the wilderness.