I can't explain it and I'm not exactly certain when it occurred, but my mind has made a shift that is quite the opposite of where it's been for nearly the entire trail. Up until just a few days ago, I would mentally prepare for the upcoming one hundred mile stretch by breaking it into hours, breaks, meals, and things of that nature. To look at 100 miles is daunting so it's best to take it in smaller bites both mentally and physically. That has been my mantra until the other night when, while laying in bed, I realized something had changed in me.
I've been hiking to get to Canada since the Southern Terminus and whatever mental game was required of me to get there was sure to be played. My body desired breaks, food, and water nearly all the time and my days were filled with the pain of having to cover so many miles day after day. It's a slog at times and at times the miles and hours drag on. Between the hills and the long days, it was playing mental games that got me through each day.
I'm now roughly 320 miles from Canada and something has changed in me in a way that has caught me off guard. No longer do I look forward to each break or meal as a way to cope with covering miles. Rather I look at each break as a necessary means by which I'm able to cover more and more miles each day. It's like filling up my gas tank so I can keep going. When I realized I no longer looked forward to these breaks, I then asked myself what exactly am I looking forward to.
So what's my answer the question of the day? Simply, hiking. For the first time since beginning my hike, I can honestly tell you I am enjoying the process of hiking. Not just one small aspect of it, but the entirety of the experience. If I had to choose my favorite amongst the many characteristics of thru hiking, I'd have to say the movement of the hike has become like a close friend. My body feels amazing (battered, but amazing) and more often than not I'm covering 25 miles each day by 7:30 in the evening. The days are flying by to the point where 100 miles is there and gone before I know it. I'm noticing my feet gliding over the ground with ease and my legs are powering my body up hills that once would have smoked me. It now takes a lot for me to get winded going uphill and it feels incredibly freeing to see mountains and no longer dread the pending inclines.
My mind and body have shifted 180 degrees from where I was even two weeks ago. I eagerly scarf down food during my planned breaks and often feel impatient waiting for them to be over so I can cover another 3-4 miles. Seeing large volcanoes come and go in a matter of a day is hard to grasp when you know the only method of travel you've been using is your feet. It is simply awe inspiring to physically feel and see how far 25 miles can bring you.
I'm in the final chapter of a long awaited experience. I am eager to get home, but saying goodbye to the trail might be harder than I once thought it would be. With only 320 or so miles remaining, I get the feeling that I'll be home in the blink of an eye wondering what the hell just happened. I'm in the best shape of my life, free from the daily grind of the 9-5, and getting to live out a dream of mine. How incredibly blessed I have been to have this experience.
Soon, far too soon By Land,