Appalachian Trail – Afterward

7 months ago I finished one of my dreams come true, thru hiking the entire Appalachian Trail!  I hiked with friends, I hiked alone, I took breaks, I canoed, mountain biked, binge drank, ate pop tarts for 5 months straight, I… walked a lot.  After the trip, I had no straight plans to head for home.  I just knew I wanted to explore the country.

I wrote about meeting up with Gandalf and fellow thru hikers Goat Fresh Kamikaze and Figgy, people I had spent a lot of time on the trail with, and it really hit home that I was able to summit with them.  We were invited back to Moosehead Lake by Bob and Jackie who were my ultimate trail angels throughout the hike and partied with them for a couple days.  Afterwards, Fresh and I decided not to go home.  My parents had bought a house on the ocean in Maine, near Cushing and Rockport (way off the map), and we stayed there for a couple weeks.  I invited people up to party, we played tennis, we lounged, we partied with friends close by!  Like hard.  Like my parents got mad at how much we were binge drinking.  THRU HIKERS CAN DRINK!  we played video games (we talked about video games for months) and we cooked and ate so much food, we went ocean kayaking, I found a summer girl friend, it was a beautiful ending.  I want to thank my parents for making this all possible, they were willing to put homeless hikers up in their brand new house.

The road trip will be another post, I wanted to take time and reflect on what I learned from this trip, what I took away, what I could change, and the roller coaster of emotions I went through.  Immediately after finishing, I felt a wave of relief, but also I felt depressed.  This depression would not go away soon.  I ignored it by the fact I had done something so immense and was proud, but that thing I worked so hard for was done… And I no longer had Katahdin in my distance, it was behind me.  After returning to Phoenix (a 3 week, 6000 mile car camping trip done with my dog Shwayze and I, which I will post about soon) I was exhausted.  I was in no hurry to find a job, I still had some money leftover.  I hung out with friends but I found that feeling of being alone amongst people.  They would all ask how the trip was but I feel they wouldn’t grasp what I was talking about, or wouldn’t care.  That feeling will only forever be shared with the people I was on the trip with.  I felt isolated for a very long time, months even.  I had the post trail blues.  I refused to exercise, my diet was still horrible, but I had to move on.

Coming back to the city I was FULL of anxiety.  The way of life, going to bed at 8 and having no responsibility was over.  I am back in my house that I own, things are broken down, I need to fix them, their are 1000s of thoughts flying through my head at full speed.  I got a job serving tables at Hard Rock Cafe, they loved the fact I was a thru hiker.  I had a huge beard when I applied and kept it for quite some time.  Once I was back in the swing of things with work, I started going to the gym again, and eating better.  It took about 6 months for me to see a Dr. about the way I was feeling, and I have been put on some anti-depressants/anxiety medicine.   This has all helped immensly, and I believe time was the greatest cure.  It is, to put it mildly, straining on the body and mind to be having the time of your life with people who mean the world to you, and then to summit and be ripped from everyone you care about, and taken from that life, and put back into what you were escaping from in the first place.  I have read up a lot about post trail depression and I was ready for it, but it hit me hard.  I talked for hours with fellow thru hikers and they helped out a lot.  I did what anyone else would do, I planned my next adventure.

Other than the post trail depression, I took away a lot from this trip.

-Travel alone anywhere with confidence

-New sense of adventure (there are seriously so many adventures out there)

-A new mindset on my future and how to attack my goals (I spent lots of time thinking.. LOTS)  I am going back to school for physical therapy assistant ASAP.

-The ability to trust people again.  This is huge, living in the city can turn you indifferent, you will turn a blind eye to people, it makes you not trust each other, it makes you ignore.  I was helped by complete strangers that at first I didnt trust.  Jimmy (a trail angel that had taken my back pack down the road for me and also helped us in New Found Gap was the first instance of this).  I feel more human now!  I help out whenever I can, I will not turn a blind eye.  People matter to me again.  This was one of the greatest side effects of hiking the trail.

-The feeling that I can do anything I put my mind to.  (Seriously, I just hiked 2200 miles, prove me wrong)

-A deeper understanding between the relationship of humankind and nature.  This is more of a Native American approach to our Mother Earth, but it took me this trip to understand it.  I no longer throw away things on a hike, put trash in a fire pit, etc.  This is what we have, leave it more beautiful than how you found it, because you never know who this location will inspire next!

On a side note… This July, I will be hiking the Lost Coast Trail (Humboldt California) a 56 mile completely on the beach hike, that goes through some red woods!  Gandalf, Goat and Bob the trail magic guru are coming with me.  This trip coming up means the world to me, I get to hike with my fellow hiker family and see a new part of this beautiful beautiful country.  I would love to share it all with you and will do so, and I hope you enjoy it!

COMING SOON – LOST COAST TRAIL 🙂

Falk_LostCoast445x260

Advertisements

About shwayze23jbj
Live for the outdoors

6 Responses to Appalachian Trail – Afterward

  1. Louise Trakimas says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thanking for sharing this with us/me. You’re right, I’ll never know everything you went through during all those months on the trail-but your posts have given me an inkling of your time and adventures and thoughts during that time. You do know you have a gift of the word, right? You capture the moments and the feelings and the fun! in a condensed and easy to read blog. You should publish! Continue your journeys among nature-and can’t wait to see your next hike along the California coast! Thanks for letting us all live vicariously through you.

  2. Just stumbled upon your blog, can’t wait to read more. You thru-hikers inspire me and I can’t wait to joint to ranks someday soon! Your experiences will surely make you a great therapist, I myself am a PT. happy trails 🙂

    • shwayze23 says:

      You will surely be famous on the trail if you announce yourself as a Physical Therapist! They were very sought after, including the yogis. Comes in handy! I would love to hear if you do make it out to the trail, it was the greatest time of my life!

  3. Krissa says:

    Will, cool and very real post. I think you should add trusting people with your emotions to the list… Takes a lot to write like that and be vulnerable.

    I hope you are feeling much better, and enjoying the comforts of home while you can

    I am very excited for you to meet up with your forever trail friends again. Xo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: