1150 miles to be exact; if you can forgive the 3 day sizzling aqua-blaze down the Shenandoah River, blue-blazing the challenging, yet rewarding Mau-Har Trail and the odd yellow-blaze; which, to be quite frank, was sometimes necessary in keeping me sane.
My motto is, after all, that rules are made to be broken.
I set out on this quest with minimal camping experience, an average level of fitness (all of those ‘training’ hikes around the quaint English countryside, which initially made me feel like some kind of nature champion, would amount to nothing), and on a plant-based diet that would continually baffle, intrigue and amuse the majority of my hiking buddies.
What’s more, I had never set foot in America. I envisaged a strange land teeming with unstable, reality television-esque characters toting around guns and worshipping a president who resembled the inside of a Tupperware container after being subjected to a rich tomato sauce; as well as bears, deadly snakes and probably some of those friendly folks from Deliverance.
Over the next 4 months, every fear I had; both internal and external, gently dissolved as I came to learn about my own physical and mental capabilities, as well as this astounding country and its people.
So where to begin? There’s just so much to cover. But first things first:
Why I quit hiking the Appalachian Trail
I spent an uncomfortable amount of time over the final month of my hike feeling horribly unwell. The allergic reactions I’d been experiencing to mosquito bites had become no joke – and the concoction of drugs that followed had began to take their toll on my body and mind. I became a human cocktail of DEET, Benadryl, pain killers and Cortisone creams.
I experienced two mild panic attacks on the trail, something I am grateful to say I have never gone through in ‘normal life’. Both times I believe were triggered by bites and medicine.
My usual chipper self was beginning to morph into a hiker I could no longer recognise. One who would wake up and dread the day ahead; hiking was becoming a job, it was becoming a bore and at times, not even a pretty view could perk me up.
As the summer started to kick in, bringing a wave of humidity with it, I diced with dehydration and heat exhaustion on several occasions.
I also started feeling unbelievably malnourished – food just didn’t excite me anymore, and that made me feel incredibly sad. One whiff of my food bag was enough to churn my stomach for an entire afternoon.
Subsequently, walking less miles and taking more zeros had a huge knock-on effect to my funds and visa. Time and money were not on my side anymore.
Four months after I set out on my expedition, I found myself saying goodbye to my Tramily, who had been so patient with my sweaty, swollen self. They, along with friends, family and an unbelievable amount of supporters following my journey were the only reason I was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other for so long, and I am forever grateful.
It’s been a rollercoaster that I will never, ever forget. I have come away from this experience with everything I was searching for, and I can’t wait to share more with you…