Off the Trail, on to the Next Stage of My Life
It’s strange, watching the landscape roll by without having to work for it.
I write this from a bus, hurtling down a highway from Blacksburg to Roanoke, VA. I am borne passively along in a cushioned seat, my pack–constant companion of these last two months–occupying the spot next to me. I’m not using my muscles, and the views are spooling past much too fast.
I have left the Appalachian Trail after 660 miles of foot travel. I have received the job offer I’ve been working towards for the last right years: a permanent position at Joshua Tree National Park with more responsibility and more room for creativity than I’ve had before. It’s a phenomenal opportunity, an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I feel conflicted, of course. Accepting the job was the obvious right choice. The AT will be still be there when I am again ready for it. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have made the conscious decision to relinquish a long-held dream. Even though getting off the AT allows me to attain another goal I’ve been chasing for a long time, it is still bittersweet.
I’m filled with questions. Will I be able to readjust to “normal life” (whatever that means)? My time on the trail reminded me of something I have long known: significant time active in the outdoors is crucial for my physical and mental wellbeing. Will I be able to stay active enough, get enough time outside, to avert the blues? How will I come to feel about the desert environment that is to be my new home?
I’m eager to re-join the California Native Plant Society and get involved with the California Master Naturalist program. I think I’ll have to start training for a half-marathon, at least; it would be fun to do another full, too.
Regardless of what the future holds for me, I am grateful to have had the chance to spend these past two months on the trail. In the woods, I have delighted in watching spring unfurl its leafy self across the land, rediscovered a deep sense of self, and seen many acts of kindness and caring from strangers.
I may not have achieved my thruhiking goal, but the memories I have formed are ones I will always cherish. Thank you to all of you for being part of my journey.