First, the basics. We are still healthy and happy, plus we just crossed the 850 mile mark! Tomorrow we start the Shenandoah National Park which feels like the beginning of the end of Virginia. We have been in this state for several hundred miles and it's delivered some ups and some major downs.
I was initially hesitant to write about the not-so-great days, but I want to truly share this hike with you and those days do happen. Many people refer to the "Virginia Blues" and you hear that it can end the hike for some. The concept basically refers to the stage of your hike when the excitement of being outside every day wears off and it hits you that you have so many months left before Katahdin.
Now, I feel like it's unfair to blame this on Virginia. There are so many beautiful things to see here and I have yet to have a day with lame scenery. The true challenge comes from the mental battle you go through. Physically you are now a hiking machine so it's no longer intimidating to climb mountains each day, but instead you now have boredom and your own thoughts to wrestle with. The freedom of "time to think" was a blessing in the beginning, but then it becomes a bit of a task to fill those hours each day. You start relying on music and podcasts more and your thoughts often wander to "why am I doing this?!'
For me, this happened around Catawba and I initially tried to just hike through it. Yikes did that backfire and those days were just miserable. So instead we took a few days off the trail in Daleville and I gave myself permission to just rest. I did nothing even remotely close to hiking and it felt good.
Then, suddenly, I missed it. I missed the woods and I felt ready to go back. It was just that simple.
I've talked to some of the others I'm hiking with and we pretty much all had bad days right around the same time. The Virginia Blues are real, people. But I'm thinking we should call them the Boredom Blues instead. It's not really VA's fault!
It's not all bad though. In a way, I'm glad that I experienced the Blues. I feel so strong and prepared for the rest of the trail because I faced those desires to quit and I chose to keep going. I know I will have days that are rough again, but I also know that they won't knock me off the trail. It's a good feeling. There's also the sense of understanding I feel when I talk to other hikers. They went through this too and we are standing on the other side together. It's a bonding of sorts and it makes me excited to keep hiking with them. I can't imagine how bonded we will be by the end.
Well friends, thank you for the space to share these feelings with you. And for continuing to send love and support our way. I feel it, even from a distance. Much love to you all!!
PS - I'm not able to get any of my photos to load on this computer, but I do have pictures from a friend to share with you all. His trail name is TK, he is a good friend, and he has taken over 7,000 photos so far! He posts some of them to his facebook page and it is public so feel free to browse through them. The pictures below are his and I'm grateful that he has taken the time to capture so many moments. Enjoy!
Link to TK's Photos on Facebook