When you’re not “just getting started,” you’re not “almost finished,” and you’re not technically “half way” either, you’re just in the middle.
That’s where Will is… somewhere in Virginia, somewhere in the middle of his journey.
These are the days I thought about in February when Will got serious about this idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I thought the middle days would drain him, bore him, and leave him thinking that it wasn’t worth the effort. I knew he would still be running on adrenaline in the beginning, with lots of visits from family and friends and the thrill of something new pushing him forward. But the middle (cue Jimmy Eat World early 2000s) would kill his motivation.
I was sure of this…
…and I was wrong. I have learned from watching Will that the middle isn’t all bad, in hiking and in life. Here’s why:
1) You learn as you go. Will has learned so much through trial and error and is able to put that knowledge to use now. He’s got this backpacking thing down to a science, which makes things easier and more enjoyable than they were in the beginning.
2) It grows on you. Over time, being an AT hiker has become Will’s “new normal.” He enjoys his routine and the hiking community he has embraced. He’s used to trail living now and when he breaks in a town, something feels “off” until he gets back into his natural habitat.
3) You’ve got more to lose. Will would have a lot to lose by quitting at this point. All of the work he’s put in thus far, all of the people who are rooting for him… simple math proves that you’ve got more to lose in the middle than you do in the beginning. That’s strong motivation.
Of course there are days that are challenging for him, and there is a reason hikers have coined the term “the Virginia Blues.” There are times of frustration, boredom, and all of the things I imagined there would be. But I thought Will would want to quit after three weeks, and he hasn’t even had the thought of quitting yet, over two months in. I think sometimes we can get caught up in our thoughts about how we think something is, or might be, or should be- but the only way to actually know is to get outside of your thoughts and experience it. Thinking is helpful only up to a point… and I’m not always right. That’s both humbling and freeing to me. That’s what I’ve learned in the middle.
Will/Root Beard is at mile 800-something. He is headed for Waynesboro, VA where he will take a day off on Monday to rest his feet and dry out his gear after a long week of downpours and thunderstorms. After that he will head into the second (and final) National Park on the AT, Shenandoah National Park.
I’ll keep you posted! More photos and updates are on Instagram: @thetreelogs. Also, if you’re in the Forsyth County, NC area, check out the May issue of Forsyth Woman magazine for our story (it’s right smack dab in the middle)!