TA audio narrative: hitting a wall

The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage, and dignity.

Ruby Dee
I didn’t always find soulful campsites on the Te Araroa.

On day 99 of my thru-hike of the Te Araroa, I completely lost it.

It was a combination of utter exhaustion walking a non-existent trailthe rocks hurt my feet and the grass is taller than my head! – being overheated and hungry, and having spent the night in a hut with a couple of unfriendly Kiwi trampers.

I turned on video to capture this very real moment of just how difficult thru-hiking can be on all parts of our person – body, mind and spirit.

It cracks me up looking back from the comfort of my air conditioned studio that I laugh at myself, even when crying so hard the snot is leaking out of my nose…

I’m rereading a book by philosophy professor, John Kaag Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are In it, Kaag takes the same paths Nietzsche took near Sils-Maria in the Austrian Alps while writing “Zarathustra.”

Kaag doesn’t always defend some of Nietzsche’s more anti-social behavior, but instead discovers the life affirming power of walking in Nietzsche’s footsteps as a means to organize and orient himself to the world and open his mind to better understand his own life.

There are so many gems in this book about why we walk – and maybe more importantly, why we place ourselves in a position to suffer when walking, usually for a reward of something beautiful and transcendent that can only be fully appreciated because of the work it took to get us there.

I ponder this as I plan for an eight-day hike on Isle Royale in late August. I am busily dehydrating food, balancing how much I’ll need with how much I can carry. I’m also preparing for difficulties like rain, cold, bugs and, to be honest, the unknown.

It may sound pessimistic, but I like to believe I’m a realist.

And it’s odd, knowingly flinging myself into a situation where there will be challenges, actually affords me control over myself. I get to decide what to put myself through and if it’s worth it, and I find that incredibly powerful in a world full of uncertainty.

On day 100, I had this unreal landscape all to myself and felt totally renewed – but it was a lot of work to get here.

After I posted the video where I broke down completely, I received this wonderful comment from a follower who is also a thru-hiker.

Molly’sLongWalk writes –

Oh boy. You sound like a thru hiker. A legit thru hiker with genuine, hard earned trail cred. This is no romantic lifestyle, eh? It’s hard and tedious and scary and lonely and totally worth it. Cuz tomorrow it just may be intriguing and sparkly and even glorious. And soon there will be beer and candy. And a cooling breeze. Keep going. You can do it. Slow down a little if you need to. Take a zero when you can. Then Olive Oil will start whispering to you again. “Hey Ally, lets go. Can you hear the trail calling?” May I suggest adding to your playlist Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. We believe in you, dear. You got this.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. LIFE is a thru-hike! I’m keeping this handy to replay when I need it . . .about every 5 months or so! Thanks!

  2. Thank you for being brave and sharing your feelings and vulnerability. This is reality of wilderness hiking (or life’s journey). I have had moments on the trail when I too felt overwhelmed and questioned “why am I doing this?” Agree this is worse when fatigued plus knowing I was a long way from getting out. Later in the hike, I would have a wilderness experience-spectacular view, sunrise, animal experience, people experience etc which seemed to answer “this is why I was willing to have this stressful experience”. Humans have incredible resilience and courage within them and often have to “hit bottom” to discover that. I saw that a lot in my work as a rehabilitation physician and my patients and their families awed me. Being solitary or lonesome may make it harder as we have time (and stress) for determining why and how we respond to life’s challenges as we try to gain insight. I think accepting the now and the reality of who we are is the only way to cope as we take the next and then the next step.

  3. I love this one! Life is a thru hike is so on point! I will listen to this one again I’m sure! Thanks for all your insights on hiking and life! Something we all need right now!

  4. Alison, some day when you are no longer doing thru hikes, You would be a great mentor to inner city kids. Taking them on hikes, challenging them, educating them, opening their eyes and minds to new experiences.

    If you haven’t considered this, I hope I have planted a seed.

    1. oh thank you for this lovely idea! I did one hike with a friend who was only beginning to walk again after surgery and we went slow and looked and listened. It was glorious! Turtles, hummingbird moths, herons, frogs!

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