That special moment you make it, is the same moment when your hike is over…
Log drawing and text by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org
Yesterday I looked at the days you don’t care about the end, you just walk because that is the only thing that will get you forward. ( link) Today I looked and sketched faces of those who make it, the moment they become a “Thru-hiker”
A day of colliding feelings
Hikers experience the end of a long-distance hike in very different ways, from relief, to happiness, to sadness, to emptiness, loneliness, joy, pride… Lots and lots of feelings. Studying the faces of the thru-hikers I want to get much closer to understanding this moment
The end of a hike matters – but does the start?
Not all trails can create a moment of celebration of thru-hiking. Some hiking trails can, but they need at least an end-point. – And a starting point will also make things a lot more simple.
The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail have both. But many other world famous hiking trails, like the Camino de Santiago and many of the “reach the top of the mountain trails” like the Kilimanjaro trail are mostly focused on the end point, and people start in different places, some walk far, others just a day or week… It is a different trail logic, that is more like: “It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you reach the top”
Hiking alone vs together
The social dimension of thru-hiking together as friends, or as a couple, or family, makes the end-point even more of a special place. The trail can be what binds people together. The trail-markers works as a frame that keep hikers together and heading in the same direction month after month, on some long-distance trails.
Reading with your feet
Maybe trails can be seen like stories, hikers read them, step by step, and continue day after day turning mile after mile of experiences, that are both shared and unique to each, a bit like a book.
After the last trail marker you loose this frame of direction and purpose. Instead you become a thru-hiker, you are at the end of the trail and story and are born into a new kind of togetherness, not only with the hikers you walked with along the trail, but even more so with all those that have walked the same trail… and who also made it all the way.