The Inner Journey
Mary Anderson, 64, is attempting to complete her solo thru-hike of the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail. Since setting out from South Pass, Wyoming, in late May, she has struggled to keep going with a knee injury. Korongo is editing Mary's book about hiking the CDT, a story that grapples with dissociation and other coping mechanisms resulting from trauma.
I've known for a long time that one of the great values of an arduous thru-hike is the inner journey. I love the memories of beauty I carry from all of my 10,000-plus miles of hiking. I revel in the strength it gives to my body. I treasure the people I've met along the way. And I know with absolute certainty that for better or worse I would not be the person I am today if I did not have all those miles under my feet.
I've always thought I was pretty good at taking care of myself on long hikes. I never wanted to be one of "those" people who make "stupid" mistakes on the trail. Now I have to face the fact that I knew I started this hike a bit out of shape. I sat too much last winter writing my last book. My hamstrings tightened up and I strained my knee. By pushing past too much pain I injured it. I'm having to recognize I am no different from other hikers who get stress fractures or other injuries from what look like stupid mistakes on the trail. This is humbling, and for that lesson I am grateful. It will help me be less judgmental.
If for some reason I don't achieve my goal this year I will have to face yet more inner demons. I am not used to failing at what I set out to accomplish. It is scary to me to even think of quitting.
For now, I am trying to focus on healing the knee and dealing with the inner, emotional healing that goes along with that. I'm working on being here now, even if it means feeling confused, lonely, depressed and in pain. I'm trying to remember all the love I do have in my life. I'm trying to trust in the miraculousness of nature to help me find what I need and move forward in my inner journey. I'm trying to remember how lucky I am to be here in this beautiful wilderness and to have people supporting me. I'm not happy about the place I am in now, but I am determined to make the most of this @#$* personal-growth opportunity.
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