New England State of Mind

Long time, no update! I write this post in Berlin, New Hampshire and I’ll soon be crossing into Maine, the 14th and final state of the trail. I’m unsure if my brain has yet to fully consider the feat. The White Mountains have been as challenging as expected, especially with a body that has its share of wear and tear. The stunning views are well worth the effort. I highly recommend visiting Franconia Ridge and Mount Washington in particular if you’d like a workout and want to appreciate the natural splendor of our country. 

This post is going to be less about my day to day hiking experience and more about where I’m at in my personal journey. I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of breaking down my thoughts on each state I’ve passed through with the limited amount of time I have on this computer (top notch keyboard clacking sounds, by the way) and to be honest, things like terrain info and state-to-state comparisons are a quick Google search away if you’re so inclined. I’d much rather focus my blogging time on where I’m at in my head and in my life.

For LOTS more pictures and bite-sized updates, I finally created an Instagram account. You can follow me @jaketreks. You can view my profile even if you don’t have an account at https://www.instagram.com/jaketreks/. This is a far easier and less battery-draining means of getting more exciting stuff posted on a regular basis.

The reality that this grand adventure is drawing to a close sinks in deeper each day. In recent weeks, hikers seem to either be charging toward the finish line or actively choosing to slow their pace. I’m still averaging daily miles in the upper teens (less so in The Whites due to the relentlessly steep and rocky terrain), but I fall firmly in the latter camp. I’m going to soak up every ounce of this experience, through to my final steps. I want to finish alongside close hiking friends, even if that means putting on the brakes to let others catch up. There are aspects of my “front country life” to which I look forward to returning, namely petting my cats, having easy access to a toilet in time of need, and not eating Pop Tarts for breakfast every morning. But these things can wait.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about momentum, on the trail and in my life. Once I passed through Pennsylvania, the New England states really started to fly by, sometimes faster than I was able to truly ascertain the qualities that made each unique. The hundred mile markers seem to smack me in the face before I’m even aware I’m approaching them. As the remaining number of miles dwindles (less than 300!), I feel myself being inexorably being driven forward. I feel as though I’ve become a hiking machine. My legs soldier me past every obstacle and ache with a fortitude and assuredness that only comes from hundreds of hours of continued practice. My eyes and feet coordinate to navigate the terrain with a swift grace that has become so second nature that I only notice how deflty I’m moving when something causes me to halt my pace. Half a day will pass in the span of what seems like a couple hours. My body has whittled itself down solely to the musculature that will carry me to Mt. Katahdin. It struck me the other day that I am self-identifying as an athlete for the first since I was in high school, and although my feet and hips are battered to shit, my overall physical feeling is that of confident strength and power.

My AT Thru Hike is the single most significant experience of my first 30 years. No question. It is going to end in less than a month, though, and I don’t want to avoid this fact. In the larger scope of my life, little of this grandeur will matter if I cannot find ways to bring this invigorating momentum home with me. My life was a trainwreck this time last year. I was beginning the emotionally and financially draining proceedings of divorce, feeling unable to create my art and utterly disconnected from my career, living in a place I didn’t want to be without a clue as to where I wanted to go. It was the worst period of my life; struggling against quicksand for an inch of forward movement. 

Thanks to the AT, I am no longer in this place. I am still several hop-skip-and-jumps from where I need to be but a path is finally showing through the trees. When I’m finished with my hike I’m ready to sprint down it without hesitation, self censoring, or self doubt. I know who I am and what I want and, most importantly, what I’m worth. I couldn’t say any of that in 2016. I feel whole in a way that is frankly intimidating because my potential is so clear to me now. 

Every day on the trail I spend time thinking about short and long term goals. Finishing a play (the best thing I’ve ever written) that I’ve been working on for years and has been hovering at the 95% completion mark for far too long. Training for my first triathalon, a vague goal I’ve had for as long as I can remember that now seems incredibly doable. Acting, after several years away from the game. Creating art that pushes people outside of their comfort zone. Finding ways to be more politically active. Making a concerted effort to spend more time with my wonderful friends and avoiding relationships that take make than they give. Arranging events for my loved ones to spend more time outdoors and in the wilderness. 

In short: Ensuring that my 30’s are the most fulfilling, challenging, and productive decade yet. 

Thank you for reading and for being patient with my infrequent updates (again, lots more activity on Instagram). Even though my hike is coming to a close, the fullness of the experience will continue to develop long after my final steps and I’ll continue to share my thoughts. I’ll even be able to type on a computer instead of this damn phone keyboard. Imagine that!

Talk to ya later!

 

5 thoughts on “New England State of Mind

  1. Wow. I am so, so happy for you, and continue to be inspired. Thank you for putting all those feelings into words, it was really great to read. I really can’t imagine what it must be like to be on the brink of accomplishing what you are accomplishing. Godspeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jake, this is amazing. I feel so inspired by you, I’m already looking into the trail myself! Keep it up! You’re doing exactly what you need to do.

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    1. Jeremy, I SO hope you keep looking into the trail. It’ll change your life (or lives if you and Molly tackle it together)! Can’t wait to answer any questions that may pop up!!

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  3. Jake,
    I, for one, am amazed at what you have done! (and slightly envious too) My college buddies and I always had these half baked plans of great adventures after graduation and of course, like 99.9 percent of us, they were either forgotten about or purposely never talked about again. You had to fight your way (and still are I imagine) through some rough shit to get to this place in your life and I can tell in your writings you are feeling pretty good about the future. That is pretty cool! You are a true phoenix!

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words John. I’m incredibly happy that I gave myself the present of following through on this seemingly crazy plan. You should treat yourself to a weekend hike on the trail sometime if you have any interest. I was out there with people in their 70’s in not the best physical shape and still making it happen! I’d be happy to recommend some sections that might be a good fit!

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