Counseling in Photo Series, Therapist Journal

Life Challenges – AT Trail Experience Revisited

AT Trail revisited

As the Winter Weather continues to barrel down on us in the Northeast I am finding myself wishing that summer would come to the Northern Hemisphere quicker than normal. While looking through photos to use for a new post I found this photo from an Appalachian Trail hike experience a few friends and myself took this past year. The experience was eye opening and has been something that has been a part of our conversations each time we meet for the past year and most likely for the years to come.

What made the event so unforgettable? The fact that we were taken out of our comfort zone and pushed to our physical, emotional, and mental limits throughout the experience. In particular, we had been following the trail purely by trail markers on trees without any maps or other navigational help save some helpful advice from experienced hikers on the trail. I have hiked many times but I had never accomplished a multiple day hike previous to this adventure (and I was one of the most experienced in our group).

As a result of our group dynamics, lack of maps, and weariness from battling physical soreness and mental fatigue (from journeying in a thunderstorm the previous day) we made a wrong turn and ended up staring at the boulder field in the picture. Did we think we made a wrong turn? Yes. Did we think it a good idea to turn around? No. Did we trek onward in hopes we’d reconnect with the trail out of sheer lack of common sense? Yes.

After crossing a large portion of the boulder field we noticed that the boulders went on for a very long time. We eventually hunkered down as a group and determined which direction we were headed in comparison to where we should have been headed. After some planning and more journeying we eventually relocated the trail and were able to laugh as some of the hikers past us (a group we had started a few hours before).

We take wrong turns in our lives and we can feel like the odds are stacked against us. However, taking time to just remind ourselves of where we are headed and readjust our bearings we will be able to get there. This may include conversations with friends, journaling, or allowing ourselves time to think. A large help can come from surrounding ourselves with positive peers that are willing and able to be with us during these times. I know if any of my hiking group was by ourselves in our Appalachian Trail journey the overall risk would have increased and our emotional and mental supplies depleted.

As we journey through our lives we need to look and assess the individuals that we are surrounding ourselves with. Not sure how to do that? Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I feel supported by them?
  • What benefits do I get from being around this person?
  • What are the negatives associated with this person?
  • In the case of being an outdoors person: Would I hike all the way from Maine to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail with this person? part of the way? some of the way? not at all?

Another way of thinking about it is through the idea of your life as a mountain. For more information about this concept check out 10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Apart of by Tim Urban.