Looking Back

It has now been about 7 weeks since I completed the Trail. I have reunited with friends and family, and more or less have commenced the new chapter in my life called retirement. I doubt a day has passed without my recalling some AT experience.

A week after completing the AT, our entire family attended my grandson’s 7th birthday. It was certainly nice for all of us to be together as a family. I was fresh off the Trail. Many AT-related questions were asked and answered which made me “relive” parts of the Trail.

For the first 3 or 4 weeks after I arrived home, a good part of my brain was still on the Trail. I would at times dream I was on the Trail, and it was not uncommon for me to wake up in the middle of the night thinking of the hike I had ahead of me the next day.

Presently I have a couple reminders of the Trail: my weight and my toes. I lost 30 pounds on the AT and although I have regained about 10 of them, I haven’t been this slim in about 35 years. That’s a positive. On the other hand, about 8 of my toes have been quite numb since hiking Vermont and entering New Hampshire. From what I read this may persist for up to a year. My toes, which are now slightly better, have been my only physical issue during or after the hike.

Before I retired, my schedule basically ruled my life. I worked, and the days I didn’t work I always had something scheduled that had to be accomplished. The week after I retired, I was on the Trail and I basically hiked or “worked” every day except those days I took a zero. During the six months on the AT, the Trail schedule basically ruled my life. Now, for the first time in many decades, my schedule is what I choose it to be. I am still not used to this freedom.

About a month after I completed the AT, I gave a presentation of my AT experience to my former colleagues at Duke University Medical Center. I thought this would give me closure of that experience. Although it somewhat did, a good part of my daily thoughts continue to revolve around the Appalachian Trail.

A few days ago, Diane and I took down the posters my daughter’s children made for me on the last day on the Trail. For the last seven weeks, these posters have been hanging in our breakfast nook. Those posters meant much more to me after the hike than they did the last day of the hike. I guess my thoughts were overwhelming that day as I was emotional and did not appreciate the posters as much as I did the weeks following completion of the Trail.

Two days ago, I had my beard shaved (much to the delight of Diane) and although I still think of the Trail, I believe I am finally getting much closer to normal. At least I look like I am getting back to normal!

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was a tremendous experience. There were emotional highs and lows, physical challenges and amazing beauty. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have the good health that allowed me to undertake this endeavor.

I truly believe what got me through this journey were faith, family and friends. Diane, more than anybody, was instrumental and I know that, because of her, I was successful.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. There is so much for which I am thankful.


3 thoughts on “Looking Back”

  1. Hank, were you an anesthesiologist in Durham before retirement? The anesthesiologist who participated in my wife’s knee replacement surgery last March 27 was going to do a thru hike upon retirement, and his name was Hank. I’ve been curious how things went for him. Thanks.


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