Why am I hiking 2000+ miles?

Why am I hiking 2000+ miles?
February 23, 2018 Heather Starbuck

“I feel very sane about how crazy I am”

– Carrie Fisher

Grief is all consuming. Those of you who have lost the person they love most in life are probably all too aware of the crippling pain this sort of devastation causes. The inability to eat, sleep, or move. Finding yourself lost, staring at walls for sometimes hours on end. Sometimes we try to drown out the emptiness through TV on permanent rotation, glasses and glasses of wine, or laying down in the shower with the water on full blast. Other times we spin our wheels to anyone who will listen about our loved ones, the sudden loss, the trauma, where are they now?, how is this real?, what does this all mean and how can the world go on with out them? when will I get to see him again?. I often find myself screaming in my car until my voice chokes and my throat closes in. “What am I supposed to do without you?! Why did you leave us here all alone?!”.

Like many who experience this, I have found some comfort in writing. Though sometimes that makes me even more manic as I spew out these overwhelming and depressing thoughts. A month in, I wrote the below, and it still feels oh so relevant today.

From my journal – October 2017

I am still deflating, and often I feel I’ve reached that point where that flat tire has lost all its air and can’t move forward or backwards so it just sits stagnantly. The whole affair is completely daunting. When we lose the person in our life who matters most, the person who gave us such meaning, our protector and our primary source of joy everything about our identity, our ego so to speak, shatters. I am completely untethered, like I’m in some sort of pinball machine going left, right, up, down and I don’t know who all has the levers but I think grief is the main player shaking me all over.

People go on thru-hikes for all sorts of reasons. A common thread is for self-discovery and/or getting back to the roots of humanity and nature. I suppose my reason is to move each day, one foot in front of the other. In the woods, alone or among few others, where I’ve found the most solace. That simple, though physically challenging, task for six months I hope will get me through the first year without Matt. And I pray, will somewhat fill me back up again.

I also feel that I have to do it for Matt. The idea came to me so randomly one night that I truly believe he was behind it. I was alone. Sad, crying, drinking wine when all of the sudden I decided I was going to walk somewhere with Theo, for months, through many towns, in honor of him. At first I pondered walking across the country. But as I continued thinking about it that night, the Appalachian Trail, something I hadn’t even heard of for about two decades, jumped into my mind. When I researched it more, I found that Appalachia is the region with the highest rate of opioid addiction and overdoses in the country. I also saw that it went right up through my home state and past an old ski house we used to go to in Vermont. Believe it or not, the light in the room flickered on and off a few times as I rambled on about it to Matt. Life has its serendipitous moments where if we listen it will tell us what we are supposed to do. I suppose since I am so raw, flattened, and cracked open I am finally finding myself more able to listen, and with nothing left to lose, able to act upon these crazy whims.

Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, and this whole idea is crazy but I guess I am leaning more and more into the crazy these days. Perhaps being crazy, isn’t so crazy at all.



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