LOOKING BACK ON THE FIRST FORTY-NINE DAYS OF TRACING THE WHITES
Miles upon miles stack up on the odometer of my 2011 RAV4. Dirt cakes itself to my calves, refusing to budge even after scrubbing. Specks of black mark my skin regardless of how much I try to keep myself clean, and it feels pointless since I’ll be dirty again the next day anyways. I’ve racked up over 500 miles in forty-nine days and over 165,000’ of elevation, but only 22% of the trails in the rugged White Mountains have been traced and I constantly have to remind myself that I’m doing this as a gift to myself. That this is my job now, for all intents and purposes (though I work two days a week as a substitute teacher and write too). Getting out of bed is the bane of my existence and threatens to thwart my fourteen month self-imposed deadline. My drives are at minimum two hours one-way, and then there’s a full day of hiking, and the drive home. Six o’clock feels too early to be up and at the same time an hour too late, so I hike into the afternoons and drive home with dusk kissing my windshield.
It’s fall now, officially, and I’m both welcoming the foliage and dreading the shorter days that are inevitable. The sun isn’t up anymore when I leave in the morning, and the golden orb sits lower in the sky, setting ever earlier regardless of how much I will it to stay up a few minutes longer. I’ve spent the vast majority of the last twenty-four days in the Speckled and Wild River Wildernesses, mainly hiking trails that I have not visited before, taking on five+ hour drives and five+ hour hikes daily. But what has changed the most in the last twenty-five days is my attitude about this time that I am incredibly privileged to have. My focus continues to become more and more inward and I have taken to using the voice recorder app on my phone to reflect on life while hiking.
The big shift in what all of this is about happened on day forty-five. I started to feel bored and uninspired to post on my social media. As a multi passionate creative, if I’m not feeling artistic or motivated to make art, then I begin to question everything in my life. Without that motivation, it feels pointless to share my journey, and that feeling came to a head as I created yet another reel that was just a generic summary of day forty-six’s hike. The point of this journey is to feel something, to gain insight into who I am as a person on a deeper level, to ask the hard questions and stop running from my past. To do the work that I never did, to write the books that haunt me, and creating generic Instagram reels feels absolutely soul-sucking for me right now. So I stopped posting. I stopped making generic reels; stopped trying to keep everyone up to date, and went inward. Most of all, I stopped running.
The leaves are in full-blown foliage mode now. Temperatures barely reach 65, and I feel as though it went from sweltering summer heat to frost advisories overnight this year. Having lived in New Hampshire my entire life, I love the brilliantly blunt changing of the seasons that happen four times a year; I can’t imagine life without seasons. But fall feels like it aggressively tackled and took down summer overnight this year. I’m hoping for a mild winter, because that season along with spring will make or break the fourteen month timeline for me, but if I’ve learned anything it’s this: nature doesn’t care what you want, it will be what it will be and it’s up to you to do the bending.
Days Hiking: 49
Overall Miles: 526.25
Overall Vert: 165,151’
New England 100 Highest: 25/100
Percent Traced: 22.9%
Miles Driven: 12,000
That story is so good! I love the White Mountains, I’ve been hiking there forever and what you did is amazing!2
Great read, thank you for sharing! I hike a ton in the whites too and it’s awesome to see people like you going after big goals like this. Keep having fun out there!2