I spent roughly a week in Texas and was surprised how easily I meshed back into the routine of things. I never felt restless or out of place but rather a sense of belonging. I’d spent the majority of my life in this neighborhood and I reclaimed hope in the idea that I wouldn’t be a jumbled mess after I reached the Pacific Ocean. I looked forward to returning to the trail and when my parents notioned at maybe staying two weeks I was quick to share my intention of only one. I swapped out some of my gear and decided to ditch other things, in hopes of a losing pack weight. I realized one of my favorite parts about walking was that I got to enter people’s lives in what sometimes was the most opportune moment, which gave me a sense of purpose. So, Saturday morning my mother and I embarked on the 8 hour drive back to Kansas. I had never been more grateful for the love and compassion she radiated.
My first day back on the ADT felt odd. My feet were on the ground but my head was in the clouds. Was this all a dream? Before I’d left the hotel room I couldn’t help but create a metaphor for the fly that was trapped in the room. It could see the outside world, freedom and life, yet the window and walls were acting as barriers. The metaphor was for a person’s life except the walls were self-built mental obstacles. As I left the outskirts of Lakin, a guy pulled over and asked me if I wanted a ride to the Colorado line, 45 miles away. This was my way out! Yet, I couldn’t allow myself to set the tone of taking the easy way out. I felt I had a vendetta against Kansas and needed to walk out of the state, with my head high. Throughout the day, four more people had offered me a ride and a motorcyclist and sheriff stopped to check on me. Out of my five months of walking, I’d never had so many people offer me rides or have a state trooper and sheriff stop for me. The state trooper asked if I needed anything along with giving me helpful information about resources in Kansas. He told me about a church organization that set aside funds to help travelers with a place to stay and that I should check it out. I was very pleased with the interaction and now had something to look forward to that evening. I watched him drive away and promptly flick his red and blue lights on as he did a u-turn and pulled over a speeding individual, next to my walking path. I looked in the windshield of the individual pulled over and saw a composed face. I kept walking and passed the state trooper, he had the biggest grin. He was such a happy individual and that energy was just contagious. The town I had originally planned on stopping at turned out to be a mile off the highway and it didn’t look too promising. I decided to keep moving and then I saw a sign that said. “Now Entering Mountain Time.” Holy crap, I was excited to see that! It was my second time zone change I walked into and it gave me an extra hour of walking. Plus, I felt that much closer to the mountains! After 27 miles I finally walked into Syracuse and saw a parked RV with the logo “Sundance.” That was my trail name and I had an overwhelming feeling that I was being welcomed back to the trail. I meandered down Main Street in search of the sheriff’s office, to do the paperwork for a place to stay via the generosity of the church organization, and saw that everything was closed. It was 5pm on a Sunday and the street was deserted. I sat near the library and scanned the nooks and crannies for a place to set up my tent, a bit disappointed. I sat there eating popcorn, once again at a loss of where to go, when I asked the guy walking his dog about the location of the sheriff’s office, it wasn’t marked well. He wasn’t from the area but told me he’d just seen a deputy go inside. I had an inch of hope. I walked up to the door and it was unlocked but would anyone be at the desk? I went inside and called, “Hello?” I stood there and stared into the transparent glass. I could see a figure walking around in the back so I waited. I didn’t know if she heard me but I saw her finally head through the door towards me. I explained the situation and the sheriff working was the same one that had driven out of town to see if I needed anything. I did the paperwork and he made a few calls. He told me that the last time someone took advantage of this resource they destroyed the motel room and left evidence of drugs. He vouched for me to the motel owner and I promised I wouldn’t let him down. I was eternally grateful and appreciative to have a safe, comfortable place to sleep.
My morning started off with great conversation with an older gentleman over breakfast. He lived in Nevada but was in Kansas tending to his farm. It felt good having a conversation. I didn’t have questions flowing out of me or even good answers to respond to his but the effort was there. As I walked along the highway at least twenty cyclists must’ve passed me. They were jubilant and said hello while zooming past. I admired the numbers in which they biked together, tactfully using aerodynamics to be energy efficient. They worked as a team. It gave me excitement but it didn’t sustain while this other countering emotion rose within me. My breath quickened and my heart rate increased. Walking just didn’t seem right anymore. I didn’t want to be there and two phrases filled my head. The first, “If you wake up enough days in a row and aren’t happy with the situation, then something needs to change,” and the second being, “In the morning ask yourself if you want to walk or not and if the answer is no then don’t walk.” When I first read these words of advice they made sense but in practice they didn’t seem practical. I needed to walk to keep moving but I didn’t want to anymore. I found a shady spot next to the railroad and sat down. Several tears rolled down my cheeks but I wasn’t overly emotional. My thoughts circled around quitting. When I first started walking there was nothing else I really had to do, no other choices, but as I walked through my journey I’d seen and experienced things I wanted for myself. I wanted a community of people surrounding me that I could adventure with and rely on. I wanted some form of structure and stability. I wanted to learn about mental health so I could help people help themselves. All these things I wanted and none of them I could have while I kept walking. I wasn’t being present minded and that began my downfall. I was arguing with myself. What would be the consequences of quitting? What would they be if I kept walking? I knew one thing and that was I was determined to get to Holly (the first town I’d come to in Colorado). I was three miles from Coolidge and five from the Colorado state line. For the hour walking to Coolidge, I determined how I’d break the news to everyone. I thought about how I could word my failure into a success story and I was okay with that. It would’ve been like an underdog story where lessons were learned but they still didn’t manage to defeat the undefeated team. I would’ve used this failure as a learning experience all while knowing if I quit I wouldn’t return. I was okay with that too. Whilst all this was circling in my thoughts I knew there was one thing I could do to salvage my journey. I had met a guy Jonah aka DudeTrek last summer and he’d walked across the country in 2013. When I’d talked to him about his experiences walking he’d mentioned he had almost quit in Utah and that was what I was curious about. I wanted to know what changed his mind. The catch was, would this world traveler and adventurer (someone difficult to get a hold of) answer his phone? I had prayed for direction and I knew if he answered the phone it would be my sign. I arrived in Coolidge and settled myself at a shady picnic table and made the call to Jonah. It rang a few times and then went to a voicemail in spanish. I decided to try calling a high school friend, Keya, who was always filled with words of wisdom. Yet, as I told her about my thoughts on quitting I found myself hearing but not really listening to what she had to say. “I won’t let you quit,” she voiced passionately. I knew though, the only person that could make me keep walking was me and the majority of myself had decided to quit. I couldn’t call my parents to get me because I’d just been picked up and then brought back to Kansas. I’d have to look to my grandparents in north eastern Colorado to rescue me from my sinking ship. Then, mid-phone call with Keya my phone showed Jonah was calling me back. I let it ring through and waited for a fitting moment to tell Keya I’d call her back. I called Jonah again, wondering if it would even be him on the other end. This time he picked up! His voice was cheery as always and I tried to explain the situation while keeping my voice steady. He didn’t tell me to quit or not to quit rather he shared what was ahead of me and related to what I was feeling. I’d been feeling like I was floating in a third dimension separate from the world around me yet somehow still interacting with it. He reaffirmed things I already knew about the beauty of the mountains and the awesome people I’d continue to meet. As for what had kept him from quitting in Utah, he’d made a phone call to the Delaware state coordinator and received advice himself, “Never quit on a rainy day,” he was told. I asked Jonah how to fend off these sinking feelings because we both knew it would return. The more philosophical approach was to realize how strong one’s mental fortitude would be after all was said and done. Mentally, I would be a rock and nothing would tear me down. The practical approach would be to list my gratefuls. By saying the things I was grateful for I could redirect my thoughts towards a positive outlook. Even with this advice he kept it real with me. He confirmed my fears. It wouldn’t get better in Colorado. In fact, it would get worse and more desert like in the south eastern part of the state. With this knowledge, I decided to walk the two miles into Colorado knowing that I was willing to keep fighting.