The Only Way Out is Through: Finding Oneself in the Mosaic

Back in March we introduced you to Larsen Tormey, just before he embarked on his 6,000+ mile journey, aiming to complete both the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail this year. Lars has been on the Appalachian Trail now for 50 days and has covered 1,120 miles; roughly over half the trail and a quarter of his entire journey, doing anywhere between 22-30 miles per day. Today Lars gives us a snapshot into the introspection and mind-space of what it means to him to give yourself fully to the goal.

The days have started to blend together in that way that only happens in a state of constant motion. A faded cacophony of memories, passing conversations, blended landscapes, and routine. I try to remain grounded, understanding the only control I have over it is my own body and mind. The externalities of a constantly changing environment force me to stay flexible and open to change. 

I struggle with seeing the bigger picture outside of my narrow blinders. So easily do I succumb to my internal doubts; the almost feverish need to maintain an arbitrary target mileage per day. You would be surprised at how much more tired my mind is than my feet. As much as I try, I can’t escape this internal competitiveness. I can’t help but feel lazy if I hike below my goal or take a day off. Having this mindset strips me of the carefree demeanor of most thru hikers.

There is a beauty to moving through an environment so swiftly, so free from the constraints of physicality. I find myself teetering on the precipice of trying to transcend what it means to push beyond my perceived ability and falling short of my goals. In many ways, I am outside of my knowledge scope, trying to find a balance in a new endurance, trying to thrive instead of struggling to survive. But in 50 days, I have made it this far and I am profoundly proud. It is gratifying to feel like I’m making some progress in the larger scheme of things. 

I long to free myself of the dogmas that seem to overshadow my dreams. I have not yet overcome the fear that lurks deep inside myself, fretting about what the future will hold. The worry that I will never outrun the inescapable grip of “purpose” in this hand-to-mouth existence we are destined to embody. Walking quiets this anxiety induced introspection. The direction you move is all that matters. Putting one foot in front of the other. From this point of view, it is all quite simple.

In Barry Lopez’s book titled, “Arctic Dreams” he writes; 

“Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and dusk.”

I too wish to move my perspective in and out of focus. To feel muted by heavy rains, the repetitive squish and squelch of feet undertow. The thoughts and voices in your head are loud and unhindered. No need to hold anything in. Walking ridgelines where the wind whips against your being, stripping you of yourself. To bathe along mossy banked streams, letting the frigid waters soothe the aches and wash away the day. Meticulously navigating thousands of rocks and roots that seem to be reaching out to pull you in. Looking up into the canopy as the wind rustles and barrels through limbs and leaves alike. To sleep on the earth itself, among the decay of leaves, duff, and the hustle and bustle of life beneath. To be engulfed by darkness, letting your mind wander to the chorus of night and the peculiarities that seem to always strike a sense of fear.  

To wander with intent is to be free. And my intent is to be free. I will forever be grateful for the space that the Appalachian Trail continues to provide me. One more place I consider home. In pushing myself hard everyday, I am learning. I am showing myself that I can move fluidly through hardships. In my opinion, there is no purer way to experience the land we inhabit than to traverse it on foot. And I chose Topo Terraventures for my journey. 

My feet don’t always look pretty. A patina of dirt and dust starts every day anew. I am just retiring my second pair of the Terraventures for a brand new set. Each one so far has carried me through around 500 miles of trail. I couldn’t be more content with sustainably getting the most out of my footwear.

More importantly than the longevity of the shoes materials is the fact that my feet stay healthy. The shoes even when soaked by rainfall and creek crossings are able to breath and dry quickly. This keeps my feet from becoming too heavily macerated. In addition I find the shoes help promote a healthy gait and careful foot placement. I am confident that even if I over extend the mileage on a pair that I will still be safe from many of the thru-hiker pitfalls such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee problems etc.

I am grateful to be wearing and collaborating with a company that knows how to make a shoe that keeps up— with the rigors of an athlete and with an environment that degrades and breaks down our materialistic nature into tattered threads. I will gladly keep wearing the Topo brand because I know they have my back.

2 thoughts on “The Only Way Out is Through: Finding Oneself in the Mosaic

  1. This was an excellent blog post! I am attempting the AT in 2023 myself and I settled on the Terraventure 3 also.

  2. Congratulations on finishing the AT again, and for starting off on the CDT. It was great to talk with you at Red Eagle Lake in Glacier NP, and to hear the stories of your AT hike and other adventures. We hope you got through to Two Medicine, it looked like there was a bear closure on the Scenic Point Trail about the time you would be going through.
    Enjoy the Bob Marshall, the Winds and all the other wonderful places ahead.

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