I'm caught in a time warp.
Now that it's thru-hiker season, I keep thinking, what could I have done to stay on the Trail? Even though, at the time, I had become convinced that I WANTED to come home and do the SavageMan triathlon, and when I did, I was very happy that I had.
It was after the triathlon was over that the sadness kicked in. Training for the tri had filled the void temporarily.
I'm training for the same tri again now (I'll have 6 months of training for it instead of 2 like last year) but it's not filling the void this time. No doubt I'd still be feeling Springer Fever now even if I'd stayed on the Trail and gotten to Katahdin. I'd want the hope-filled start and long step-after-step journey and the climactic finish again. I'd be wanting to pack my pack and do the whole 2,183 miles all over again. I'm sure I would. Even if I'd finished it.
Nothing ever takes the longing away. No one is ever the same. I hear it over and over.
The one thing to the contrary that I do hear, I may have averted: sticking with it far past desire, far past reason, coming to dread each day, loathing it, finishing out of stubbornness, and then never wanting to hike again, never wanting to see a trail again, even for a day. I've heard of that happening.
I'm glad it didn't happen to me. I got out in time.
With the result that I keep thinking about what I could have done to keep hiking, and what I can do to get back out there, and where and when and how.
Better to be left wanting more and planning and waiting for it to be possible, than to have lost the longing.