Long distance hiking is definitely no easy task! Do you have a mantra that keeps you pushing toward the end of the trail. Ambassador Amanda Westendorf used a mantra to keep her pushing when she began her hike on the Appalachian Trail.

“I am the storm.”

This was my mantra during the first weeks of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. I ripped it off a meme I saw (because memes are how people communicate now), and while I doggedly searched for the person who deserved credit, the author is largely unknown. The saying goes like this:

“Fate whispers to the warrior,

‘You cannot withstand the storm.’

And the warrior whispers back,

‘I am the storm.’”

How cool a poem is that?! How utterly “pump-you-up” cool!

My husband and I had started our thru-hike in mid-March of this year. Coming from the flat land of the Midwest to climb hundreds of miles of mountains, we knew we were going to have a rough time of it because, let’s be honest, there are few options for uphill training in Indiana and Illinois. So, we did the best we could with what we had.

That first day on the trail, our plan was to make it to Hawk Mountain Shelter, which is about 8 miles from Springer Mountain. Eight miles doesn’t seem that far (now), especially compared to the entire length of the trail, but it took us almost all day to hike it. We were on our last little ascent and I was feeling overtired and nauseated.

As twilight was setting in, we were desperately searching for any kind of sign to the shelter. We had no clue how much farther we had to go. Our pace slowed, our packs felt like they had actually gained weight throughout the day, and our feet were like lead.

Holy crap, this is only the first day, I thought, how am I gonna finish this trail? How am I even going to get up and do this again tomorrow?

Burdened with these doubts, I knew I was going to have to dig deep just to finish the day’s mileage. It was a matter of pride. I mean, I couldn’t quit the trail on the first day for crying out loud! That’s when I remembered that meme.

I am the storm.

Such a small saying with such a big impact if you let it sink in. It’s about taking control of a situation. It’s quieting that voice in your head telling you that you should fear, and raising the voice that says you are something to be feared. It’s being confident and capable. It’s owning your personal power.

So I did.

I pushed myself up the mountain, slowly, rhythmically, chanting to myself “I am the storm,” and it helped. The chant was enough to sustain me until we reached a ridge runner who informed us that the shelter was close, and then adrenaline kicked in and got me the rest of the way. Once we reached the shelter, we made camp and I threw myself into the tent, exhausted but proud.

I used this mantra many times during my time on the AT – on hard climbs, while high winds whipped around me on exposed balds, and during actual storms. And while there are a great many other quotes and motivators, this one worked for me. It reminds me that despite all my faults and weaknesses, I’m still a force to be reckoned with.

4 comments on “I am the storm

  1. Amanda, this is such an awesome posting sharing your vulnerability and your strength. I know fear was with you AND you found a way to still go on. I am so proud of you, what you accomplished, and excited for what lies ahead!!!

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