Why I stopped after 334 km – a report on my experience
Dear NST enthusiasts,
On March 1, 2021, the day finally arrived: I began my great journey. It was a 3,382 km trek from the northernmost to the southernmost point of Germany, all on foot. It didn’t take long for me to experience the warmth and kindness of the people I encountered along the way. However, I also don’t want to hide the difficulties that such a trail brings, especially during the time of COVID-19. Not having a place to stay in between was one thing, and I solved it simply by driving home every few days.
The other challenge was a bit more difficult for me: Not being able to stop for a cup of coffee or warm up along the way. But I have also learned to cope with that.
Even before my journey, I could hardly imagine any reason to “abort” it. I was far too optimistic. Unfortunately, all of that didn’t help me at all; my foot rebelled and told me it couldn’t go on. So, I had to take a longer break. Nothing was found in the X-ray, so all I could do was rest. After several weeks, when my foot finally started to feel better, my motivation was almost nonexistent. But simply giving up without at least trying again was out of the question for me.
So I took small steps again and hiked on the trail for three days in a row with 10-15 km per day and less baggage. Lo and behold, my motivation was back. With the first steps on the Sigwardsweg, the anticipation of the more beautiful trails returned, including the Weserbergland-Weg and the upcoming trip to Sylt to complete the northern part of the NST. But unfortunately, things took a different turn; my foot started to hurt again. I didn’t want to risk taking such a long break again. Therefore, my priorities shifted.
Of course, I cannot predict the future, but realistically, I would probably have experienced foot pain again while hiking and developed a strong determination to complete the trail even with pain. I don’t see myself as too pessimistic; I believe it was simply a realistic assessment. And that’s okay; after all, I hiked 334 km.
Based on my experiences, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from taking on the NST. However, I strongly recommend thoroughly considering the current circumstances. For example (and this is my opinion): No café or similar establishments are open, you are on a section without shelters, and you also happen to be plagued by bad weather. In that case, the romanticism of being in the great outdoors may not be as strong anymore. Unless, of course, you have no issues with all the aforementioned factors, and that’s something you must decide for yourself.
Of course, I also want to highlight the positive aspects and that things can go almost perfectly sometimes. I had this experience on the very first day: sunny weather during the day, a beautiful trail, pleasant encounters, a suitable place to sleep, a starry night, frost in the morning, and – even though some might consider it negative – the first ice in my water bottle.
In conclusion, I would like to advise you to accept help from others and actively seek assistance when needed. The worst that can happen is that someone denies you help, but even that may have its reasons. Generally, people are extremely helpful, hospitable, and appreciate hearing about your experiences.
I hope that my short experience report will help future hikers on the NST and make it clear why personally 334 km out of 3,382 km were enough for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the kilometers I walked and wish everyone after me to have beautiful experiences, lots of fun, and a bit of trail magic along the way.
Franzi – North South Trail 2021