Somedays you are just backpacking or going about your day and then some realization hits you and you never saw it coming.
Woke up and got on the trail around 6 a.m. I had a 7.2 mile hike ahead of me today to get to town. There is also a heat advisory out and storms in the forecast. So I did what I could to follow the mountaineering principle of, high by noon and down by two.
I got to summit South and North Crocker Mountain first thing this morning. It was about a 2000 foot climb, darn near straight up. It was slow going up. The higher I went, the more it felt and looked like the Earth was falling away. The trees were shrinking rapidly before my eyes as I climbed higher. A fall here would not make for a nice holiday photo. It was nice and easy once I was up. The descent down was fairly controlled for the most part.
On my way down the mountains, I came across the 2000 mile marker.
I did not expect to happen, what happened next. I sat down on a rock next to it and put my hand on it, caressing it and I cried, full on. I also just put some on video without thinking about it. I will post it, so I have the memory. Its raw, unedited, unscripted and in the heat of the moment, so it is what it is. It is emotion and love that has always fueled this journey, some leaked out today.
When I took this journey on, I had no idea if I could do it. I was all in, but being all in and pulling it off are very different. It is a huge undertaking mentally and physically. It is believed that only 15% to 20% who try a thru hike on the AT complete it. Most say it is the toughest hiking long trail in the world, who knows. The experts this year have said it may be the lowest completion rate ever this year, due to weather conditions, but time will tell. I wanted to do this hike for me, for my parents while they are alive, my girlfriend and others. I wish my grandparents and others were here to share in this too. My dad almost dying at the VA before I left, sealed the deal that I was going to give it my all, no matter what. I want to decide what my life is and live it. I write my lifes chapters. My life is about building meaning, memories and connections, material possessions are not me nor what I myself strive for.
So I sat on this rock, this joyous wave of emotion grabbed me out of nowhere, reflecting on how far I have come, the hardships and great times, the sacrifices I and others have made for this pilgramage to happen, all the people who helped me in countless ways. The lessons I have learned and looking ahead to putting that exclamation point one what will be one of my greatest accomplishments ever. Remember, I am HAPPY in the video clip. A glimpse into the heart of a thru hiker. I really am going to do this!!!! The only easy day was yesterday, as the phrase goes.
As I was working on going down, I heard thunder fairly close, but could only see blue skies. The skies darkened later. As I got down, there was a small gravel parking lot, with a small RV camper there covered in AT decals and such. A guy leans his head out with grey hair and pony tail and asks “You are Thru Hiker?” I say yes…as I look to the sky…He says come on inside for cold drinks and ice cream. So I do. There were three other thru hikers there.
The Trail Angel gave me trail magic of pop and ice cream and we all chatted a while. The Trail Angel thru hiked 7 years ago and now lives in his RV going up and down the trail doing trail magic. Before AT life he was an Army Ranger and Ranger Instructor for 30 years until he retired. He saw more than his share. He came out and hiked the AT, otherwise he would have killed himself he said due to military experiences. We all know the AT heals, its magical. I was going to hitch a ride to town, but he gave me a ride too. I am so thankful for so much.
I am sitting on a covered porch, with a small river just feet away. Light rain and lightening and thunder around me. What an amazing day. I even grabbed a fresh salad to eat with real vegetables from a place in this very small town.
I looked forward to more great times ahead as I move up Maine. If weather conditions are good for my next mountain, I am told one can see Canada and Kathadin (a long ways away yet). Amazing.