Couldn’t Be More Thankful
Ahh here we go: Thanksgiving once again. This is easily one of my favorite holidays. In our commercial and egotistical world, I love the idea of spending time to reflect on either the needs of others, or the blessings that have given us such a wonderful and comfortable life. Whichever route you and your family choose to go, or even if it is both, you will be better for it. We truly don’t do either of these things enough.
2015 has brought A TON of reasons for me to be thankful. On Monday, I get to return to my job of teaching the resilient brains of 7th graders. Yes, I do suppose that’s a blessing. There’s a beautiful and shiny ring on my left hand and a loving and handsome man to go with it. That’s an insane blessing that I will never stop being thankful for. But this year, most of my blessings will reflect around the things I learned, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been as I hiked 2,189 miles on the Appalachian Trail.
I always apologize to people when I mention this blog, because well, I didn’t do that great of a job. And if you thought that was bad, you should see my journal! I don’t have an excuse except the days were just so full out there. I used up every ounce of who I was out there both physically and emotionally. And this is the first of many things I am very thankful for: the experience of giving myself so completely and fully to a dream like this. Thank you so much to the people and the states and the journey that allowed me to exhaust and empty myself, only to be filled by so many other wonderful and glorious things.
So Let’s Reflect on The Last Days
The end of my thru-hike was pretty fantastic. The last two states, New Hampshire and Maine, were a beastly but rewarding challenge. After hiking almost half of the trail with the fine members of our gang known as Sturdy Dog (consisting of BB, Dirtface, Pilgrim, Stream Clean and myself) it was around this time that our group changed a little. It soon morphed into a group of 5 fabulous females: BB, Dirtface, Blue Kazoo, Haulin’ Oates, and myself. Hiking with these ladies taught me that it is truly impossible to hike while laughing your face off. As the 5 of us hiked in a line while listening to the best playlist hikers everywhere have heard (a gift from BB and I to the world), we had some of the best times on the trail. The Presidentials weren’t so hard with those ladies to laugh and walk with. This year, I reflect on those wonderful and precious memories and their dear and lovely souls. Thank you so much.
My summit day, September 21st, was truly fantastic. Katahdin is one tough mountain. I am so thankful for the wonderful weather we had that day: clear and blue skies all day long. It made that climb even more enjoyable. On a rainy or snowy day, you’d want to climb up and then scurry right back down. But not on this day. On this day, we were able to stop and take in all the moments we wanted. I was able to bask in the last day that I would be out on this hike. So how would I describe that final summit? I’m a very religious person, and I believe with all my heart that one day I will die and be in Heaven with my Lord and so many other souls that I love. I believe that my death will be greeted with a moment of pure bliss and love. I interrupt this story to say this, because this is the only thought I can compare my Kathadin summit with. As BB and I finished our climb, we approached the top and who else was there, but all the people that we loved so much. Through the tears we were able to see that old rascal Five, who FINALLY got our names right. Weary and run-down looking 4-B was the next familiar face I saw, as he stopped me to discuss his amazement at finishing with so many of his friends. Then we passed through the crowd and saw Rock Steady, Paradox, and Latch as we hugged and embraced them. Next we saw our girl Dirtface atop that glorious mountain. We waited and not too far behind us came Pilgrim and then the notorious duo Hardwear and White Wolf. And even though he wasn’t there in person, of course I called Kanati first. I had to make sure he knew I was there. I had everyone I wanted up on that mountain with me in some form or another and life was truly perfect. Oh thank you so much AT for this perfect ending to the most perfect hike.
As we passed through the beautiful yet intensely tough state of Maine, we did lose two members of our solid girl group. Blue Kazoo and Haulin’ Oates fell behind, leaving it to the gals of Sturdy Dog: BB, Dirtface, and myself. I love these two girls so much and reflect so fondly on every trail memory with them. Dirtface, a girl about my age is a true independent spirit. We met her in the Shenandoah National Park and from the very beginning I’ve always been impressed with her speed and independence. Coming out and hiking the AT completely on her own after her companions bailed, she has always been dedicated to hiking her own hike. A rower from New Hampshire, I was in awe of this decidedly strong and dedicated hiker whose undying love for the Patriots and Red Sox forced us to discuss more comfortable and easy topics like religion and politics. As her long and scabby legs trudged ahead of us up the trail, we could sometimes catch a glimpse of her disgustingly faded once coral shirt that now looked flesh toned or hear the faint sound of her podcast shifting over to a new topic. At camp in those last days, we invited her into The Hive (a most honorable invitation) where the three of us would sit and listen as I read aloud from our book, The Giver. Those nights were some of the best. I laugh inwardly just thinking of Dirtface and her reaction to BB and I in our ridiculousness. I believe I speak for myself and BB when I say, thank you so much Dirtface for being our favorite New England thru-hiker.
And of course there’s BB. My hiker soul mate. This girl who I literally spent 24/7 with throughout it all. Most people don’t quite realize this: we shared EVERY moment together. There’s less than 15 miles along this trail that we did not hike together. Then, after hiking all day long with one another, we would climb into The Hive and share a tent together. Sometimes we even went to the bathroom together. There literally wasn’t a moment the two of us were apart. Looking back, this could have made our thru-hike the worst most uncomfortable trek in our lives. But I can’t imagine it any other way. I woke up every morning to her movement and the smell of her coffee and fell asleep to the sound of her writing in her journal every night. I spent every day on the trail following behind her as we talked, complained, laughed, farted (and I was in the back so that made it a little more painful for me), walked in silence, cried, planned, or just listened to Kool and the Gang. I couldn’t talk about the AT without talking about BB. Even now, over two months since our summit, it’s still weird to not see her everyday. Shoot, in those two months I’ve only seen her twice (blast those 6 hours that keep us apart). But I love her. BB is and always will be one of the most precious souls that I keep in my heart. I’ve seen so much of her and she’s seen so much of me. Thank you BB for posting that Instagram pic with me and that guidebook so long ago and agreeing to finish this journey with me and see it through. And thank you for staying with me, even when I was annoying, and whiny, and smelly, and lazy. And thanks for sharing those last few steps up to Katahdin with me and only me. I love you.
Thankful After the Trail
Sometimes I have to remind myself that this actually happened. Isn’t that funny? I spent 6 months and a day working towards something, and less than 2 months later, I have to convince myself that it was real. It’s just that the whole thing was so fantastic, it’s almost too good to be true. But it was true, and as I lounge in my gloriously spacious bed with an overabundance of dry and warm clothes to change into and a feast of food of all varieties waiting me in the next few days, I relish in the fact that I once carried all my needs on my back. I smile at the thought of having nothing else to do in my day besides walk. I bask at the memory of how happy I was upon receiving a shower, clean clothes, and a bed once a week. The trail has made me thankful for so many things. I am blessed beyond measure. I have material wealth that is unfathomable. I am thankful for that.
I am thankful for those that I met on the trail. It is said that you are made up of a little piece of everyone you meet and I hope that’s true. I hope I have the presence of a man like Hardwear, the infectious laughter of a woman like Rock Steady, the grit of a man like 4-B
, the thoughtful and rational intelligence of Pilgy, the kind and genuine hearts of Mockingbird and Dr. Pickles, the love and open heart of the Wolf, the enthusiasm of Kanati, the humility of Right Click, the ability to be super cool, even in the wild, like White Wolf, the solidly formed and convicted beliefs of Dirtface, and of course, the strength and tenacity of BB. Those people and those memories are so dear to me, and I am thankful for that.
Lastly, I am thankful for the trail. Just the trail, as it is. I am so thankful that such beautiful places in the world like this exist. Places that you can go to for regrowth and renewal. Places that will absolutely break you down to your core and remind you what it is like to need and to hurt and to feel pain, but then show you what beauty and love truly is. I’m thankful for places that show me my Lord. I’m thankful for places like the Appalachian Trail.
Happy trails and Happy Thanksgiving folks.
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