Ready to quit the Appalachian Trail? Read this first.

This post is about mercy.

It’s about revising your Appalachian Trail plan- or your life plan– without apology.
It’s about ambiguity and acceptance and really good pie.
It’s about hikes that end. And begin again.
It’s about the decision to keep walking.

What do you mean by mercy?

Dictionary definition:

mer·cy /ˈmərsē/

1. Compassion or forgiveness
2. An event to be grateful for, especially because it prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering
3. Especially of a journey or mission- motivated by compassion

But first: Happy 4th of July!

Megan and Jim show their USA pride today

Fireworks explode as I write this

But I can’t see any of them.

I am sitting on the back porch of a suburban home in Leesburg, Virginia. The Appalachian Trail feels a million miles away.

But my morning started there. I woke up at the Ed Garvey shelter about five miles north of Harpers Ferry with two of the first people I met on trail in March (see above).

While heating water for morning coffee, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang a few bars of “My Country Tis of Thee.” Jim of course had a flag for this, which he has been meticulously folding each day, military-style, with our help.

I love the 4th of July

I always have.

I love the colors, the red-white-and-blue. I love the songs. I love the summer heat and picnics. I love the food and beverages (see below).

But – full disclosure- I’ve always loved most that it’s the night before my birthday. I was born a few hours shy of being a “Bicentennial Baby,” born on the morning of July 5, 1976.

These two days together link my history with our country’s history. And speaking of history:

Me on July 4th, 1982

Me on July 4th, 2019

Same beverages; same braids

Not much has changed. Though I no longer wear an eye patch and I traded the hot dog for a notepad.

Because I’m pausing at the halfway point to take notes.

I love fireworks but I am skipping the show because my body says it is very very tired and needs to sit in this screened-in porch and breathe.

“Happy breath day,” my friend Kim texts. This is what her hippie friends call birthdays. Breath-days. The day you took your first breath.

Now I am breathing my millionth or trillionth breath- to stop and ask what in the world I am doing on this Appalachian trail.

The trail that never ends.

How did the first half go?

How do I want to live into the second?

I want more of this. A farmers market somewhere in PA

Second halves matter

Columnist David Brooks recently wrote The Second Mountain: the Quest for a Moral Life, which echoes some of Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Both are worth reading, and here’s the basic theme:

At mid-life you have a choice to make:

Will you keep striving to have more, be more, do more?

Or will you ask yourself what really matters- offering the sum of your gifts and experience to make a contribution to the world?

What does it mean in the second half of life to revise the plan, savor the good, nurture friendship and family, redeem life’s inevitable pain, and receive rest?

But between the first and second half may come the disorienting arrival of the blues.

Mid-way thru-blues

Give me a break, you might be thinking.

“You have no job or responsibilities. You’re staying at fun hostels and towns along the way. You’re meeting interesting people. You’re spending every day walking in nature, for crying out loud!

“And you feel down?”

I said people get the blues. It’s why some get off trail. It’s why I almost did.

It’s why I need…

A mid-way re-boot

We all know the iconic locker room scenes in those feel-good sports films.

The coach gathers his players together at half-time and just when it seems there’s no way the team can win, he inspires them to play like a team, try a new strategy, and remember who they are!

“Hoosiers”

That’s what I need. A motivational coach who reminds me why I’m here. A guy (or gal) who implores in colorful language that I may at times feel down for the count, but there’s still a second half.

This butterfly knows all about second-half transformation

Cue Christina the half-time coach. She’s my next-door neighbor in New York and possesses that rare blend of empathy and strategy.

After a 27-mile day last week I called her by the side of the trail in the Shenandoahs. Weepy and tired, I whined, “I don’t want to do this.”

She listened first. Affirmed second. Advised third. I’ll share that below.

The blues aren’t just for Virginia

In AT thru-hiker land, the “Virginia Blues” are notorious. When hikers get bogged down in the 500+ trail miles in Virginia and even consider giving up.

Virginia can lead one to the brink of despair not because it lacks its own beauty and charm-

But because it is so long, so hot, so lacking in water sources, so sparse on epic views, so pressured for making miles, so rough on your body to hike for 12-15 hours of daylight…

And also this one more thing:

The bubble has BURST

Remember all those fun group pics I used to post? Back when lots of people hiked and camped and hung out in towns together? Aka the “northbound thru-hiker bubble”?

The trail magic schoolhouse! A fun time had by all.

We laughed around campfires and packed into hotels. We sang and played games. We hitch-hiked and danced. Sometimes at the same time! See below:

Thanks Wobbles!

But in Virginia, the bubble kinda pops.

Some people get off trail for good. Some stay back due to injuries. Some speed way ahead. Some (like me) get off trail for a wedding and then come back only to find the entire bubble has passed you by and there’s no way to catch up. You hike 27 miles in a day and 80 miles in 5 days and you are still. way. behind.

If a hiker falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, can she still break her leg?

You wonder.

I may be slow but I get a lot of sweet night views

You are SO behind the throng that when you hike towards Harpers Ferry, a super clean-smelling group of day hikers stop you to ask,

“Are you a thru-hiker?”

Like you are all manner of rare exotic animal not seen for months and now you are the last member of this endangered species and yes, they ask to take a PHOTO with you.

“We’ve been hoping for weeks to see one of you! A real thru-hiker!”

Followed by the ever-encouraging:

“Wow, the north-bound thru-hikers we’ve met are all in New York by now. Do you think you’re gonna make it all the way to Maine?”

The face I make if you ask me that question. Beware, I have trekking poles.

Suddenly everyone’s talking numbers and deadlines

It’s like arriving at a final exam for a class you didn’t even know you were taking.

Now everyone on trail is in second-semester mode:

“He’s going the distance, he’s going for speed”

Who knew there was this famous “rule” that if you don’t make it to Harpers Ferry by July 1, you’re statistically unlikely to make it to Katahdin?

(For the record I got there on July 3rd, so save your condolence cards)

“She’s all alone (all alone), all alone in her time of need”

And then you find yourself for the first time in a trail town, ready to rest and resupply and shower, and you are really truly ALONE.

Alone in Front Royal, “racing and pacing and plotting the course.” Consulting AWOL’s guide and crunching the numbers.

Now if you are super solitary by nature and came out here to have a hermit-like experience – where it’s just you and the wasps and woodlands, this could be heaven.

For most of us, not so much.

See, the trail already provides a ton of solitude. Many of us hike the majority of the day alone.

But alone at shelters and tent sites? Alone in town? Alone to get ice cream?

Welcome to the bubble-bursting blues.

This heron seems okay being alone

Or maybe you’re not alone, but the group you’re with isn’t what you’d hoped it would be. People don’t seem on the same page. Expectations differ and go uncommunicated. Factions break off. Some go home.

One girl I know who’s a part of a very close-knit, fun trail family wrote a week ago in a shelter log. She described feeling many of the same things I was.

And one guy I know who got off trail said:

“I just wasn’t having fun anymore.”

What happens in the middle

The milestone

At the spiritual halfway point, as Harpers Ferry is called, you get to have your photo taken at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters and officially register where you are in your thru-hike.

There are lots of nice people and bottles of cold water and they will even take your picture twice so you can show off how you lift your 18.2-pound pack with one finger:

Sweat equity

This will be a super exciting day!

And then it will be back to the heat, long miles, sparse water, and so on.

The re-evaluation

As you near the halfway mark, it’s a good time to assess what this hike means to you and what you want for your second half.

A monk told me this, when I asked him what made him join the monastery:

“Why you started, is always different from why you stay.”

In other words:

What got you here, won’t be what keeps you here

Do tadpoles know they’re in for a big change?

SO: before you quit!

How ’bout a mid-point check-in?

Here’s what I’m asking this week:

What can I modify?

1. The route

Can you change course?

Yes! You would be amazed how many people on the AT switch course along the way.

Either they get injured and take time off and then shuttle ahead to where the group is, or they alter their course to a “flip-flop” route to give them more time and better weather.

Delightfully old maps we were given for paddling the Shenandoah River

After a lot of deliberation, I decided on a modified flip-flop. After getting off-trail for the wedding (which I’m super glad I did), and taking too many zero-miles-days early on (which I’m semi-not-glad I did), there was no way I was ever going to catch up with the bubble, let alone my group.

So (deep breath), today I skipped ahead 80 miles. I am calling this “a modified flip-flop,” meaning that when my trail is finished – God willing at Katahdin – I will take a week to come back and hike those miles in PA/MD.

I am writing this in my blog to hold myself accountable. I’m also writing it because I think there’s no need for secrecy and shame around this.

People can be very judge-y about other people’s hiking strategies. But this is where MERCY comes in, friends.

Mercy for yourself and others when your perfect plan has to be revised in order for you to finish strong.

Where I skipped ahead to

2. The companions

As you go, you have to modify your expectations of people.

Wondering how you will ever cope without those people you started out with?

Maybe they will come back. See below:

Megan and Jim and I at the 100-mile mark

Reunited at the 900 mark

I think this is one of the biggest reasons people get off trail altogether, even though they don’t talk about it:

They miss their friends.

“The second half of the AT is a mental thing, man.”

You hear this over and over as a thru-hiker. I disagree. I think it’s a social thing.

The social dynamic

So many of the people I know who got off trail got separated for a prolonged time from their trail family, or felt somehow distanced from others on the trail socially.

Remember, out here the people you hike and camp with are not just pals like back in the real world.

They are your coworkers, your neighbors, your friend group, and your family. We don’t have somewhere else to go to – phone and text notwithstanding – for moral and emotional support in person.

So again I entreat you – have mercy.

Have mercy for whomever you happen to find yourself around, even if they are passing day-hikers or section-hikers. Even if they are not “that amazing group you hiked with way back when.”

Have mercy for your past, present, and future groups of fellow hikers, who may or may not be all that you need or want them to be. They may not fully understand you or vice versa. But you are sharing together something special and hard and unique, and everyone’s pretty much doing the best they can.

Most of all have mercy for yourself, for still doing this thing without your network of community back home. Thank yourself for what you’ve been able to do thus far. And thank the AT for giving you a place to do it.

3. The means

Sometimes you gotta modify the means.

Most of us start the trail thinking “I will pass every single white blaze and not miss a mile! I will do everything the ‘right’ way! 2192 miles on foot, or bust!”

And then I heard of aqua-blazing…

Aqua-blazing refers to paddling in a canoe or kayak alongside the Appalachian Trail, typically in the Shenandoah River. Although I think there are other places to aqua-blaze as well.

Initially I turned up my nose at this, privately considering it cheating.

But let me tell you, after 500 miles in Virginia, on your feet for close to 20 miles a day, boiling in the heat, parched for water, there is nothing like aqua-blazing to completely reset your spirits.

The case for aqua-blazing:

1. It’s a merciful change of scenery that you will love. Still in the Appalachian nature- just a different side of it.

2. It’s inexpensive and affordable. $75-$100 for three days.

3. Finally you get an upper-body workout, after all that legwork!

4. You are still very much using your own strength to get yourself up the Appalachian Trail.

5. It’s sooo FUN.

Thank you, Radagast and Small Slice, for recommending!

A rare moment of painted toenails

4. The motivation

Sometimes you have to modify the motivation.

As I mentioned earlier, what got you here may be very different from what keeps you here.

And this is true for those of you in all kinds of jobs and lives, not just the trail.

Remember Christina the halftime coach? Yeah, she’s full of good stuff.

Christina can handle toddlers and amusement park lines and ALL THE THINGS

What she said to me when I was down and out and ready to quit was this:

“Give it a couple days. I’m so proud of you. Try turning off the audiobooks and the music while you hike and just being present quietly in the woods for a while. See what happens.”

Basically what Christina communicates in her words and friendship is this:

“I love you. I believe in you. Keep going.”

So I do.

And Jim and Megan and I aqua-blaze. And then Doppler and Queue join the party:

Weighing the two packs. Jim’s clocks in at 52, mine at 18.2. Pounds. This is why he still has upper-body strength!

Well. There are about a million things I could tell you about Doppler and Queue.

But here’s what you need to know: they started the AT when I did. We met multiple times on the trail in the first couple of months.

They were the lone voices singing with me the one and only time I played guitar around the campfire, which of course endeared them to me for life.

Then sadly Doppler had a serious knee injury, and had to get off trail about a month ago for surgery.

His doctors told him there would be no hiking in the near future, but I know they will get back on trail as soon as they can.

In the meantime, they live in Northern Virginia, about an hour from the trail, and have at least two dozen names of fellow thru-hikers in their phone contact list. So what does that mean?

Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, missing the trail and watching TV, they asked themselves, “How can we repurpose our hike? How can we be of service?”

So this couple of faith and good humor and hospitality have welcomed in at least 15 thru-hikers, by way of shuttling them to new locations, bringing people food, and hosting them in their home.

Not only did they host me for two nights and make me feel like family, they shuttled me the 80 miles I missed so that I could catch up with my group today.

Talk about a true birthday present.

I can’t wait to make up those miles in the fall and hopefully have the two of them join me!

How they changed my hike

But here’s the takeaway – instead of self-pity, Doppler and Queue re-invented the hike they thought they were going to have, into the hike they never imagined.

A hike that sidelined them from the actual trail, but put them in touch again with dozens of people on the trail. People they could help and encourage and serve in tangible ways.

People like me who will be ever grateful to them for their kindness.

What would it look like for the second half of my hike to have a “Doppler and Queue” mindset?

What would it look like if I took all the things that didn’t go my way, and turned them into an opportunity to bless and serve others?

This is not how I naturally think, I admit. But I think Doppler and Queue really meant it when they said, “We are the ones who get the most joy out of this.”

The trail is full of choices

I obviously moved to the line on the right.

My friend Jeff recently sent me a quote about how hiking the Appalachian Trail is blissfully free of choices. Your only choice is whether to quit or keep walking.

And at one level I get this. He’s right.

But at another level, there are a staggering number of choices:

To slow down or catch up? To be a purist or modify as needed? To resupply with this food or that food? To keep the gear I have or swap out for new? To stick closely with the group or go solo?

Always a choice

I made the choice to use zinc sun block. And I look terrifying. I will not make this choice again.

Choices are a part of life, and not just when it comes to beer and sunscreen.

So here’s what I want to say if you’re still reading: before you quit, think about what choices you still have.

Your choices don’t have to match those of people around you. Maybe you have a whole new set of reasons you’re hiking from the ones you started with.

But claim the agency you have. Sometimes when the choice becomes “Do I keep doing what I’m doing? Or quit altogether?” You can also declare, “I choose neither.”

For me, showing myself mercy meant that I didn’t have to choose between trudging along hiking in the no-man’s-land of isolation and getting off the trail for good.

I could choose “neither,” and pick a third way.

Which brings us back to…

MERCY

Liz Gilbert, a writer and speaker I love so much I almost consider her a friend, has said a lot lately on the topic of mercy.

“As I slowly learned how to treat myself with care and tenderness and sympathy, I could become more caring and tender and sympathetic toward the other struggling souls around me…for we are all just struggling souls.

“Again, in their vulnerability, I could see my own — but now I could regard that vulnerability with empathy, rather than scorn.

“This is perhaps the strongest argument I have for learning how to come to peace with yourself — for healing your wounds, and learning how to regard the softest and weakest and most shameful parts of yourself with gentleness and compassion. If you can practice mercy upon yourself, then gradually that mercy will radiate outward to the rest of us. And that will be the end of Judgment Day, every day.

“All of which is to say: It is not selfish, to learn how to be loving toward yourself: IT IS ULTIMATELY A PUBLIC SERVICE.”

The heart and love that become possible through new lenses of mercy. Also: I hope this person finds his/her lost glasses!

A river of mercy

Mercy is what it felt like to paddle a kayak in the river last week:

You go over rapids and you have to let go of control and loosely let your vessel find its way over the waves.

Then you go through a placid section and you have to paddle harder and steer forward.

Sometimes the current takes you toward a rock or tree. Sometimes your boat gets stuck.

But you don’t curse yourself or judge your movements harshly. You’re learning how to navigate, which way to lean, when to back-paddle and when to hold still so you don’t disturb the turtle on the rock.

There is a gentleness to obeying the rhythm of the river. There is an ease in knowing the work of motion doesn’t all depend on you.

You keep paddling, yes. But there’s a deeper something underneath that carries you, propelling you forward.

Mercy for the healing

Part of what I came to the trail for was for healing. And to be a healer.

But part of my mid-way realization is how much the trail can break you. You are asking so much of your body and heart.

On Sunday I was able to go to church again for the first time in weeks, and it was a small 8 AM communion service at an Episcopal church.

Reverend Valerie, the priest, served each of us the elements at the communion rail, and then without me even knowing what was happening, she prayed individual prayers for each of us. She laid hands on us. She prayed for our healing.

I don’t remember the words, but I remember the feeling. It was like being held by that river. It was like the merciful voice of Love saying to me,

“You don’t have to figure out all the ways to be healed. You don’t have to name them or dissect them or solve anything about yourself. I will work the healing in you. I am the river.”

If (my AT mentor) Mary Stewart Murphey’s word for me at the start of this hike was “fortitude,” the word for my second half is

Signing off,

Birthday-ing it up in Boiling Springs, PA

Sprout

p.s. – If you’re thru-hiking right now and tempted to quit, message me first! I’m cheering you on. 😊

 

Acknowledgements

This blog brought to you by the pies of the brilliant and world-changing Rachel & Tina of The Pie Chest in Charlottesville, VA…

… and the outrageous hospitality of the Schetlick family – who lavished upon us food and laughter and sunsets in the extreme.

Especially their daughters Ava who carried my packages and gave me motivational music, and Caroline and her friends who said they love my blog which is the only reason I’m writing right now!

😘

*****

Additional shout-outs to M & M for ferrying my pack in their canoe and not capsizing. 🛶

And to Grubber for that burger & fries at 11pm after my 27-miler! 🍔 Special place in heaven for you, friend. And in Baxter State Park.

And to all my friends and family and trail-team who remembered my b-day 🎂

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Comments 45

  • David : Jul 5th

    Wonderful! Inspiring!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Thanks, David!

      Reply
  • Cheryl Hutchinson : Jul 5th

    Love reading your blog! I am so proud of you. May the Lord continue to strengthen and protect you! Happy Birthday!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Thank you, Cheryl!

      Reply
  • Matt "Smokey" Davis : Jul 5th

    Keep hiking you’re own hike. You are beautiful Sprout inside and out. And don’t you dare stop posting!

    Happy Birthday!!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Aw, thank you, Smokey!!

      Reply
  • Daddy Longlegs : Jul 6th

    Go Sprout Go!
    HYOH and never give up on yourself. Thanks for sharing & Happy Trails!
    Mercifully,
    DLL

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Many thanks, DLL!

      Reply
  • Toby C : Jul 6th

    Simply inspirational. I hope to remember your words if I actually manage to reach the trail from overseas next year. Just Keep Going.

    Reply
    • Michael Averitt : Jul 6th

      You are an inspiration and a breath of fresh air…. in More ways than you know,keep writing and keep trekking,your adventure is Now… have Mercy..

      Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Toby C, the trail’s waiting for you! Hop across the ocean and hike with us!

      Reply
  • Ruth Anne Collins : Jul 6th

    Love reading your posts! You inspire me! Happy trails!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Thanks, Ruth Anne!

      Reply
  • Gretchen Denton : Jul 6th

    I just finished visiting Jingles on the trail in Duncannon, and I can’t explain how much this article resonated with me. Not as a hiker, but someone at home supporting and waiting for that thru-hiker to get through this incredible journey. Also, my birthday is 1 day after yours.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 24th

      Happy belated bday, Gretchen! So glad this article connected with your experience too. Huge hugs to Jingles- she must be about to summit!!

      Reply
  • Redbeard : Jul 6th

    I. Love. You. Thanks for always diving into the deepest parts of me and letting me feel. And reminding me of the virtues I hold most important – it’s easy to forget those during some of the difficult days. The trail would be so radically different without you. Plus how would I understand all my feelings and weirdness out here w/o your translations here????? Miss ya, Sprout!

    From 1310.3,
    RB

    P.S. If you see Radagast please tell him I miss him and teach him how to Instagram DM 😂

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Red beard! You’re the best. Miss you and your dad. Delivered the message to Radagast. Here’s to finishing up in 2020!! Huge hugs, Sprout

      Reply
  • Mark Whitcombe : Jul 6th

    “But claim the agency you have.” Your blog post is wonderful, Sprout! This particular thought leapt into my soul. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      So glad to hear. Thanks, Mark!

      Reply
  • Diane Seuss : Jul 6th

    So beautiful! In the photos, everyone (including you) look like angels.

    Di

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Wow, thank you, Di. Angels are a lovely image. Wish I could fly like one some days! Love to you always.

      Reply
  • John Cunnington : Jul 7th

    I love your thoughtful and compassionate posts. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your moving and deeply arrived at reflections.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Thank you, John. This feedback means a lot.

      Reply
  • Night Walker : Jul 7th

    Thank you for this post, I need it. I actually came out here to remedy my social anxiety that has plagued me for my entire adolescence and adult life. I first started hiking to be alone in the woods and forget about my problems back home, but found that I could take a couple burgers or a pack of hotdogs into the trail and have a friend for a night in the thru hikers that pass through southern Virginia in the early summer. It was a blast at first and I have noticed a positive change in my personality and my heart no longer races when talking to strangers, girls still terrify me but I guess there’s 1000 miles ahead of me to remedy that issue.
    I took a week and a half off to spend time with my family in southern Virginia and go on our annual family vacation, it was great, I had a great time and I missed all of them dearly. What I didn’t consider when doing this was that the entire bubble of hikers would pass by and I’d be left at the kabuse all alone. This isn’t what I came out here for. It’s hard to work on social anxiety and practice talking to other people when they’re miles ahead and it’s hard to catch up when being alone in the woods is so mentally taxing. It’s so easy to just sling up the hammock and stop hiking. I haven’t talked to another thru hiker in days, I’m fine being by myself, I just wonder if I’d be better off back home working on my issues now that I’ve had some time to work on myself out here.
    It just sucks because I’ve made it so far and have worked so hard to get here and I really want to see this to the end. I’m worried about what people would think of me if I skipped trail to catch up. I also don’t think it’s physically possible to catch up without physically injuring myself, I did the math and it would take 30 mile days for a week or so to make it happen and with weather, the heat and elevation changes to factor in, even that might not be enough.
    I’m considering my options, but thank you for writing this, it makes me feel better knowing the struggle isn’t unique to me.

    Reply
    • Anna M : Jul 14th

      What an honest post! Keep your options open and remember what her theme is for the second half….MERCY!! Have mercy for your self and decide what direction would give you the encouragement to keep going. You can do this. It doesn’t have to be either or, it can be both, neither or something all new.

      Reply
      • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

        Yes, Anna M! Thanks for replying to this thread.

        Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Dear Night Walker, thank you for your honesty and in-the-moment reflections from a brave place. I hope you are still hiking! Or have already summitted! And I hope that I private-messaged you back when I got this. Know that you are so not alone!!

      Reply
  • SingerRCB : Jul 8th

    Cari, I sat with you in your lovely office at RCB. A few years ago. You were an inspiration then, and even more so now.
    I am healing from drastic surgery. I am ok but frightened.
    I see your words and photos and I am lifted up.
    You made a wise choice.
    Maybe I will see you where Trail comes close to my home – Rockland County, NY. Bear Mountain Zoo AT crossing
    Thank you for your strength and guidance.
    Sue
    Former RCB choir member
    P.S. 7/5/1976 I was in the USSR.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Hi Sue! I remember you. And now you live near Bear Mountain?? That’s where it all started for me. I hope you are healing up well. Thank you for following my journey!

      Reply
  • Jimmy Dean : Jul 8th

    Everyone on the trail has a story.
    I enjoy them all.
    But yours is my favorite. ~ Jimmy Dean

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Thanks loads, Jimmy Dean!!

      Reply
  • Barbara Coulson : Jul 8th

    Thank you for sharing what you’re learning with us. I especially liked the question, “What would it look like if I took all the things that didn’t go my way and turned them into an opportunity to bless and serve others?” I believe this was Holy Spirit’s perfect delivery time. He’s been leading me to this place so I would be ready to hear not only the question but see His direction for my next half of life. I’m also thankful for your reminder to be merciful, with myself and others. Seeing each one as they are but totally free of judgement. May you be encouraged, strengthened, protected and positioned for mercy each step of your journey.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      So much thanks for this, Barbara!!

      Reply
  • Dr. David Galloway : Jul 8th

    Looks like your trek is giving you all you wanted and more.
    I enjoyed your careful report of journey outward and inward. Mercy seems to be abounding. How to bear that to others is the trick.
    Brooks was replayed on Oprah yesterday (Sunday). He two mountains follow a mass of spiritual and psychological wisdom, though he captures our current time better than most. His sharing of his own journey is teasing. Reveals some but remains somewhat close to the vest.
    Keeping you in my Morning Prayers. So glad you got the mercy and grace of communion. How thoughtful of the priest to provide a healing prayer for you and comrades. I celebrate the presence of holy places who provide that kind of res and recharge.
    Glad you found your second wind. The wind of the Spirit as you go into the second half.
    Blessings,
    David Galloway

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Thank you, David!

      Reply
  • beth : Jul 8th

    You’re amazing and inspiring. I’m leaving today for Baxter State park to begin my short 410 mile walk back to my house in New Hampshire. It’s short, I know, but long for me. I might not make it; how can I know? I will keep this post in mind if/when I decide to modify my route. I hope I’ll have mercy for myself so maybe I can give more of it to other people. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Yes! How did it go, Beth?

      Reply
  • Caboose (AT Thru Hiker 2015) : Jul 12th

    Your trail family of blog readers are with you every step of the way. HYOH, remember why you are there and savor the experience. Enjoy following along with you on your journey

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Thank you, Caboose!

      Reply
  • Anna Minor : Jul 14th

    What is amazing is you started your journey to work through some of your “stuff”. What is happening is that you are helping all of us work through our “stuff” too. You continue to inspire and press your readers into thinking about our own lives and the questions that need both answered and posed. You GOT this!!! It is all a part of your journey and as Frank Sinatra stated, “I did it MY way!” this is YOUR way.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      So much thanks, Anna! I am so grateful my experiences resonated with people “in the real world,” too!

      Reply
  • Shawn W : Jul 18th

    So I my wife and I contemplate a thru hike next year (flip flop style), we have encountered some personal issues we will have to work through. As active followers of
    Christ, we wonder if we are being too self-centered if we leave our church and local friends for 5 to 6 months to do something that seems to mostly be about us. I am curious, since you mention that you are/were in the ministry, if this was something you had to work out as well. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      Great question, Shawn! I think I addressed this in a private email to you, but if not, message me. I truly believe a thru-hike is an unselfish endeavor, in that it cultivates qualities in your character that ultimately will bless everyone around you. Making you more alive and effective in all of life. At least that is what I tell myself when I try to justify sitting here at my parents’ house with a broken ankle, haha!

      Reply
  • Dark Horse (Trail Magic GSMNP Davenport Gap) : Jul 21st

    As Will Geer told Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson, “You’ve come far pilgrim”! To which Jeremiah responded, “Feels like far.” You have indeed come far and what an inspiration you are to both readers and fellow hikers. I fed 44 hikers on April 17th and to be honest, only you, Queue and Doppler stayed in my mind. Great to hear that they are taking their setback and turning it into an opportunity to help and inspire others. Continue your journey at whatever pace works for you and we all rejoice in your accomplishment.

    Reply
    • Cari Pattison : Sep 25th

      So much thanks, Dark Horse! Your trail magic was truly appreciated, and some of the first I received!!

      Reply

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