The journey we choose to embark on is a Herculean one. Hiking nearly 2,200 miles is an act of lunacy to the average person. But there is a calling to we few that decide to make the journey, a lot of times one that we ignore for years before finally submitting. That call started for me in my teens, when I hiked avidly around the White Mountains of New Hampshire and parts of Western Maine where I grew up. Then I went off to college and the dream fell dormant for many years. From time to time, it would rise up like a beast clawing in the back of my mind, but life always got in the way. The repetition of the day to day lulls that beast to sleep. Many people have those types of dreams, of greatness, the road less traveled, that fade as time marches inexorably on. I woke up and am choosing to let the dream free.
There’s something terrifying about pursuing a long held dream. The specter of failure is always there. Will I be able to hack it? I think the first half of the trail that I’m tackling (from Harper’s Ferry north) will be easier to manage. I’ll be with an old friend that will help keep me motivated. It’s easier to have someone to commiserate with and help motivate me. Someone there to talk to, draw strength from, bounce ideas off. It seems like an adventure to be shared with a companion.
The second part of the trail (Harper’s Ferry south) will be the true test I think. My friend Jeff won’t be with me, I’ll be hiking this portion solo. I should have an idea of what to expect physically, but the mental game will be much different. The solitude of nature is a scary thing. It’s such a different world than the one I normally live in. I’m an introvert, but I rely heavily on my close friends to talk to. What will it be like to spend a day alone in the depths of nature? What will I discover about myself, when there’s no one around to distract me? I hope to get to know myself better, to find some peace. The line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet strikes me as appropriate – “To thine own self be true.” What will make me self-realize more truly than 3 months on my own, fending off the hazards of nature and my own troubled mind? I can’t think of anything, but I look forward to the test. I imagine I’ll make some new friends, so maybe solitude won’t be that solitary after all.
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