Zen Approach to Springer Mountain

Today was a fantastic beginning to a long-anticipated journey. Completing the approach trail and reaching the first white blaze at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail begins a journey I’ve been thinking about for 30 years and actively preparing for for over two years.

After a leisurely if not slugging morning (due to some evening gluttony and exited restless sleep), I loaded the car for Sabrinmari’s drive home, and at about 10:30 we walked back onto the approach trail. As we often do, we began to Create the Day. This is a practice we’ve adopted which involves asking each other a series of questions designed to check in with each other while creating accountability to the health of self and relationship. So after we talked about how our previous day had worked for us, and telling each other things we love about them, came the question that I always struggled with. “Who are you creating yourself as today”. But today I had an answer and it deeply resonated.


As it turns out, yesterday was the Vernal Equinox, which also just happens to be the International Day of Happiness. And since I couldn’t sleep from 2:00 – 4:30 a.m. the night before, I’d spent some time reading up on the topic. The 14th Dalai Lama has said the purpose of life is happiness. And happiness seems to be most derived through three practices, which are presence (be here now), love (compassion), and gratitude. So while I also like being Zen as a colloquial for mellow or easy, I also enjoy creating myself as someone seeking happiness though these practice.

It’s worth mentioning here that many and probably most long distance hikers take a trail name. It can be a way of redefining yourself, or a bit of fun, or possibly a easy boot to be found, and sometimes all of the above. Some names are given and some are taken. I was already given a name at birth, so this one I’ll take.

So of course, Sabri and I have taken the time to connect deeply and we both feel great about ourselves and each other, It is time to take out leaveā€¦ let the weeping begin. But it truly was tears of joy for each other’s journey, and was the perfect send-off.

The next couple hours were a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, which peaked as I reached the summit and the sign declaring I was at the beginning, and the magic of the first white blaze.

Eventually I came down from my high a little, and headed on to camp.at Springer Mountain Shelter. I found a good site, set up quick and smooth, headed over to the shelter for some dinner, opening my food bag and deciding if I’m having a hot or cold dinner. No spoon! I take everything out, I shake it upside down. No spoon. This is a disaster. But that decides it. A cold dinner for me, tuna and spinach on a wrap. After dinner, I go back to my tent and search my entire bag just in case. Every single item comes out and searched, still no spoon. With nothing to be done, it looks like my new camp spoon will have to be the backside of a tent stake until I get to Mountain Crossing in another 30 miles. And yet, it was still a pretty perfect day.

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Comments 4

  • Sabrina : Mar 23rd

    Love you and so, so proud of you!

  • Lovell G Embree : Mar 23rd

    My wife Lovell is with your sister Kim in Key West this week.

    Pick up the pace a bit and I’ll see you in Southwest VA in late April. I’m section hiking the AT with 2 friends and we pick up where we finished last.

    Josh Embree (Avalanche)

  • Bluewhale : Mar 27th

    Be present and enjoy the wonders. I look forward to following your adventure.

  • John W Salmon : Mar 28th

    Might ght want to think less and walk more. You will then find your Zen…


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