Gone Hikin’

Goodbyes are hard, even when it is really just “see ya later.”

This week I have done all of my favorite things in Tennessee for the “last time,” and while it may not be the last time ever, I will undoubtedly never look at things the same way after this journey, so in a way it is.

From cramming in time to visit friends, going on last-minute adventures, moving out of my apartment, selling pretty much all of my belongings, and prepping for what is soon to come, I have barely had time to consider exactly what the hell I am getting myself into. To be honest, I am not sure that I want to delve too deeply into those feelings.

Tonight, my family threw me a little going away/birthday party at one of my absolute favorite places on Watauga Lake. As we waited on sunset and for the burgers to cook, Nana asked Toes and me what we hoped was going to happen, and at least to me, the answers felt forced. There was a thick silence in the air of a question unanswered. But I think that I have a better answer now.

The things that I am hoping for are endless, though this journey is not about what I hope to happen, but about accepting and finding gratitude in what does.

It is about shooting every shot that feels right, and knowing when to say no. The things I am hoping for are endless. I am hoping for more love. I am hoping for more inner peace. I am hoping to be better equipped to move through this world with confidence and purpose, in the most humble way. I am hoping for so, so, so much, but most of all that I do not take one second for granted and that I walk away applying the things that I learn in a positive way. For most endeavors, one might say that I am hoping for too much. But for those who know, when it comes to these trails this is only a fraction of what I could be given if I show it, and my body, the respect they deserve.

A hostel owner in NC once said that “your hike tends to reflect who you are,” and I believe that to be true for me. I have grown in so many ways since the AT, because of the AT and the folks that I met along the way, and I’m anxious to see how that reflects on this audacious walk to Mexico. I suppose time will tell, for I have many miles to go.

However, the beautiful part about saying goodbye to my family and my hometown is saying hello to old friends and new opportunities. I love the Appalachian mountains, and I love climbing one to look off into the distance at another. I can see from one beautiful spot to the next, and know the name of the space in between. I know where all of the best campsites are, and the easiest spots to find water. There are places that I love to share, and places that I go that feel like mine alone. While this has its own beauty and a very special place in my life, I relish the prospect of looking at new mountains.

That exhilarating yet peaceful feeling of looking out at a great big world and knowing that there is more yet to see.

Friendships that were formed on the AT with folks from very different walks of life have become just like family, and in my mind, I can not think of many things more rewarding than reuniting with these folks on the PCT. It is not often that so many people from such different places can carve out time and resources for each other, but I am so grateful that I made friends who are as eager to make this happen as I am. Ain’t no might. Only do.

Equally so, I can not wait for all of the new friends that I know I will meet on this path, even if some are just momentary connections between two strangers who happen to be in the same place at the same time, enjoying what is before them. I am excited about all of the various things that these new friends love and eager for the lessons that they can teach me. I am hopeful that I can be useful to someone else, as often as possible. I am already thankful for whoever it might be that says out loud the whispers in my head that I am too afraid to voice. I hope I can help someone laugh when they would rather cry. I hope I can be there when someone really needs to cry, just in case they want to vent.

I hope for human connection in epic proportions to match the epic undertaking we are sharing together.

This will be the last busy day. One short drive and a couple of planes later until I get to hug Pale Ale in a city we have been talking about me visiting for two years, and finally get to meet her dog. One more day of simple last-minute preparations, and sightseeing with friends. Then, the first day of my walk from Canada to Mexico. The first day of the rest of my life.

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