Monday, May 11, 2009

This is how the story ends. Or perhaps begins?

I started dreaming about a long walk from Georgia to Maine as a high school cross country runner. I picked college at Emory & Henry because of its proximity to Damascus. Graduating from Montana, I returned east, hoping to reconnect with friends and family, and finally hike the AT. Befriending Hasty had a profound effect on embracing the idea of a thru hike as a reality, and by the time I walked out of Daleville May 15, 2008 I was nervous, excited, and looking to understand the meaning of "home".
Many of you have been part of this journey since then, you know the hardship, awe, humility, and adventure I've found along the way. A lot of folks hike long distances to prove self sufficiency, for the record- that was never my intention, and I could never tell you all enough how much I have loved and needed you to be part of this journey.
My life since returning to the Appalachian Trail has been overflowing with adventure and surprises- and I'm sorry for not keeping more up to date on here- but sometimes I find myself too busy throwing up my hands and living to self-reflect.
The first two weeks out were a surprise of snow and friendship with 2009 northbounders. We all bonded in the 2 feet of powder dumped in the Smokies, and until Erwin I traveled, sang, and laughed with Jeremiah Johnson. From Erwin to Damascus VA I shifted gears and traveling companions to the fascinating Wendy, and charming Hellbender. We sampled native vegetation and rapped silly rhymes, walking through fog and rain and sketchy hikers, and hilarious monopoly players. By the time I walked across the Virginia border my heart was scattered and full about being back in VA and 135 miles from wrapping up this journey.
The plan was to jump up to Bland and walk back to Daleville. Mom and Dixie drove to Damascus to bring Geronimo. I was a bit sullen about having to finish the journey alone - but knew- I gotsta what I gotsta- and after all- this whole crazy journey is- my own.
THEN Bones showed up- after hitch hiking for two days from Hot Springs to finish this hike with me. AND Jeremiah Johnson got into town after hiking in five days what took me seven. Then I found Hellbender and Wendy. As it turned out, everyone I adore that is on the trail this year was in Damascus at the same time, such beauty and joy as we took pictures, hugged, and drove away singing to the ukulele I cannot find words to describe.
Bones, Geronimo and I hiked out of Bland around 10 pm, and crashed out to sleep at the first available camping spot. The next few days revolved around shifting our hiking to accommodate our new fellowship and the harsh sun unfiltered by barely budding trees. We took long afternoon breaks; 4 hour swimming at a waterfall, eating frozen lemonadeat a country grocery stores, and napping in the shade. After a few days the rains came, and stayed for the rest of our hike. By the end we were just pushing to wrap this up.
Finishing a journey that has consumed my emotional, physical, geographic, and spiritual location and health for the past year is (as everything with the Appalachian Trail) mixed, beautiful, and surprising. I always thought completing this 2,175 mile walk would be invigorating, that I would be amped up beyond any espresso shot I'd ever had. In reality- my entire last day a peaceful excitment consumed me. The last familiar miles of my hike were more like heart beats, pulses, of my childhood than "thru hiking". Friends, landscape, laughter, tears, so many moments across this terrain scattered, replaying, culminating, but in no way ENDING with the last miles of this thru hike. Perhaps I still have not grasped the scope of what I've done, but I felt like a hobbit returning to the Shire. Knowing now that home is fluid, but passionately connecting with THIS place all the same. I sent Bones to Tinker Creek to wait while I hiked across Tinker Ridge and descended the mountain alone. I thought about cross country, and my favorite running buddies; Susanna and Carrie. All the love that has fostered and found me in this place. I nearly cried, but was so tired and excited the tears could not surface. I came to Tinker to find Bones in a plastic lawn chair playing "eye of the tiger" on his ukulele, dedicated to me =)
Bones, Geronimo, and I walked into Daleville around 6pm Cinco de Mayo. Sarah drove us to my parents house, and before we knew it, we were clean, happy, and drunk at the Mexican restaurant with old and new friends. Since then we've been bumming around my folks' catching up with tasks and people, and scheming for our drive to Montana (which starts Sunday May 17).
So the chapter has closed, but the first pages of the current, this new chapter are pretty alluring. Stay tuned for details =)
Trails Days May 15-17
Drive to Montana summer job May 17-28
Montana summer job May 29-Aug 31
then???? God only knows =)