“Just putting ink to paper to let you know how proud I am of you and how inspiring you are – because a text wouldn’t suffice. If you would have told me in college that you were going to carry everything you needed for 4 days on your back and hike a mountain, I wouldn’t have believed it. Proud of you for setting a goal and getting ‘er done. With hiking with half marathons. And those sweet babes of yours are watching their mom set goals and have great adventures and they are taking notes. I’m grateful for you and our friendship. It’s one that inspires and is forever fun. Cheers to you for lacing up your boots and going WILD! Here’s to your next adventure!” – My college roommate
“Wanted to send you some good luck wishes for your hiking trip! Hope your ankle is all healed up and you’ve found a way to pee in front of all the boys. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!! Not just the pee part, but everything, you know … Anyways, be tough, stay safe, don’t cry and have fun! Virtual side hug to you ?” – Friend and former coworker
I share these personal notes because I gotta tell you guys, as humbling as it is to have a steep-ass summit bring you to a quivering halt, breathless and intimidated beyond measure, it is far more humbling to have the people you love, in spite of all their own busyness, take a moment to show their support for your crazy exploits. Because so many people sent well wishes and sat through recounts of our journey, I would be remiss not to officially wrap this series up with some words of gratitude. Because no experience or blessing or accomplishment means a thing without gratitude.
Yes, I’m grateful for the hike. I think it’s safe to say the days I get to spend standing on a dirt path overlooking some of the most magnificent slivers of creation and not in a windowless office are few and too far between. Turning my face toward the thrashing wind on a wide-open bald made me feel alive and small and awake. It gave me perspective and appreciation for sweet simplicity and a natural majesty that’s so often out of sight and out of mind. “How could you see that and not believe in God?” my mother-in-law asked. And she’s right. I imagine the Lord carving and crafting and painting with a fine artist’s hand as he composed the trail. Knowing how special it was, he set it aside so only those who sought such beauty could set their eyes upon it. It’s a bit poetic, I suppose, but the scenery encroaches on your soul in a way that alters your perception. Food tastes different. The air smells alive. The terrain touches all of your senses.
I loved our little group of AT misfits – the rookies with their stash of desserts, The General and his futile attempts to make my brother comply with the rules, the Lieutenant with his worldly stories and constant gear adjustments. People come into our lives in the strangest ways. Sometimes their role is small and sometimes it’s big, but I’ve learned that the amount of time someone spends in your life doesn’t directly impact their impression on your character. Tremendous change can come from a few brief moments, or days. The odds are somewhat decent I’ll never put my sleeping mat down next to these folks ever again. But one time I did, and it will stay with me always.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt a little bit like a badass walking off the trail. It wasn’t an easy hike and it wasn’t the easiest weather, but there was a joy in the adversity of it all. My friends all say, “I don’t know how you did that.” But anything is possible when you have no alternative. You have to keep moving forward in order to meet your dream on the other side, to see it through to its completion. I found, just when I felt like I had nothing left, God gave me a reprieve. Whether it was a portrait-worthy overlook, or patch of flat land, or friendly passerby, something always saved me.
And finally, I often have friends ask what surprised me most about the experience. It wasn’t the sleeping conditions or the trailmates or the food – although there were a few thrills tied to all of those things. It was honestly the support I got from people who probably shouldn’t have given a shit. The first excerpt in this post is from my college roommate. She recently adopted 2 young children and has about as much spare time as Ryan Seacrest at the height of his career. When I found a hand-written letter in my mailbox from her after the trip, I sat down on my front stoop, read it, choked up and considered what her home must have been like when she made the time to send it. It isn’t easy in the chaos of playdates and preschool and snacks and spills and diapers and learning Bulgarian to push pause and acknowledge a life outside of your own. It just isn’t. But she did. I keep the note on the dresser in my bedroom as a reminder of how no one is alone in their ambitions.
Words of support came via snail mail, chat bubble, text and email, and I think it surprised me so much because in my mind this was just a little adventure we were going to go on. It only touched our small little snow globe of a life. But I think the truth is, when anyone chases down a dream, everyone celebrates a little bit because it means their dream is still alive. We rejoice when others remind us there’s more to our lives than the 6am-10pm grind. Because let’s face it, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. It can be hard to step outside of the routine and freestyle for a bit, no matter how high the item is on our bucket list. But every once in a while somebody does it and all of the adult world drinks to the fact that their trip overseas or DIY project or race or girls trip is absolutely possible. It prompts us to pull out our journals or dream boards or Pinterest accounts and dust off our own dreams, and maybe even move just one step closer to checking them off.
I can’t adequately express how thankful and, yes, humbled I was by every single well wisher and congratulatory message before, after and along the way. I am grateful for the guys in our group. I am grateful that pieces of the planet that look like that still exist and I pray my children get to see them some day. I am thankful for your readership, comments and emojis. They have warmed my heart and reaffirmed my decision to document these moments in my life, no matter how self-indulgent it feels at the time. I’m grateful for the laughter, the climbs, the descents and, of course, I’m thankful for the chance to make Biscuits out there in the brilliant, vast wilderness.
Until next time …