April 20 2015
The rain had cleared and we were back to hiking hard. This was a difficult day filled with more climbing than I had thought. The day ambled along as Sam and I were struggling up hills. We crossed Fire Scald Knob and lucked out with amazing views. It was strange to stand there with Sam after hiking this section just a year ago with my Dad and Alex. It was strange to be going North and so absolutely different from all the section and overnight hikes I had done in the past. The style in which we hike, the duration, the intensity and certainly the ability to walk alone has some serious impacts on lifestyle. I realized here that this was something different from anything I had ever done, but there I was, retracing old footsteps.
There was a saying on trail “Smiles over miles.” It was often said as a criticism to someone who was hiking too fast, or seemingly not having enough fun due to their daily mileage goal. I was told this countless times, and I always met it with laughter and smiles. I do not think it is right to criticize another hiker for wanting to push themselves to their limit or to assume that their overwhelming desire to hike erases their fun loving nature. And I do see that the hike was more than just about walking a set distance. A lot of the time the miles made me smile, especially when I was leaving town for intimate nights in the deep woods talking with strangers around bright fires. I love the woods, and I love walking. I only stopped in towns out of necessity or starvation. Those of you who laughed with me know that I did so in the depths of the Appalachian Mountains.
People also love the old cliché: “It’s the journey not the destination.”
I understand this phrase as that distinct feeling that came from re-walking portions of the trail. However I would say that it is not the journey or the destination. I met so many people who were trying so hard to have their “dream journey” or seeking the elusive party wherever it might appear next. These people seemed to be chasing rainbows. Maybe we were all chasing rainbows, but the difference that makes it enjoyable is when you realize that the act of chasing rainbows together is why we chase them, not the bragging rights of an epic party or finding the end. When the “epic journey” becomes the goal it is no different than hiking to get to get to the end. To go without expectations is how we go with dreams because dreams live outside of reality and can surpass every idea when allowed the freedom to ripen in the world.
My previous hike on this section was rigidly controlled, and this time I was hiking without control, without any preconceptions of what I wanted or fear of what might happen next. I received a lot of criticism from both hikers on trail and people watching us pass. Why do I hike? I hike to become strong. Why do I hike? I hike to be strong enough to endure the beauty of a complete destruction of will. Why do I hike? I hike to laugh with meaning, to replace forced smiles with real smiles. “Why would you want to walk across the country?” Because I can. “I don’t think I could do that.” Sure you can.
Sam, Chewy, Fiddlehead and I stayed at Jerry’s Cabin this night. I meditated into the darkness of the night, melting into thoughts and philosophies.
Happy 4/20 Guys!