This story really can not be told from beginning to end because its more than just a story, it is a collection of interconnected stories that follow each other from a short time apart to many years in between. This time for me, it all started in June of 2014. It all changed for me one night with Ashley. I am not really sure what we are. We aren’t friends and we aren’t dating. We are perpetually between the lines, undefined. Like my life. I have fought to have stability, normalcy, the idea of what we are supposed to be doing. You know what I’m talking about. The job, the steady income, the nice newish car, house etc. Then there is the other part. The family side, settling down, getting married and starting a family. All these ideas and things I worked, struggled to acquire and as fate would have it, in September of ’13 I had. I bought a house, started a new career, and had gotten married. I had achieved that ideal we all strive for. Or so I thought.
I was divorced, I had lost my home, my car, my career, everything. Here I am laying on my sisters couch texting Ashley. She was telling me about how she was going to back to school to become a doctor. In that moment I envied her, I was jealous of her, I hated her not for anything she had done, but really and truly only because she had known all along what she wanted to be in her life. So I told her. I told her I was jealous and envied her and that I wish I knew what I was suppose to do. She simply asked me what I love to do. I replied “I love to hike, camp, shoot, first aid, relationships and teaching these things.” her response was short and sweet “So pick any of those things and run with it.” I was dumfounded the only thing I could respond with “its that easy Hunh?’ her reply was nothing short of poetic and perfect that I felt this warmth of love and support “I would say so or at least I hope so.” It was as if in that moment she believed it for herself and she was also hoping she was right.
I knew right then what I was suppose to do. All those things i had fought for, fought hard to acquire. Which I had failed time and time again at; The “Career”, Family, Steady normal life were not for me. I was never meant to settle, at least not yet. No matter how hard I strove to to have the normal life I was inevitably felt the gypsy itch. I looked back at my life and thought what was to be read on my tombstone when I go. Beloved Son? Father? Good Friend? Why couldn’t it read ” Steven A. Jones, He had but one life to live and he really LIVED it.”
I thought of all the adventures I had been on, the great stories I had. In my time as a lifeguard I pulled a heart attack victim from the water and successfully brought them back with CPR. I tracked my brother from Spain to France with nothing to go on but random barely lucid emails and brought him home safe. Decided my fate with a coin toss, Blake and The Wyoming Wolverine. Living on both coasts to traveling from California to Delaware alone with just a U-haul in tow. Walking away from a horrific car accident unscathed. Served my country in the Army. The countless paintball stories from “Same Team”, “Where’s your tape”, Hostages. Nights out with the guys that remain in legend around the U of D campus and to this day are apart of the campus lore. Big Gunpowder Falls State Park and all the hiking stories. I thought of all the friends I have had and will have, all the women I had loved over the years.
All these questions came flooding in. Why do I have all these great stories? Are there more to come? Do I want to live a life filled with adventure or settle for what I thought we were suppose to do? Why cant we live life like a video game with achievements, titles and feats of greatness? I pondered all these things that night. I thought back through my life and watched in my mind the story me play out. that morning i woke with a new sense of purpose. I had been here before this was the third time I was homeless, fighting back from the bottom, yet it was different. I wasn’t going to work hard at this job in hopes of getting recognized and hopefully getting promoted. i was going to leave it all behind and let the itch take over. I am going to embrace the gypsy itch and run with it till it no longer calls. I was going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail to start.
That day my co-worker and i researched The Appalachian trail. Over the next week or so we learned so much about the trail and discovered so much more. Did you know that roughly 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the trail each year and only about 400-500 make it. Those that complete the trail whether thru-hiked, section hiked or flip-flopped achieve a title called “2000 Miler”. Those who hike the AT (Appalachian Trail), PCT (pacific Crest Trail), and CDT (Continental Divide Trail) are coined the title “Triple Crowner”. As of today there are only approximately 196 in the world. There has only been one, ONE person to thru-hike The Great Western Loop. We researched day and night about the AT. I started a journal for hiking and wrote down my latest adventures at Big Gunpowder Falls and the other trails i was hitting in getting ready for our departure in April of 2015. That is the story of how I chose to stop struggling against the current in the river of life and to just float along enjoying what was to come.