My coworker Mike and I have been researching night and day on the AT (Appalachian trail), PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), and CDT (Continental Divide Trail). Every day at work is consumed with talk of the trails and sharing knowledge back and forth. What to expect, What gear to bring, When to start, and even down to making a detailed itinerary. We have been talking about the AT so much our other coworkers hesitate for a moment thinking we might actually just walk out at any moment and hit the trail. We bring gear in and discuss what works and what doesn’t work on our breaks and down time. At one point in time our lunch room had three backpacks, two sleeping pads and a bunch of other gear strewn across the floor, tables, walls, and chairs. It looked like a small bomb had gone off. We were soaking up every bit of info we could get our hands on, Like a dog with a bone.
There was no way to contain the excitement, passion, drive for all things AT. Mike was watching documentaries at home after his family was asleep i was talking nonstop about it at home as well. I was slowly bringing the AT up more and more around my sister. Jess, my sister, is one that needs to be eased into things. Too much too soon overwhelms her and stresses her out. She then shuts down. After this week of trail talk I asked her outright what she thought about me doing it. Here it comes, all these thoughts rushed to my head. You’re wasting your time, I thought you were…, That is foolish…, all these negative questioning thoughts. I was then rocked to my core with what she said. “Oh my god you should do it, i love that idea.” My sister was just as excited as I was. before I could explain why I was doing it, she was spouting the reasons right back at me. We talked for the next half an hour about how and when. I then showed her my blog and any questions she did have were gone. My sister was on board. Having her love and support with this adventure is great. I feel that every year that goes by we grow closer and closer as a family. This was one of those moments.
While riding the high the previous day I asked one of my best friends out for beers. I met Aaron at our local hang out, Stewarts Brewing Co. The best way to explain Aaron and I is to tell the story of Staaron. Aaron and I are two sides to the same coin. Everything I am not, He is and the same applies to him, together we bring the best out of each other. His girlfriend just named us Staaron one day. it is like she has the best of both worlds with us. Back to the good part, BEERS. Aaron and i had a lot of catching up to do. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and we did the normal “Hey, how ya been. whats new with you?” I caught him up on my new adventures at Big Boulder Falls State Park, The Wyoming Wolverine, and my decision to hike the AT. Aaron then said what I had heard a few times of the years from other friends. “Steve I live vicariously through you, I think you should do it. You’re that guy that tells the stories, not the one that listens to them.” Again I was inspired, over joyed, exhilarated to feel the love and support from another close member of my circle. I gave Aaron all the details of the trip and with each bit that i told, he only reassured me to go. As we talked you could feel the energy going back and forth between us growing. it was quite palpable, you could feel the excitement and anticipation, we talked as if we were leaving tomorrow. We made plans for when I reached Mt. Katahdin in Maine. We talked for an hour or so before we headed out. As we parted ways I asked one last time if I was making the right choice. Aaron just said “Do it because I cant.” with each person I told I felt reassured i was making the right choice.
I still hadn’t told my mom yet. My mom is actually not my mom. She is the mother of an old old ex-girlfriend, my best friend Nikki. I have known the two of them for over a decade now. Her mother, LuAnne wrote me everyday I was in the Army without fail. She long ago thought of me as her son and told me that I was a part of the family. Both of them have become the single most important people in my life. I called LuAnne and I was greeted with the excitement and good wishes that only a son receives from his mother. We exchanged pleasantries as we always have, catching up in moments. I then asked her what she would say if I told her I was thinking of leaving it all to go hike the AT. Her response was just one simple statement without any prejudgement, “It would depend on why you were doing it.” I told her everything; from reminding her of my plans to backpack across Europe before the White Queen came into my life, to my conversations with Ashley. I spoke from my heart telling her about my blog and why I wanted to do this. I explained how no matter what I have come to do that the “Adventure/Wild” pulls at me terribly so. I was now unburdened once again and in the perfect place to just go, to do it all, to live a life that others dream, read, and wonder about.
If there is one thing I have come to love about my mom its her matter of fact way of thinking and speaking. What she says she means, nothing more, nothing less. As I finished I waited for her to respond, this moment could only be but described as the purposeful pause to create dramatic tension in a story plot. That moment of silence where the character could go either way in their actions. Then LuAnne spoke, “It seems as if you have really thought this out. I would have worried if you were doing this on a whim but its very clear you are not. This wanderlust, pulling that you feel must run its course. The last thing you want is to have regrets later on because you never sought this out. If it takes a week, a month, a year, a decade, you need to see it through. If you don’t it will always call to you and I know that will eat at you.” I thought to myself “Wow…. she knows. she gets why I must do this.” She finished her statement as she almost always does, “Just remember to pray and keep God in your heart.” We talked about the facts I had uncovered with Mike and some slight details. I asked if she would write and keep Nikki informed. Her reply was that of every Italian mother,” We’ll have a sit down dinner when it gets closer and work out all the details.” What can I say we love our food. We spoke for a little longer and I welled with feelings of love, assurance, and encouragement. We parted ways and i told her I would call again this weekend on Fathers Day to see how she was.
There were just a few others to tell what I intend to do in April, My brother Kevin, LuAnne’s Daughters (My Sisters), My best friends Phil, Tom, Jon, Paul, and Joe. I also had to tell Ashley somehow. I caught up with my brother at the phone on work one day while out on a delivery. We spoke in the same manner as every pair of brothers, that are too close in age they might as well be twins, would speak. Irritably and cautious. Even though we stopped physically fighting years ago the tension that would erupt a brawl was ever present. we had learned to not push so hard but we still pushed each others buttons constantly. I went with a band aid approach with him i just said it quick and clean like you’d rip it off. I knew what he would say but i still had to inform him, i even asked him to go. his answer was always yes and then followed with are we leaving tomorrow. My brother no matter how much dislike, disdain, amount of irritability we have for each other is always ready like, I have been for him. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have dropped everything to chase him on one of his adventures. Now it was his turn to chase me. That made me smile. It has and always will be us against the world. I texted Phil and he just wanted to know when and where he could meet me for a day hike while I was on the trail. Leave it to Phil to never ask questions but where can I meet you. Chrissy (LuAnne’s second daughter) had a similar take on my trip. “That’s Awesome.” I was seeing a pattern of reactions from my friends and family. Tom said that at any point in time I could move in with him between trips or even before. He offered to be my resupply station sending care packages to me along my journey. What can I say army buddies know whats really important.
A week had gone by and I hadn’t heard from Ashley. This wasn’t uncommon but it still didn’t mean i hadn’t missed her, I had. Some days we would talk all day and late into the night. Others it might be just a simple text good morning, thinking of you, great picture, always something small to let each other know we were thought of. I came home after a long day at the park with Roland, my dog, to find a message from her. I couldn’t help but smile from my heart. She had sent me a photo with a short sweet greeting. It was our thing, “Hey love :)” How radiant she looked with her long, curly, scarlet persimmon hair. Her glowing smile, quoted only by her adorable dimples. You can not help but smile back. We caught up and I let her know that i had made some headway on my career search. She was very excited to see what headway I had made. I gave her a short version saying this is what I intended to do and I was writing a blog. This was the easiest way to explain why i was doing it. But it also came at a cost, she was apart of the story. In order to tell her I had to open up to her in a way I tried to avoid. I had to put myself out there. I told her that she was apart of it and I hoped she wasn’t upset. I came in with an open heart and put it all out there. She said she would love to read it and was excited, it had put a smile on her face. I have never been one to hesitate and shy away from something to avoid what could be. Two feet on the ledge, my heart was racing, there was no question I just jumped and sent her the blog info. What will be will be. Once again she came back with a way about her that reassured, nurtured and understood me. “LOVE IT!!! You are such an excellent….” I smiled, not just because Ashley loved it, also because I hadn’t told her much of where I had come from let alone what had transpired before we met. She had accepted it all, no questions, no judgement. Her kind heart and words forever coming from a place of love. She didn’t stop there. She sent me two quotes, one that night and another the next. “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose. – Bishop T.D. Jakes” and “We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong” With each conversation, day, time spent together Ashley was becoming more important to me. Her opinion is a driving force just as much as my friends of decades are.
In talking with my friends and family it has become quite evident of a few things. First I couldn’t ask for better company. The support i was given through my divorce was in full force through this new chapter of my life. I felt love, encouragement, support and renewed purpose in talking with them. I listened to what they had to say and they were right. I was the one with all the stories. I was the one that had all the excitement and adventures. Steve, Uncle Steve always had the latest and coolest adventures he was just coming back from. They provide me with stability, support and a home filled with love in their hearts, allowing me to flutter in and out like a butterfly on the wind. I have learned a bit about myself and I have healed as well. I was becoming the person I had long forgotten. The world was once again filling with magic, love and miracles. My outlook on my life and in general was becoming more and more positive. I knew I would need this in the trips to come. The long hikes in solitude cut off from everything that I hold dear. Their love and support will sustain me even when I doubt myself.