Waking up, the cool air kept me wanting to stay in bed. The miles to go and the views for the day got me moving and out of bed. Climbing down from the loft I found I wasn’t alone, there was a cute three legged dog that was down at the steps waiting for me. Grabbing my water which was a tenth of a mile away my new friend followed and obeyed my commands. I shared my breakfast with her as we sat and looked at the fog rolling in. By now the other hikers were getting up and the owner had come over looking for her. Going back with her master I finished my bag and set out
I soon passed their campsite and she came running over instantly, confused to which she was going or staying. She would run back and forth between them and I a few times before I told her to go and stay, walking away into the trees. I miss having a dog and she reminded me of the fun I used to have with Roland. The trail took me uphill over rocks and more roots to a small clearing. I was blessed with the blooming rhododendrons surrounding the trail, giving it a colorful and flowery scent first thing in the morning.
Just as I came out of the rhododendron garden there he stood, a white and tan adolescent pony, munching away on the grass. His focus so strict he didn’t even look up to see me. I stood there taking pictures before climbing the huge rocky crag, allowing me numerous views of the highlands before me. The sky had started to clear and with the fog lifting I hung around till Packer Hat and Rubber Ducky showed up. Watching the pony and goofing off we hiked back to the trail determined to enjoy the next few miles. Our first bit was uphill through rocks over a stone hill top and back down. Just as we crested, we could see for miles and miles, this one view gave us a glimpse of a herd of ponies in the distance as well as the day old foal with its mother.
Through the rocks we climbed, coming to the fat man squeeze. This was a small thin cave that was slanted in such a manner that you had to squeeze through. It was quite a tight fit going forward, some sections made it hard to get through in which the manner of your body had to move to negotiate the cave. Squeezing through we made our way along the rocks up and over a hill or two into the Grayson Highlands. The Highlands were completely different than the last set a week ago. The land reminded more of the west than Scotland, the rocky red dirt was filled scrub, bushes, weeds and grass, the sparse trees did not shade you much. The entire land in bloom shared many colors and scents with the earthy soil smell.
I took photos as we made our way through the highlands seeing ponies and rock hills. We took our time through the highlands coming to Wise Shelter for lunch. The past five miles took us the better part of four hours to get too. Eating lunch they took a nap as I headed out on the trail. Back to the rocks and the forrest for a while. I let my brain drift away as I walked and passed through the woods. Each gate I passed meant I was through another section of the highlands. I soon found myself coming to another open bald, free of trees and this too reminded me of the west. I could see the coyote prints and steaming scat on the ground, I knew I was being watched form the brush. I playfully yipped to them as I kept moving over and back into the woods.
It seemed the day would be just that, the woods, then the open, and back and forth. Making my way down the open hillside I came to The Scales, a corral in the middle of a valley. This is where the beef cattle was weighed before being sold off to the market. There was a deep sense of history and culture here in the hills. The remaining miles disappeared as I became lost in thought. I reminded myself of the reason why I was doing this and that I could finish with what I had left.
I came out to The Appalachian Trail because of many reasons. When I broke my leg over a year ago I felt so low. Not being able to do anything for myself was very humbling, I had to get help to go to the bathroom, to cook, to do the most meaningless tasks. I told myself when I was better I would hit the ground running and not be confined to a chair again. When I was training for this and Roland passed away, I made a commitment to finish this with him. Having him in an urn is ever constant reminder every mile that I will bring him to Katadhin for a memorable service. No matter what he stuck by my side, through thick and thin, never wavering. The least I could do to honor him was to finish this commitment.
Writing everyday has progressed a bit and I was starting to see the benefits from it. I really want to see where it goes with it, the more people read the more they follow my progress. I hope that I can relate to others and that they can relate to me on this journey I’m going through. Writing, I didn’t think I would enjoy but at the end of the day I stick to it and it is growing on me a bit. I wanted to do something great in my life and being one of 15,000 to ever do this definitely qualifies. This will lead to many other ventures and open up a world for me in the future I hope, at least I like to think so.
I feel like everything in my life has led me to this moment, this adventure. Everything that has gone horribly wrong or horribly right, pushing me, guiding me to the inevitable truth, I was meant for this journey. Where so many have tried and failed, like in my life where so many have succeeded and I have failed, I will summit the mountain most likely in tears. My thoughts moved to how hiking this may benefit my friends, family, and others in thier lives. This is no small task and I hope that my determination and courage will resonate, instill some in them like they have in me.
Staying the course is a must, I have but one choice no matter how hard, to succeed no matter the cost. I left my job, friends, family, everything, in doing this 2000 mile journey I will return with nothing, no money, no home, no safety net. I have risked it all and dedicated every minute to this journey for a long time. I was reminded of a quote from a movie. “You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back.” I have done just that. I pray everyday and keep moving forward, each step literally bringing me closer to my goal, each step bringing me one step closer to home.