10/15/12 – McDonald’s, Hiawassee, GA
The last few days since Neels gap have been eventful, to say the least. The rest, shower, and human interaction I had there were invaluable. I’ve come to find, though, that much of the trail is the same in the sense that you’re constantly challenging your body and more importantly, mind, on constant up and down mountain climbs, meeting new and amazing people, and making sure you don’t step on a rattlesnake or tumble to your doom on the right side of foot wide ridge you’re balancing on. Yes, in those regards, the trail seems to be incredibly redundant and it would be a repeat of my first update with a few name changes to tell you all that has happened. And that’s not what the AT is about.
The AT, it seems, is more about personal growth and improvement. The hard part is to pursue this advancement from a place beyond ego, allowing it to change you in such a way that you become more loving and accepting of all people, things, places – whatever life has to offer, really. That’s not to say that you can’t admire finally being able to see your six pack again, or checking out those hiker’s calves that have blossomed since your first day on the trail!
You have a lot of time to think out there. Most of the thinking that occurs, however, is secondary and seemingly goes unnoticed by the forefront of your consciousness. This is because your brain is working extremely hard (and beautifully, I might add) at calculating that next footstep, trekking pole placement, and energy expenditure to maximize performance and, of course, keep you alive. This symphony of mind, muscle, and spirit is akin to the deep focus f a Buddhist monk in meditation. And you’re doing it for six to eight hours a day.
In relation to the interior renovation occurring, you begin to see the true kindness and generosity of the human race. It’s like all those cheesy “Don’t worry, be happy” songs and slogans and stickers begin to make sense. Just this morning I was camped in the woods behind a law firm in Hiawassee that just so happened to haven shower; I set up camp too late at night to ask if it was ok, but when I woke up a secretary popped her head out the window and said, “Hey, sweetheart! You hikin? You want a shower?” To which I quickly obliged and enjoyed thoroughly. Like “Possible” the through-hiker I met on my first night said, “99.9999% of people out here just want to help you and see you succeed. The trail really shows you how good people are, everywhere.”
As I continue north tomorrow morning, 70 trail miles from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, I am giddy with anticipation of the enlightening and life changing experiences that lie ahead.
I’ll leave you with this blurb I jotted down while sitting on top of a mountain the other day,
” What is about the mountains? Or rather, what is it about the mountains that inspires some deep sense of peace and unshakeable confidence in us? Is it the fact that these structures that put us as high as buildings were molded by forces beyond our comprehension of time and power? That these mounds of dirt and rock and trees are somehow a humbling connection to our past, a reminder of our infinitesimal insignificance, and a significant challenge of our will and determination to climb them? Whatever it is, I feel small. Small, sore, and tired as hell, and I’m loving every second of it.”