I did 60 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Franklin, N.C., to Fontana Dam, N.C., hiking with a group a people that plan to thru-hike. They are just getting started, figuring out what to carry, shedding weight from their gear, starting to toughen up, so I was able to stay with them. Joining a thru-hiker later on, after they get to Virginia or beyond, with the idea you’re going to stay with them, is a dream.
Several thousand people start the hike at Springer Mountain, Ga. every spring. Most of them leave the trail in the first few weeks. Some get injured, some decide they don’t like it as much as they thought, and some, I suspect, learn what it was they came out there to learn and let it go. The remainder, a few hundred of them, continue on, making 10 to 15 miles a day, until sometime in the fall they arrive at Mt. Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park.
What I learned the last few days is that I can still do this. I made the climbs in the hot afternoons, handled the distances, slept on the ground, and most importantly, I enjoyed it. I can feel the call of the long green tunnel.
Take nothing for granted. Not one blessed, cool mountain day or one hellish, desert day or one sweaty, stinky, hiking companion. It is all a gift.