September 4, 2016, 1:00 p.m.
Tadah! John and I reached our goal of Killington Peak, Vermont, the point that marks where we have walked all of the Appalachian Trail at least twice!
When I set out to do a thruhike of the AT in 2007, my aim was to start in Maine and at least make it to Catawba, VA where I had left off walking the trail in sections with my then husband. I wanted to be able to say, “I’ve walked the whole trail” in one quick sentence.
I reached that milestone in November, 2007. That day, when I reached that nondescript road crossing, I burst into tears. “I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail!”
Then, I kept walking, 693 more miles to Springer Mountain, Georgia, completing a “thruhike”, walking the whole trail in one year.
My original plan was to finish the trail to “get it out of my system” and get on with my next career. I was 53. My husband thought I would do that too. He said something about that a week or so after I got home. To appease him, I dramatically stuffed my beloved thruhiking gear into a big box and stashed it in the attic. “There! My hiking persona is put aside!”
The next day, he excitedly invited me to meet him near his office in downtown Atlanta for lunch. We sat at Olympic Plaza, he expounding on the beauty of the place and the glories of being outdoors. I gaped, stunned by the noise, the garish scenery, the puny trees. “This is my fate as a former thruhiker! Nooo! I can’t do it!”
And I didn’t.
I did keep hiking. I had realized that I did not get hiking out of my system, but that hiking IS my system.
There are eight years of walks between that day and today, many other trails, and even six summer seasons of paid employment on the AT.
Today’s fulfillment signifies another milestone in claiming hiking as my system. I am brimming with gratitude for the privelege of getting to choose walking this amazing path, both its physical aspects and its spiritual ones.
There’s a lot more to say, and to reflect upon, which I’ll do in the upcoming months. For now, I’ll bed down for another night out, then open a new chapter.
Thanks for reading, affirming, and cheering me on. I’d love to hear of YOUR own life’s discoveries, milestones. What’s your “system” that you had thought you would outgrow yet found out is fundamental to your authentic expression?
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