Life is like a book. It’s filled with multiple chapters of varying content, length and substance. Its pages invariably contain a wide cast of characters, but only ever the one author. Sometimes the difficult part of penning such a work comes in knowing when to finish one chapter and begin another. Whether it be a job that no longer provides satisfaction, a relationship which has run its course or an eighteen month hiking trip through the wilderness of North America, such decisions are invariably far easier in theory than in practice.
During the final two weeks of the Appalachian Trail, I had almost convinced myself that upon reaching the finish I would turn around and walk back again. Physically I was still in good shape and mentally I was as fresh as ever. Why not head back? I was doing what I loved and the idea of heading north on the AT through the middle of winter was a challenge that definitely appealed to me.
I reached Springer Mountain on December 28, 2012. I had realized my goal of completing the 12 walks before year’s end. With a huge smile and a soaring heart I reflected on what had been an extraordinary journey and felt at peace. Did I really want to continue? Hadn’t I done enough?
The following morning I began to retrace my footsteps from the day before. My mind hearkened back to a conversation I had some six weeks previous whilst walking in Pennsylvania. My friend, Greg “Malto” Gressel, had asked me ‘how often I endured moments of doubt in regards to whether or not I still wanted to keep hiking’? Without hesitation I replied, “never.” He repeated the question, either believing that I hadn’t quite heard him or alternatively not believing that someone could hike continually for more than 14,000 miles without having a single moment of doubt. I repeated my answer and added, “the miles, location and season are largely immaterial. The wilderness is my home. I have everything I need in the world on my back. Man, what can I tell you, I’m happy.”
Back to December 29th. I was still happy, still at home, still doing what I loved. But something had changed. My intuition, my internal compass if you like, kept whispering “time to begin another chapter; time to move on.” It was late afternoon that I finally listened. The decision was made. I had hiked enough………..for now.
* Continued in Epilogue 2: SERENDIPITY