2,190. The amount of miles on The Appalachian Trail. It takes an average of 7 months to hike. Each year thousands of people attempt to finish it. Only 1 in 4 are able to complete the trip.
This weekend I found myself driving through a piece of the trail called Blood Mountain, I was at the exact same spot at the exact same time 2 years ago. What are the odds?
On that day two years ago I hiked the mountain. I didn’t know this at the time, but two weeks after this hike my life would change forever. I would be hit with the most dramatic news, and the dramatic turn of events.
During the time I was completely in the moment. I was soaking in the views and the glory of finishing the hike. Usually the views are my favorite part, but this time my favorite part was something unexpected. My favorite part was stopping at an old general store I had accidentally found.
Inside I found myself surrounded by actual Appalachian Trail hikers. Some had been on their hike for months, and some had just started a few days prior.
I felt like I was entered into a new world.
I sat there watching the hiker’s retrieve packages they had mailed themselves in preparation of the stop. I watched them introduce themselves to each other and leave each other with words of encouragement. I watched them complain about how bad they smelled. I even watched one of them drool over the sight of Jiff peanut butter. In the end the greatest site was when I saw the hikers debate over what they should take out of their bag, and what they should add in it.
Each hiker looked at each item with such seriousness. It seemed a bit dramatized, but I as watched I realized that the general store experts were stepping in to guide each hiker. They took it with more seriousness then the hiker did, because they knew things the hiker didnt know.
They know that only 1 in 4 would finish the hike, and they know all of the dangers of the hike. They know the mountain trails. They know how to get out of hard situations. They know how hungry everyone gets. They know the damage the trail can do to your body. They know the insanity the hike can cause you. And finally... they know the death toll. They know the things that the hikers dont.
That’s when I knew that I actually HAD entered a new world. Every single article of clothing, every single piece of food, and every single pound that these hikers put in their oversize back packs represented a choice. A choice to carry more weight and possibly be slowed down, or a choice to bare the burden and make the sacrifice on the item they felt was important.
The hikers only had a backpack, and the clothes they were wearing. That’s it. The backpack was their home. Their sanctuary. Their life force. And the hikers blood was on some of those general store experts decision making.
I couldn’t help but think about that I would bring. What was most important to me?
Two years later and I was sitting there wondering the same thing, and still wondering if I would ever be able to hike this trail. It was on my bucket list, but I feel like it is one of those items that ill always talk about, but never get around to.
A few hours after seeing the hikers I found myself sitting in a hot tub overlooking the view of the mountains. I was sipping on a glass of wine watching the weather go from good to bad. Tornado warnings were all over the state of Georgia, and the wind was picking up.
I knew the hikers were still out there. Some in hammocks, and others in tents. I couldn’t help but think about where their minds were. What were they thinking about? Were they terrified? Did they prepare for a moment like this? Can anyone prepare for a moment like this?
Sure, anyone would be able to hike when the weather is sunny and 75, but what about when you get yourself caught in the middle of a storm?
They say most people hike the trail to lose their mind and find their soul. Maybe hiking the trail isn’t any different then walking through life. Everyone wants the great views with the calm winds, but no one wants to tough out the hard parts. Maybe that’s what your soul learns about on the trail. Maybe your soul learns that the tough parts make you stronger. Maybe the trail is a boot camp that prepares you for life. Maybe after you hike you realize that hard things that happen to you in life are minuscule to the storms that brew in your every day life. Or maybe just maybe life is like the trail. Whether you're prepared for the storms or not, they are coming and when they get there you just have to face them head on. Maybe we should just all hope and pray that we are each given a general store expert to come along and guide us in a way that has the potential to save our lives once the storm arrives.