Grateful 2 is off the trail. I knew he was in emotional trouble as I read his journal.
Why do people hike the Appalachian Trail? People give a lot of different answers to that question. Some say they are running from something in their everyday life. Maybe so. Some say they are out here for the beauty. If so, then it would be easier to find it in their own town or see it here from a car. You can drive to most of the best spots on the AT. Some say they are out here for the solitude. There’s entirely too many people on the trail for that to be legitimate. Some say they are out here to accomplish something unique or special. Tens of thousands of hikers have already finished the trail, so finishing will not be unique. Some say they are out here for the fun. What’s fun about walking all day in the cold and rain, walking on infected blisters, or climbing for miles when there is no water?
I think most people hike the AT for the challenge of overcoming adversity. It’s hard to get out of your sleeping bag when it’s 20 degrees or pouring rain. It’s hard to climb another mountain when your legs are cramping. It’s hard to carry your pack when you are coming out of town with a full food resupply and your pack is at its heaviest. It’s hard when you get hurt but you decide to keep on walking. Why do you do it?
There is something In the human spirit that is satisfied when you conquer an obstacle that is difficult to overcome…..
His thoughts were going dark. If you see the trail as only adversity and something to conquer, I think your chances of finishing greatly diminish. Is there adversity? Absolutely – but there is great adventure in the midst of that adversity. There is such beauty that eclipses the discomfort of the climbs. Running from something is not as powerful as running toward something – the freedom, the peace, the spiritual vitality provided by the quiet of the trail. I found great solitude on the trail hiking for hours without seeing anyone. There is a sense of calling, an inner joy, and an urgency to continue to the end that seems absent in Grateful 2’s journal entry.
June 10 I was nauseous most of the night. Got up, ate breakfast, and went back to the trail where we walked 16 miles to Waynesboro. Had absolutely no energy today…. We decided to take a zero. Went to church and then to a hotel where I slept all afternoon. Still not feeling well. I did manage to visit the KFC buffet. They lost money on me.
Nauseous and not feeling well and yet packed it away at KFC. I feared that the mental was impacting the physical at this point.
June 12 The radio said tonight it was 94° today, And I’m a believer. Every stitch of clothing was soaking wet all day. The bugs were buzzing everywhere. They were up my nose, in my ears, and three committed suicide flying into my eyes. I swallowed two…. I managed 17 miles today but the miles came with great difficulty because I still don’t feel well. They were no good views today from the trail, only from the roadway. I’m not really enjoying the green tunnel of the Shanendoah national park.
The Shenandoah National Park was one of the easiest stretches of the hike for me. Fairly easy terrain, good food available, good water supply. I knew Grateful 2 was fading fast.
June 13 I carried Sandals to the trailhead and took a zero today. I slept most of the day and then did some trail magic. I’m thinking about going home… I’d think I’d rather be home with my family. We love each other and I miss them. I like living in Chattanooga in our new home. I miss riding my motorcycle and fishing in a bass boat. I like being able to hike the Cumberland Trail in our backyard, and then being able to take a shower before I go to bed in our king-sized bed.
With the decision made, Grateful 2 continued to help Sandals slackpack through the Shenandoahs until Monday, the 19th. He set up some trail magic each day to encourage other hikers along the way. He hiked 900 miles in three months. What a great journey! The memories and the lessons he will take home with him will remain for a lifetime. Katahdin was not attained, but the journey was the reward. My applause goes out to this determined, creative hiker who hiked his own hike and experienced some amazing adventures.