The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.Psalms 65:8
I think of myself as just an ordinary guy who has been blessed with the opportunity to do some extraordinary things. My life has played out in a such way that I have the means and flexibility to leave work and the indoor world to go walk in the woods five or six months at a time. I suppose some people may call long distance hiking a sport, but to me it is more of a lifestyle and any perceived sacrifices are far outweighed by the benefits.
A Little History
I lived in Tennessee for 10 years before learning of the existence of the Appalachian Trail. During a weekend hike in the Smoky Mountains, some friends and I ran into thru hikers who explained that the trail we were on went all the way to Maine. On several occasions after that, I encountered thru hikers and gradually decided it was something I would like to try.
Conditions at my new job and simply a longing for life on the trail again led me to complete the Appalachian Trail a second time in 2008.
By this time, I knew that more long distance hikes would follow and I began planning for both the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails. I completed the Pacific Crest Trail in September of 2010, and almost immediately began planning for a Continental Divide Trail thru-hike. .
The Continental Divide trail followed in 2012 but it wasn’t a cake walk. By the time I reached the middle of Montana, I had lost 20 pounds. With my, how shall I say it, svelte build of 5’9″ and 135 lbs, that was more than I could afford to lose. This thru hike challenged me in ways that the others did not. With the greater challenges came greater rewards and a huge sense of accomplishment.
My family probably thinks I’m crazy for heading back out to the Continental Divide in 2016. There is so much about the CDT that beckons me back. Once again, I expect it to be a very difficult trail logistically, physically, and mentally, but the draw is too much for me to resist.
I am often asked to explain why the wilderness, and long distance hiking in particular, have such a strong draw upon me. Though, or perhaps because, it touches such a deep place within my spirit, I find it very difficult to answer such questions. One of my standard replies is that I feel most at home while on a long distance hike, but that doesn’t nearly cover it. I can relate to a quote from Eric Liddell, of “Chariots of Fire” fame, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”
George MacDonald had something to say about a simple flower that comes closer than anything I know at touching my feelings for tromping through this grand creation.
The flowers come from the same heart as man himself, and are sent to be his companions and ministers. There is something divinely magical, because profoundly human in them. In some at least the human is plain; we see a face of childlike peace and confidence that appeals to our best. Our feeling for many of them doubtless owes something to childish associations; but how did they get their hold of our childhood? Why did they enter our souls at all? They are joyous, inarticulate children, come with vague messages from the father of all. If I confess that what they say to me sometimes makes me weep, how can I call my feeling for them anything but love? The eternal thing may have a thousand forms of which we know nothing yet!George MacDonald; What's Mine's Mine