On the trail, we don’t have many responsibilities. We wake up, break down camp, eat breakfast, hike, eat second breakfast, hike, eat lunch, hike, eat a snack, hike, eat dinner, maybe hike some more, set up camp, and sleep. In essence, our sole responsibilities are to eat, sleep, and hike.
Strangely, having limited responsibilities can often feel as complicated and convoluted as life before the trail. As it turns out, it takes a conscious, daily effort to tap in to the peace, solitude, and enjoyment the trail has to offer.
And I have a particularly difficult time tapping into the serenity of this big adventure Morgan and I are on.
I struggle to have the upbeat and positive attitude so many of our fellow hikers embody. I frequently worry about if we have enough food, if our bodies are holding up, if those dark clouds in the distance are heading our way, and the list goes on. I so easily spend entire days mentally removed from our physical surroundings. I keep my head buried in the dirt as we walk through thick rhododendron tunnels and past mesmerizing overlooks and under massive boulders and alongside peaceful lakes.
The sun sets at the end of the day along with the overwhelming guilt that I just missed out on experiencing all of the beauty that surrounds us. I promise to myself and Morgan that “tomorrow will be different.”
Two days ago we finally arrived at McAfee Knob-the most photographed land feature on the Appalachian Trail (and for good reason).
On the hike up, I remember Morgan looking back at me and saying, “Just so you know, I’m probably going to cry when we get up there.”
There is something transcendental arriving at major milestones on the Trail. You hike so far and you are so tired and you are so jazzed about accomplishing something so monumental that everything overwhelms your soul to the brink of emotional collapse.
That is, of course, if you are actually immersed in the moment and not mentally removed from the present.
When we summited, we were in a daze. The view was even more magnificent than we could have anticipated. Warm sunshine mixed with a cool breeze enveloped our hearts with a deep joy. We stayed at the knob until the sunset and moonrise (which happened to occur simultaneously that night). Every aspect of that night was pure bliss. To make our time even more breathtaking, we came back to the knob for sunrise (and moonset) the next morning before starting off the hiking for the day.
I write all of this to say that far too often it takes a monumental action (like arriving at McAfee Knob) before I begin to become fully present. But, what I am learning is that every moment and everything warrants my presence.
I believe that every little creature and every blade of grass and every interaction has the potency to evoke my unadulterated presence. I hope that this little lesson I am learning while hiking 2200 miles encourages you to also become more present in this beautiful world that surrounds you.
May grace and peace find you wherever you may be and wherever you may go.