Continuing on from Daniel and Hannah’s place, I landed at a great shelter in Pennsylvania along a cold stream with bridges.
My spirits were low. I had a clear air of somberness about me or something… I couldn’t shake it. I just didn’t have the miles in me today.
When I found this place, all to myself, I decided to soak my feet from the bridge, wash up and stay the night. I have not seen a north bound hiker since I left Harpers Ferry.
I used the rest of the day to catch up on writing and video editing. I even camped in the shelter and used the echo chamber to embrace my mood and play my “sad and sappy” playlist through my bluetooth speaker real loud. It’s seen very little air time these last 3 months. I’ve rediscovered Van Morison and am in love with the song Into the Mystic.
The next morning a hiker came through and rested at my temporary sad home inside this Pennsylvania shelter. He was 79 and back on the trail after taking barely three months off to recover from Lyme disease. In case your not knowledgeable on this, a complete draining of energy is the least of your problems, but he was doing it.
In North Carolina I saw a trail runner, surely in his 70s, flat out running. His wild gray hair trailing along as I sat on the side of the trail, panting.
I’ve talked to both men and woman, that started off weighing well over 300 pounds, shed weight through injured feet and backs. Proud owners of new bodies sharing before and after pics that make your mouth drop. You can see they get reinvigorated all over again telling of their accomplishments, smiles beaming from confidence and pride. It’s good for you to tell of your feats. It’s positive reinforcement and we all need it.
I’ve witnessed a group of veterans early on in Georgia, totally blinded while in action, hiking the Appalachian Trail with a group of volunteers to help guide them. Blind! Every member of the team with a constant furrowed brow of alertness and intensity from pure determination etched on their faces. Also, you have to give a nod to their logo, get it?
Last week a family of eight (Fight for Together) with children ranging from 2-17 summited the final mountain, Mt. Katahdin in Maine, after passing around a 2 year old in a backpack for almost six months over 2,200 miles. Not to mention all the gear, food and water they need to survive such a feat on their feet alone.
Well, they almost summited… state officials wouldn’t let them take a two year old up the final summit. They chose unanimously as a family to not climb it without the little one. Despite ample offers of babysitting from those around them. Heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Safety concerns aside, I still think this ending is perfect. In the end they had the ultimate test of their name and mission, to sacrifice the long sought, and finally attainable, end goal for the weakest link. They all passed and are amazing.
Last year a guy named Stringbean smashed the fastest time to finish the 2,200 mile 14 state trail in just 45 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. After running through mountains for over 2,000 miles for 44 days straight with a 25lb pack (entirely self supported), he pushed straight through the final 110 miles in 37 hours, without sleep, and summited Katahdin in hail and 70mph winds. Unreal.
Yesterday (a few weeks after this date, always behind in blogging) I attempted a double marathon (52.4 miles) in one waking period. I “failed” but it wasn’t a failure. I learned a few things about myself and my new conditioning. I entered into the challenge with no heart as well. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to try for it the first 5 miles of the day.
I ended at 40 miles, through much more difficult terrain than expected, and my freakiest nighttime bear encounter yet (story to come) with 28 hours of straight hiking. My pack was at full resupply around 37 pounds. Situationally, I didn’t have a choice. But I could of mailed my cold weather gear to myself at a further point to offset that load. I didn’t think about it for miles out of my last town, Unionville, New York.
Along the way however, I got to provide some trail magic. I ran into an older lady from Argentina, thru-hiking solo and on a road at a trailhead. She made a mistake banking she could find a room in a small town that had no vacancies. Most people don’t do night hiking, especially alone. Apparently I’m the only idiot out here that has grown to enjoy running through the woods and rocks at night solo. She was a bit unnerved and hesitant to go on, her light slowly growing dim too. Then I happened along, a rare occasion. I have yet to run into another hiker when doing previous night excursions.
She only had a paper map. I guided her in to the next shelter about 4 miles up. It was a really slow few miles, but she was steadily trucking right along. It’s never too late. I think I was out here that night not too achieve a vanity endurance goal, but for her. The trail has its ways, it’s uncanny…
Resoundingly along the way, I’ve learned we are mind, body and heart. Each one respectively stronger than the previous one, that order is important to recognize.
Your mind goes first, before the body. There are tricks you can use to push this, but at some point you have to learn to just turn it off. It’s amazing how far your body can go beyond what the mind screams. You have to be willing, no wanting, to break the body and suffer to truly find out though.
But the heart, the heart can propel both mind and body beyond their thresholds, both mental and physical. It takes all three working in unison, past your perceived “limits” to achieve amazing. Next attempt, I’ll be more prepared on all three fronts – mind, body and heart.
Amazing happens. It happens every day by average people, even out here in the middle of nowhere! All along the way…
Guess what? You’re one of them, and so am I. Don’t ever listen to someone say you can’t do something. Ever. Especially yourself.
Imagine how much amazing is happening in the city around you, with all those damn people about. We shouldn’t have to disappear into the mountains to learn to slow down and truly realize this. To take the little time necessary to actually talk to those we normally wouldn’t engage and really learn about them. To become inspired by them, and to go out to achieve our own.
The wolf you feed is the one that wins the fight. What are we feeding? Maybe you need to disappear out of your own element, within trial and hardship, success and failure, to really find out too?
We have no excuse. You don’t even have to achieve the primary goal of your original mission to realize you overcame your adversity along the way. Grow, learn from the “failures”, then set out again for the gold. Screw the gold, find that thing, and set out to shatter the winners podium.
It’s never too late. You’re not too old, heavy, broke, encumbered, out of shape, or even handicapped to achieve your amazing. For real. The evidence is all around you. Put yourself out there, wherever or in whatever that is, and you’ll find it. But I hope it gets you outside, out of your element, and requires full mind, body and heart of you.
Go, and do, it can always begin anew…