A year ago today I announced publically on Facebook that I wouldn't be joining 10,000 other folks and heading to Pennsic (a large medieval event that takes place in PA in July) as I had for about 8 years. Instead:
"...I am thru hiking the Appalachian Trail starting at the end of April in Harper's Ferry (heading north to Maine and then coming back (by the way of a lift, bus, train or ??) to Harper's Ferry and hiking south to Georgia).
Originally I had thought of breaking the trail to come to Pennsic but the logistics (of going from a backpack to a Pennsic encampment and then back to the trail), the fact I can't come up with a good reason to do so (-beyond loving my friends) and in truth, basically the fact I want to devote myself to completing the 2200 miles with some sanity intact I am going to focus on it."
A year later I am back home in Nova Scotia, where I spend my Christmases, realizing that I did not accomplish that plan.
I did hike 960 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I did head north to Maine and make it there. As I told others I accomplished the majority of the 'flip' of my planned flip flop thru hike.
More importantly, I listened to me.
Maybe for the first time in my life I learned over the miles of the Trail how to listen to my body and live in and through my body rather than just my brain.
To understand this accomplishment you would have to know a bit more about me. I am 5 foot 6 inches tall and heavy set. By the time I was 14 I knew a number of local paths but generally I walked them to find a place to read undisturbed. I first read about the Appalachian Trail around that time - was amazed at the geography and history of it and the realization that it was the same mountain chain that ran through my home province. I had read the entire hardcover fiction collection of the children's library by that summer. I was not a sporty kid. I was the one in the back field daydreaming sometimes about the Trail.
But life happens - high school, university, grad school none of it changed the perspective that I did much better residing in my brain rather than my body. I occupied my body like a foreign invader, using it but not caring for it. I rode my bike everywhere (didn't actually learn to drive until I was 36), travelled around the world, broke my leg, moved across provinces, got married. Woke up one day and realized I was having problems walking up a set of stairs. I hated having to deliver the mail or faxes to folks at the office since it meant needing to climb stairs. I was over 325lbs and people around me were concerned I wasn't going to make it past the next few years.
That was 10 years ago.
September 1st, 2015 I came off the Trail at south of Stratton injured, weary, truthfully bone tired with a weird combination of sadness, resignation and happiness to be 'done.' I am going to take accomplishing almost half my original goal as 'not bad.'
I am still just 5 foot 6 inches but now I am about 100 lbs lighter than I once was. I have miles to go and you know, I am okay with that.
The Mountains will still be there next year and I will climb them.