The Trail

Each year Lovie is good enough to let me abandon my family and hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail for several days. Some of her friends give me grief about my annual sojourn. They seem to consider it nothing more than a thinly veiled excuse to have a three-day bender in the woods with my buddies. If they only knew.

Hours and hours are spent consulting our trusty maps as well as several guidebooks to carefully analyze topography, mileage, water sources, weather patterns, shelters, and campsites before we even decide upon our itinerary. It takes almost as long to organize our backpacks. The last thing you can afford on the trail is too much weight, which means many of the things I might have wanted to take get left behind. That’s okay, though. You get by better with only the things you need.

My friends and I temporarily trade our complicated but comfortable lives for simple, arduous ones. We hike up and down 5,000-foot inclines, covering up to 20 miles a day, armed with nothing more than 40 pounds of essentials, the clothes we’re wearing, and a desire to lead more meaningful lives.

I can’t speak for my companions, but while I’m in the woods, I feel the entire gamut of emotions—from exhilaration after cresting a two-mile incline, to wonder while witnessing the divine beauty at the top, to relief at beginning a much-needed descent, to despair when staring at yet another uphill stretch, to exaltation when I finally see the campsite I’ve dedicated the previous 11 hours to reach. It’s there I’ll rest and replenish all so I can experience another collage of emotions the very next day.

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