Thursday, July 29, 2010
Gut Check & Decision Time ...
I've been somewhat dreading the composition of this post. I took some actions yesterday that will change my journey completely ...
Flexibility is important ... in fact it's vital, in business, in life and especially on the Appalachian Trail. I had grand plans to start this journey in Georgia and end in Maine but as the miles and months have passed it became evident ... that to ensure my safety I might have to insert some "flexibility" into my plan.
For the past few weeks I've been painfully aware that I'm a little over two weeks behind my well planned schedule. As I get further north the mountains will grow higher and the terrain more and more difficult. Without a doubt my daily mileage will again fall, from the 20-something mile days I've been able to do lately, into the expected 14-17 mile range. At that pace, on a northbound track, I would enter the White Mountains of New Hampshire, pass over Mt. Washington, walk through the 100 mile wilderness and summit Maine's Mt. Katahdin as the weather began to change from fall into winter. To some, that doesn't mean much, but to those who understand the conditions those mountains can produce ... it can be dangerous, if not deadly. So ... as the reality of the timeline and situation weighed heavily upon me I had a little talk with my ego and it went something like this...
Me - "So, Ego ... what's the problem with being safe and doing a flip flop thru hike? A lot of SUCCESSFUL thru hikers do it!
Ego - "Well, Yahtzee ... that wasn't your plan! Can't you get anything right? Can't you just hike faster and harder and just get it done? That's what a REAL thru hiker would do!"
Me - "Not true!" A real thru hiker is someone who makes safe choices which enables them to complete this grueling, multi-month adventure. A REAL thru hiker is someone who recognizes their limits and finds a way to work within them!"
Ego - "Hummm... but a "flip flop" is so lame!"
Me - "Why? I'll still be completing the trail ... just half of it will be northbound (from GA to PA) and the other half will be southbound (from ME back to where I left the trail PA)."
Ego - "But where's the glory in finishing in Duncannon, PA?" There's no mountain summit ... no excitement ... no BIG FINISH!"
Me - "True, but there will still be a finish ... there will still be an accomplishment. Do I need glory? Do I need more than just the personal satisfaction of completing my goal?
Ego - "But what will other people say? What will they think? I know ... they'll think you failed."
Me - "I don't care. This is MY hike, my goal ... my dream ... my vision ... my journey. Plus, I don't think my friends and family will think that I've failed."
Ego - "Whatever ... it's still lame!"
Me - "Ego, you can leave now. I have no purpose for you ... no room in my head space ... no place in my thoughts. I'm making the best choice for my success and, for that I'm proud of myself."
So ... with that ... I made the decision to abandon the heat, humidity and 20+ mile days that I've been enduring through northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and about half of Pennsylvania. I joined my friends Koopa and Big Ooh (who've been enduring similar internal struggles and having conversations with each other and themselves). While we may not have started this trail together we've made it further than thousands of others have and we plan to finish it ... hopefully together. While the Kodak Mt. Katahdin moment may come early (in fact, it will come tomorrow -July 30th- if the weather is good and the park service allows us on the mountain for a summit attempt). The "glory" will be in the personal satisfaction that I will embrace on the day I step foot back onto a dingy street in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. I will have arrived at my journey's finish line and although I'll be standing at street level, in front of the Doyal hotel, I'll be on top of the world. Until then ... I will continue to hike ... and blog ... and experience all of the joys, tribulations and lessons that this trail so fruitfully delivers each day.
In a way, this is one of it's biggest lessons so far. It seems that it's not the major summits that make our journeys exciting ... it's the average, everyday places that can serve as our finish lines ... as our points of major accomplishments ... as our destinations. I look forward to seeing Duncannon again. It may not be Katahdin but when I stand again at the place where I left the trail two days ago ... I will have completed one of the largest personal and physical challenges of my life. I will raise my hands in the air and people may stare, unaware of the purpose for my excitement, but it's not about them ... or where I finish ... or what the "final" photo looks like. It's about MY A.T. JOURNEY ... and thankfully that journey continues...