A few days ago, while hiking through ankle-deep mud, Gandalf told us about some advice he was given early on the trail.
“You see, I was told that the first seven hundred miles are about the physical body. The second seven hundred are about the mental aspects, and the third is about the soul.”
I’ve been thinking on this for days. A challenge like this has to be compartmentalized in phases, less one lose their sanity. While I agree with the categories above, I feel that they are all overlapping all of the time, in varied levels of concentration. Crossing the Smokies was a very mental and emotional time for me. There were many times where I thought about everyone I had wronged in my life. Other hikers I’ve talked to have had the same experience.
“I love you, thank you, please forgive me.”
This is a mantra Pretzel used to repeat while he hiked. When we separated at the NOC that rainy morning, I adopted it as well. About halfway through the Smokies I ascended a ridge with this mantra and literally burst into tears when I reached the top of the mountain. I wanted nothing more than to call Tracy, and ask for forgiveness, but my phone was blessedly out of service at the time.
I’ll be picking up my divorce papers in Killington the day after tomorrow. When she told me she was sending them, I got angry. Not for what they were, or what they represented, but simply for the intrusion on my trail life. I wanted to wait till after Katahdin to deal with this. How incredibly selfish of me. I still had the nerve to be curt and pretentious on the phone.
It’s this very lack of consideration to her feelings that got us here. I’ve realized now that I should have thanked her instead, for taking the initiative on this. It was difficult for her to do this, really difficult in fact. Instead I responded like an angry child. Sad that it’s taken this trip for me to become fully aware of how much of an asshole I’ve been to her for so many years. Maybe this is that “soul” part of the trip.
I’m ready to bring this journey to a close. Five weeks of cruising, I will make it. Tomorrow the distance to Katahdin will have a four before the last two digits. The trail will teach what it will though, and class is far from dismissed.
I found Gandalf’s solo camp spot this morning, and sat with him for a while. We mused about what our emotions might be like upon summiting that final mountain. The only thing we decided with certainty, was that it really didn’t matter. The only wrong feeling would be indifference. I’m probably going to bawl my eyes out, and that’s okay.
More often I’m getting asked about how I’m getting home. The truth is that I don’t know, and I know better than to try to know this far out. Planning more than two days ahead of anything out here is disastrous. Maybe I’ll hitchhike, maybe I’ll share a car or get a bus. The trail will provide, and staying open leads to adventure. Why worry?
I still have five hundred miles to clear. I still have things to see, people to meet, and much to learn. The last one there wins, and oddly, I already find myself missing the trail. That doesn’t even make sense, but there it is.
Sometime in October I will be headed back to Woodstock. I’m moving in with my friend and brother Tyler. There will be space for me to swing my sword, shoot some arrows, and build things. I’ll be finding work of some kind, and going to night school for welding. Somewhere in there I will be making trips down to Florida to see my sword teacher. Within two years I want to move to PA and train with Long Sensei full time. Every single night on trail I’ve dreamt about training at Hombu. I might pursue a degree in Japanese history.
Kind of an odd post, but an accurate representation of where my head is at. Now to sleep and pull twenty in the morning. Here’s hoping my shoes can make it till the new pair in Hanover!