The end of the trail

Have there been seeds of dreams planted inside you in the course of your lifetime that are demanding to be nurtured? Are you nurturing any? Time is short. Experiences are many. Let’s get going. Here’s one that speaks to my point. I’m looking for more.

In 2003 I could feel the growth of a dream seed in my guts.  It was demanding to sprout. It needed the sun, but it asked too much of me. I tried my best to ignore it. I really did. To see this dream through would require leaving my teaching career for at least six months.  Didn’t matter; it had to be done. I had to attempt the 2,175-mile thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. It stretches from Georgia to Maine. Friends thought I was crazy. From the very moment I voiced my intentions they would ask, what? Why? Where did that come from? And I’d tell them that I think a seed had been planted inside me long ago. It just took time and life’s experiences to fully grow it.

The Sowing: I remember being stretched out on the yellow shag carpet of my grandparent’s living room playing a game of Jacks by myself as the late afternoon sun slanted in through the front room’s window. This had to be somewhere around 1970. I was 10 years old, or so. The mail had just been delivered and Gram had received a package from the National Geographic Society. This was big. National Geographic magazines occupied “altar-like” status on the coffee table in their home. They connected us to the rest of the world; places I could only dream of going. Inside that package was a book, “The Appalachian Trail”. The book was filled with picture after picture of grungy hikers toting heavy loads in awkward-looking backpacks. The terrain they covered seemed remarkable in its variety: green hilly meadows of flowers, muddy trails winding around earthbound roots, exposed rocky mountaintops, and long green tunnels of trail.  It was mesmerizing. People really did this? Gram and I spent hours with that book. Not reading much, just staring at each photo straining to capture the essence of the hikers’ experiences. I dreamed it was me out there on that trail.

A seed was planted that afternoon. A seed whose packet label might have read, “Yes, dream it. Then do it”. Thirty-four years later that seed had grown into a dream demanding to be fulfilled. Time, work, relationships, and smaller journeys had nurtured its potential. My body and soul knew the truth of that seed for me.

The Reaping: I quit my job. And in the spring of 2004 I set off on that trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia with my young golden retriever, Jack. Six months later I stood at the finish, atop Maine’s Mt. Katahdin. I had done it. One dream down. How many more to go? What other seeds have been planted and are waiting to burst forth? I’m looking now; scraping away the topsoil in search of another experience.

BTW footnote: Things always work out, don’t they? After completing the hike I was re-hired; this time in the one room rural schoolhouse an hour from town, and that job provided another experience I will never forget.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shelli Johnson
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 11:25:57

    great stuff. thanks for sharing, my friend!


  2. maddy collentine
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 11:28:02

    your writing and thoughts are beautiful.Your Mom would be very proud of you.She loved reading.I’ll watch for more of your thougths.


  3. Nancy Conover
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 13:59:49

    Loved it… and I can still see my ten year old friend sitting on a shag carpet!!!


  4. Dad
    May 01, 2011 @ 10:51:55

    Wow!! We both loved it. Makes me proud. Keep it up


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