Monday, July 10, 2006

Enjoying the Break

I'm stuck!!

Corn Hole, anyone?

New Itinerary - The Journey Continues

Many folks have been inquiring about when our next itinerary would be posted. I've been busy enjoying my break from the trail with my family and friends. I did find, however, a few moments here and there to put together an itinerary for the next portion of our hike. Remember: if you want to send mail you must send it at least a week in advance to ensure that it gets to the post office in time. Also, please put my name on it, the expected arrival date, and a note that says "hold for A.T. hiker". Megan and I have loved all the letters, cards, and packages that you sent previously. We are humbled by your generosity and love. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

All mail must be addressed as General Delivery.

Port Clinton, PA 19549 (July 15)

Unionville, NY 10988 (July 22)

Pawling, NY 12564 (July 27)

Williamstown, MA 01267 (August 4)

Hannover, NH 03755 (August 13)

Glencliff, NH 03238 (August 16)

Gorham, NH 03581 (August 25)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Epiphany Brought on By a Butterfly

No matter what situation I have found myself in, in life I have found that there are always numerous changes that accompany new experiences. Hiking for three months in the Appalachian Mountains has brought forth many changes in my life. And I can describe them as increases and decreases. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Increase – appetite
Decrease – weight
Increase – physical endurance
Decrease – health of feet
Increase – metabolism
Decrease – variety of available and tasty food
Increase – girth of my calves
Decrease – avg. # of showers/wk
Increase – thoughts of my family
Decrease – normal everyday life stressors

I could go on for quite some time, but one of the most meaningful and noticeable changes in my life has been an increase in my faith in God. I want to share a story with you about one particular issue that I ran into – which brought forth a growth in my overall faith in God.

To tell this story I’m going to start near the beginning: Megan (my hiking partner) and I, began our Appalachian Trail hike on a beautiful, sunny day – April 4th of this year. We had mixed emotions about the hike, but overall we were excited and committed to the challenge before us. For the next couple of days we had perfect weather for hiking – 60 degree days, blue sky, nice breeze, cool nights to sleep. The beginning was good.

But day four was the day I noticed a short sharp pain in my R Achilles tendon as I hiked up the mountains. Downhill the pain was not noticeable, uphill the pain exploded. It wasn’t long before I noticed my R Achilles had swollen to twice the size of my L one. Days passed, miles disappeared - I soon began limping on the down slopes, as well as, the ascensions. So bad was my pain, that at every stream and spring location along the trail, I stopped, took off my sock and boot, and soaked my R foot for twenty minutes or so to ease the swelling.

Upon the good advice from some fellow hikers, we decided to take a day off of the trail to rest, ice, elevate. Knowing that an Achilles problem could result in the end of my dream to finish the A.T. I fervently iced every hour for twenty minutes, all day.

It was Easter Sunday when we got back on the trail. As soon as we set foot on the trail my heart sank, the pain was still there, as bad as it was before. Megan hiked on ahead to our evening destination since I was gimping along. I immediately sank into self-pity as I trudged along at a snails pace. I was angry, I was worried, I was hurting. I was completely self-absorbed with my injury.

As I hiked, I noticed a butterfly flutter through my field of view. I remember thinking “how beautiful”. Just for an instant I left those selfish thoughts of myself, but quickly returned to my uncomfortable situation. Then a shadow swooped over me and glided past. I looked up and noticed a hawk gliding on the thermals. “Wow!” I thought “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a bird. I bet birds don’t have Achilles problems”. I look back down to the trail in front of me and the butterfly was still there. Which instantly brought forth a memory from college.

I was sitting in my entomology class with my classmates and my professor. My professor, Dr. Goff was getting ready to explain metamorphosis. Right in the middle of his explanation of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, he stopped and looked at us and said, “Not one scientist past or present has figured out what exactly happens inside of that chrysalis when that caterpillar changes into the butterfly. All we know is that the protein structure and physiology is completely different between the two organisms.” I was amazed that science has not revealed this secret, but I remember also feeling comfort in knowing that there is a greater power than humanity. And that I serve that greater power.

The butterfly on the trail brought back that memory and all of a sudden it was like a key had unlocked my self-centered tunnel vision and I could see beyond my pain. God was much bigger than my problem. He had cleared everything from my calendar months before so that I could hike the Appalachian Trail, and I knew he wasn’t going to throw something into the mix that would hinder this trip. All I needed to do was put forth a little trust in the maker of the Heavens and the Earth. A verse came to me ( I Peter 2:24) “By His stripes, you are healed”. I said it aloud over and over, I claimed that promise and reminded God of all the little things he had done to prepare me for the Appalachian Trail and I continued to limp along the path in pain.

Later, Megan expresses her concern about the condition of my Achilles. Maybe you need to take a week off, or a couple days. You can catch up later. I considered it, yet at the same time, I believed God would heal me. He promised to.

I didn’t heal immediately, in fact, I had to endure another week of pain, but I talked to God daily, claiming his promise and reminding him of the miracles that got me where I was that very day. And believe it or not, my R Achilles tendon slowly began to heal as I hiked. The terrain was not getting easier, the miles weren’t being shaved off of our days to accommodate the injury, my Lord was healing me. Mid-stride, about a week after my butterfly epiphany, my Achilles tendon was completely healed. And there is no other explanation except that God chose to take away my pain. What a miracle!

I grew a lot from that experience – God has proven over and over through other similar experiences that he is our sustainer. There are many things I can not control out there in the mountains, but I’m relieved that I serve a God who is my dry spot when I am wet, my food when I am hungry, and my healer when I am in pain.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Living Life One Step at a Time: Most Recent Musings

McAfee Knob: I am small, aren't I? Maybe the world doesn't really revolve around me. A little dose of humility never hurts anyone.

Washing my hair in the river. Quite limber, aren't I?

Maybe I should join the circus.

Eastern Box Turtles are still exciting discoveries even at my "old" age.

Monthly Musings:

I've learned so much about myself on this journey. I have a hard time putting words to many of the ways that I am changing and growing. Before I started the A.T. I wouldn't have considered myself an emotional person. I've always had a good handle on my emotional expression. I'm a logical thinker. A realist. Someone who doesn't get overly excited about much and never overly upset about anything. However, recently I am discovering part of me that I have never known existed. The constant struggle of everyday life mixed with the awe and beauty of my surroundings make for a confusing array of emotions that I am having a hard time dealing with at times. I am frequently experiencing feelings of elation (mostly dealing with food, shelter, and vistas), and feelings of self-pity and sorrow (most commonly brought on by physical pain).

It is when I strip away all of the "extras", the materialism, in my life that I can begin to know and acknowledge my true self. I'm beginning to realize that the "stuff" in our world, the materialism that we surround ourselves with, has a way of hiding who we really are. We become trapped in society's ever changing standards, seeking to be accepted by the mainstream, as if that is our one life goal. But it is a futile attempt, we will never make it because the standard is continually moving farther and farther down the road, down the road we generally choose to follow.

I'm fortunate to have an opportunity to escape the stressors of normal life and dive head first into an environment of "simplistic living". I knew coming into this experience I would change. I am changing in ways I never thought possible. My hope is that I continue to become more and more aware of who I am as a person, in order to rid my life of the worldly clutter that ceaselessly works to corrode my mind and soul. Sometimes it is scary taking the road less traveled, but I believe the benefits will far outway any negative aspects of this six month journey.

For the Beauty of the Earth

It takes some serious effort to climb to the elevation that produces a view like this. It is only upon occasion that we are granted such a vista as this. But it is always appreciated once we make it to the top.

The Half Gallon Challenge

The much anticipated half gallon challenge ocurred at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania, on June 24th. Megan and I officially finished 1,087 miles of the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail. We courageously attempted to eat a half gallon of ice cream in 1/2 an hour. We estimated our arrival time at the state park and nearly starved ourselves that day so that we could fit that much ice cream in our tummies. Being an ice cream lover, I confidently approached the general store counter as I bought my 1/2 gallon of neapolitan ice cream. Not too much time had elapsed before my confidence began to wain. It only took about 15 minutes for me to realize it was going to be much harder than I had initially imagined. Wow, 1/2 gallon of ice cream was a lot of ice cream! Over 2,000 calories at one sitting. Gross! With only six bites left and five minutes to go in my 30 minute time limit, you would think I would be able to lick the spoon clean. You would think. But oh the tummy ache I had. It took me 14 minutes to finish those last six bites of ice cream. 39 minutes from my first bite of ice cream, I finally finished. Amazingly I kept it all down. Megan finished in an hour and ten minutes. What a trooper, by then she had to drink the last pint or so. Yuck!