Here are my most recent notes to our daughter Katie and son-in-law Nick as they thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Thanks for your interest in their journey.
Day 10: Success & Commitment
This morning began with a very brief text from you confirming:
"We are crossing over to North Carolina today!"
Knowing that you were only 4 miles from North Carolina when the text came through was a great start to the day! Mom and I are so proud of you. That's a great accomplishment! If you include the half-section of the Approach Trail you hiked on the first day, you two have logged over 80 miles already. Try not thinking about the many miles still ahead. Remember: One step at a time. Enjoy the journey.
Mom and I got to watch Emery and Micah tonight so that Ben and Ali could have a night out. I had mentioned to Ben a couple of days ago that you two were getting waterlogged in your tiny tent from all the rain you've had…and like a good brother…he gave me his tent to ship to you. I plan to waterproof it tomorrow and get it ready to ship. I just need you guys to tell me where to mail it. While we were watching the kids, I opened up the green tent pouch to check the poles and to see if all the pieces were inside. As I pulled the rainfly out of the bag, the familiar scent of musty nylon took me back. I told Mom, "That smell brings back the memories." And as I drove home in my little red truck, the smell quickly filled the cab and made me smile. I like knowing that the tent Ben and I used for our 12 day hike on the AT through Georgia in 2006 will serve as your temporary housing for a portion of your hike. It just seems right!
You two have already surpassed in less than 10 days what Ben and I did in 12 days. Again, that just seems right. You will learn someday what I think every parent feels toward their kids; we all want what's best for our children and we want our kids to (hopefully) do better and/or surpass what we've done and accomplished. As I told you many times before you started this adventure, I want you to succeed in this. Not only do I want you to make it all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine…I want you to soak up this experience like a sponge and then wring yourselves out…not leaving anything undone or unexperienced. I know you are committed to this too, but it's going to be hard. The only way to pull this off is to rely on each other…and God.
Proverbs 16:3 reads: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
I really hope you are committing each day to the Lord--knowing that the only way to succeed is wholly based on God's grace. When you commit whatever you do to Him it takes the weight off of you and places it solely where it belongs. So stay committed as you begin your trek through the 95+ miles of North Carolina. Success is guaranteed when commitment is anchored in the right place.
Day 11: Appalachian Spring
Well, your car is finally off the street in front of the house and in our garage. It took all morning, but I got the garage cleaned out and organized. Your little car is now tucked away and waiting for your return.
It was beautiful here today. Spring seems to really have arrived in Colorado. The trees have all blossomed and budded and there was a warmth in the air today that I haven't felt in a while. It was fun being outside, piddling around in the garage. It's been 4 weeks since my hernia surgery, so I decided to really put it to the test by lifting more than I've lifted in weeks. You know I can't work in my garage without some music, and today was the perfect day, so I dropped Aaron Copland into the CD player. "Appalachian Spring" never sounded better. Needless to say, you were both on my mind. As Appalachian Spring reached its crescendo, I just stood and listened...hoping the rain had stopped in North Carolina...and that it was just as Spring-like there for you as it was for us in Colorado.
After finishing up in the garage, Mom and I worked in the yard and by the time we headed off to church tonight, I was feeling it a little--feeling my age. I won't lie. I hate getting old.
Spring and Fall.
There's no getting around it; I'm in the autumn of my life, but you two are still in your Spring...Summer's coming, but it's still Spring for you. And as I listened to the beautifully, majestic, sadly moving orchestration of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" in my garage this morning, I was grateful for your Spring. The Spring of your youth...the Spring of 2015...and where you are spending them both.
Ecclesiastes 3 begins with: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..."
There is a season for everything...and the season for you is Spring...an Appalachian Spring. And soon your Appalachian Spring will turn to Summer...somewhere between North Carolina and Virginia...and not long after you return to settle back down in Colorado. Spring to Summer. Summer to Fall. Fall to Winter.
As much as we all might wish...no season lasts forever.
Day 12: Trained Up
Sunday is usually the day we catch up with family. A lot of times Mom calls your grandma on Sundays and (if I haven't checked in on my way home during the week) I'll try and call Nana and Papa on Sundays. So it was fitting to get your call(s) today from Franklin, NC. Mom and I loved hearing about the hike so far--and can't wait to see the video you're going to post soon. As we said on the phone today, we can't get over how much you two have been able to stay in contact with us during this trek in the wilderness!
It was a little disconcerting to hear about your constant sore tendons, blistering toes and other physical woes, but we trust that you will listen to your bodies and not stress yourselves too much. I guess I knew that this hike would take a toll on you both...I just wasn't ready to hear the reality of it. Still, we are both encouraged by how high your spirits are and by hearing how much you're loving this journey--despite the physical strains.
Katie, you've always known (and Nick, you've learned) that I am not one who coddles. I've learned...and have tried to pass along...the reality that we gain strength (and some of our greater insights) when things are at their worst. It's often said that tough times don't necessarily build character as much as prove character. Part of disciplining little kids (along with correction) is instilling wisdom and strength in them. Katie, you were such a strong-willed little girl growing up. There were times (more than I care to remember) when you pressed our patience beyond the breaking point. I tried to reassure myself during those days that your strong will would be a blessing when you were older. But there were times when you REALLY made it hard! (haha!) And Nick, you haven't had the easiest of lives from the start. You know how much my heart breaks at some of what you've had to face growing up. Still, it's shaped you into the man you are today. You are both stronger because of the hard times you've already walked through.
Proverbs 22:6 reads:
"Train up a child in the way he (or she) should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
Some of your training for this trip started when you were both still in diapers...Some of it in middle school and high school through the struggles you each faced then...and some of your training has happened in the rough times you've had as a young married couple. No matter what, I know that it has strengthened you both to the core...which will serve you well as this trip wears on your bodies and minds.
Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." This seems to be true. I will try my best to remind myself (and our resident softy: Mom) of this when we get word about your future physical struggles over the next several weeks.
We will put your re-supply boxes in the mail tomorrow...pray for you daily...and wait for your next update!
Day 13: Holy Moments
I know that you are both reading this from the comfort of your room at the Sapphire Inn in Franklin, NC. That makes me happy--knowing that you are resting, eating well, and icing down sore tendons and ligaments. Your text today…telling us that you were going to hang back from hiking an extra day…came at the perfect time. I was in the midst of some tough stuff at the office and the news that you were resting another day was a virtual shot in the arm for me. I kept thinking to myself, "They deserve (and need) this break." Enjoy! What else is there to do?
Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 reads:
"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"
I sure hope you are finding satisfaction in your toil by eating more greasy cheeseburgers from Mulligan's…and quenching your thirst with a couple of the local brews. Let's face it, we have to consume proteins, calories and carbohydrates to fuel our bodies. But eating and drinking…that's an entirely different matter. I think that (when it's done right) the act of eating and drinking can be entirely spiritual. I firmly believe that this is why God instituted eating rituals into our lives. The Passover meal…which Jesus transformed into communion: eating and drinking. And why did God make it a meal? He could have used anything, but He chose to make it a meal--creating a holy moment. I don't know why. My opinion: I think it's because meals are about as temporary as anything we do in this life, yet hold the highest potential for leaving indelible marks on us. I mean, what else in life requires all of our senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste) with such profound enjoyment, and then is gone in a heartbeat? Poof! Literally down the drain! Everyone has a favorite meal or a favorite memory attached to a meal. I'm sure that you will both remember your cheeseburger and fries at Mulligan's until your dying day…fondly recalling every part of that meal from the decor in the restaurant to your waitresses (or waiter's) name.
I would also guess that you appreciated those burgers yesterday (and probably today) more than just about any meal you've eaten. Probably because of what it cost you (i.e., the miles hiked, the aches & pains, etc.)…making that meal a holy moment. Again, I can't help but think of communion--another meal swimming in deep appreciation--due to the cost. I smile as I type this. I had a burger tonight too. No bun, just a leftover cheeseburger from a couple of nights ago. Protein and a little bit of dairy.
I envy you your holy moment at Mulligan's.