Appalachian Trail Happiness: Precious Moments – Part 3
The other night I posted the first part of this blog, Appalachian Trail Happiness: Precious Moments – Part 1
Last night I posted the second part, Appalachian Trail Happiness: Precious Moments – Part 2
One day in the Shenandoah National Park the trail winds out into a park. I was excited about getting there mostly because AWOL’s guide mentioned that the park had bathrooms with running water. When you’re on the trail small luxuries can make you really happy and the prospect of being able to take a sink shower and get water I didn’t have to treat had me in a good mood. As I emerged into the park I ran into two really cool section hikers I’d hung out with a bit at the shelter the night before, it didn’t hurt at all that they are both really pretty.
The girls were laying on the grass next to a picnic table and I asked to join them and I laid down on the bench of the picnic table. It was one of those blue sky, puffy white cloud days where you can see patterns in the cloud and so I laid there and did just that. The girls left and Second Star also came and went and I laid on that table for about an hour. It was the most pleasurable hour I’ve spent in some time. It hit me while laying there that it had been decades since I’d done this and I really wondered why? This is the beauty of hiking the AT, you get time to stop and just enjoy nature, to just be. When we were kids we understood the importance of this, as adults we get too busy, too distracted we have forgotten the beauty and importance of slowing down and just being. This moment had a profound impact on me and since then I’ve been slowing down and taking more time to simply be, not enough, but I’m getting better at it.
On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind. ~ Dan Lipinski
On the trail I met a hiker called Mao, (I never know if I’m spelling that correctly), and he was a great guy. He’s a combat veteran and a Marine, we talked about my grandfathers and their service in World War II. We also talked about the cause he was hiking for, to raise awareness about suicide among our veterans. I wrote an earlier piece about this and how you can help our veterans. Mao knew my knee was hurting me and a couple of days later he would end up coming out of camp behind me. He’s a much faster hiker than I am but after he passed me on the trail I noticed he was pretty consistently about 100 yards ahead of me. It hit me that he was hanging back and looking out for me. I pushed to catch up to him and asked him what he was doing? He simply said, “your hurt and hiking in the rain, I can’t leave a man behind.” It was a simple act of kindness and magnificent example of how we look out for each other on the trail. I thanked him and reminded him I was my grandfather’s son, my grandpa Kane got in a street fight when he was 87, he smiled and said ok and quickly moved off down the trail. I would be luck enough to run into him again much later on the trail and I’m so happy to say he completed his thru-hike recently summiting Katahdin.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ~ Frederick Douglass
One of the great things I got to do while slack packing in Massachusetts was to take my nephew out for a hike with me. I miscalculated the mileage and it turned out to be about half as long as I had intended but it was great to be out there hiking with him. He did great and the hike reminded me of the first time we ever did something alone together. When he was about three years-old I accompanied him and his family to Walt Disney World in Florida. At the end of the day he wanted to go swimming at the hotel and no one else was ready. Being an impatient three year-old he already had his suit on and was ready to go. So to avoid the drama I agreed to take him and quickly through on my suit. It was a big moment, I’m not sure at that point he’d ever gone anywhere without his parents before. He held my hand tightly as we walked down the hall and into the elevator. As we approached the pool he kept looking back at the hotel. We got to the pool and got his life jacket on and he balked, first wanting to wait, then asking incessantly and finally wanting to go back to the hotel. Of course half way back the rest of the family arrived and we went back to the pool. That day on the trail brought back that memory and made me smile.
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. ~ Helen Keller
The real test for my rehabbed knee was to go out on the trail again with a full pack. My friend Bryan had also wanted to hike on the trail with me so I happily got to combine the two and we decided to do a week long hike from Bennington, VT down to Lee, MA. The hike worked out well, my knee did fine. There were two really precious things about the week. We were heading southbound so we were passing thru-hikers I had started with and I got to see some old friends including the three hikers I rode in with to Amicalola State Park.
The other thing was the chance to spend a week with one of my best friends. This was the kind of time we hadn’t had together since college almost thirty years ago.
Being out there with a close friend, introducing him to the trail was incredibly special and the type of thing that makes the trail so special. It was an amazing week full of very happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane
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