Vermont and Misery: 

   I never expected to write a post like this, but if I have learned anything about this trail over the past couple of months, it is that life and the trail very rarely take you where you expected. Today was one of our worst days on the trail, falling in line with the previous three. Our move up to New England and the Massachusetts/Vermont border came with a lot of unexpected challenges. Among those, heavy rain, trails made out of shin deep mud, consistently wet feet, and a seemingly biblical plague of black flies. We haven’t been able to make as many miles as we could down south. Previously, we have been able to make 15 miles with out any major issue consistently. At this point, we have been struggling to make 9. 

   The stress got to us today, we argued about the fate of our hike. Some of us took the position we needed to go home, rest, and possibly stay. Others staunchly advocated staying on trail, continuing to hike, and seeing what comes. Four days with little sleep due to shelters filled with black flies, the stress of the environment, and instense frustration concerning it all overwhelmed us, and led us to engage in a rather vicious verbal fist fight. 

   This stuff happens. We aren’t pretending to be anything other than who we are out here. This trail isn’t about frolicking through fields of wildflowers, it’s about growing as people and as a family. Today, oddly, gave me a lot of hope for our future. There was a time when the type of argument we had this afternoon would last for days, even weeks. We screwed up today, but we made it right, and we are stepping out of here tomorrow on good terms, with pride in what we have accomplished so far and hope for what is coming our way. 

   I couldn’t care less if we finished this trail right now. Our goal never lived here in the physical, but rather the emotional and spiritual. The anger and frustration of today is just another step towards the ultimate goal of being the happiest, healthiest, most kind, compassionate, and driven versions of ourselves. The miles we may or may not make in our future have little to no bearing over that goal, but the way we treat each other in the hard times does. 

   So here we are, on the brink of another day, more miles to our front, but with something far more important on our horizon. Happy trails. 

The Path: By Taylor Owen

The Path: By Taylor Owen

   Life has taken me a lot of places. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me at least, my destination has often been complete surprise. You don’t know where you are moving, or even if you are moving, very long in advance as a military family. This built something in me, a flexibility, a strength. I was hoping that I would be able to put that all aside once my Dad retired, but I’ve made a realization. I have not chosen a normal route for my life. I don’t want the regular, I will not accept the average, and the strength I earned from years of uncertainty is now the backbone for what’s coming. 

   I heard once that,”Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” This statement has proven itself true to me. So many just sit at home, lead lives of “quiet desperation”, but my heart and my God are calling me to something greater.  Why settle for a comfortable seat in the average when I could work for a place in the spectacular? This not for my ego’s sake, but simply for the journey.  No, the years spent in confusion while my world was turned around and around will not be something I will allow myself to regret, but something I will use as fuel. 
    

   I feel pangs of sadness sometimes, as I watch people live “normal” lives. Prom season just passed, and my Instagram was filled to the brim with pictures of my friends and their dates headed off to what looked like a really fun night. I’m not going to know what that feels like, and it was a semi-saddening thought. But that just isn’t the path I’ve been put on. I’m called to something different, not something better, but something different. My own route has been carved before me and I am going to chase it with everything in my soul, no matter how it twists or turns. I will take whatever triumph or tragedy that accompanies it, and it will carve my life into something to unique for anyone to fully imagine. I don’t want a comfortable life, I want a meaningful one. 

   I fear that many of us won’t live that. I think a lot of people allow their fears, pasts, or sheer laziness dictate how they live. To them I say that a life lived under any of those is one lived under tyranny. Free yourself, free your mind, and go do something that people are going to think you are crazy for. 
   

   Pursue your path, don’t settle for average, get up, get out, and follow what you are here to do one step at a time. Happy trails. 

Harmony:

   We are all strings. Each of us has our own tune, our own voice, an audible and visible stamp we leave on the world with every action we take. As Newton explained, each of these actions causes something else, a reaction, a consequence. 

   A team is a grouping of strings, a section of the orchestra. A teams purpose is to effectively sound or reach certain notes or goals. My family and I are like a seven string guitar, but like many others, we have been out of tune for a long time. A guitar is an easily fouled instrument, humidity, cold, jolts, and other obstacles can very quickly through the strings out of tune. I won’t bother to repeat all of our obstacles, but suffice to say we have had our fair share. We have been thrown out of tune. 

   I have been thrown out of tune. In the broad scope of things, I am my own string, I am responsible for holding fast, and staying in tune with what my Maker has commanded of me. I have caved to the heat. I let myself go slack, and I have fallen out of tune with his plan.  The heat proved to much for my strength alone, I survived, but only because He allowed it. I’ve been shown I’m not capable of such a herculan task, that I need His help. 

   All of us fall in and out of tune, it’s not all our faults per say, that is what it is to be human. But to be good, to be righteous, to be in tune, we all have to fight our more base nature and prove strong, not with our strength alone, at least not for me, but also with His. 

   This trail is putting me and my family back in tune. It is showing us where we lack, who has gone slack, or even too tight. It is putting me back in tune with my God. He is showing me where I have gone slack, or too tight. He is teaching me where and how to let go, or tighten. 

  My desire and hope is that soon we will all be back in complete harmony. An effective instrument, one worth of being wielded by an incredible artist. We make improvements everyday, but we still have a ways to go. We always will, but in the struggle lies the music. Through the journey, we are bringing harmony. 

Purpose. 

Purpose. 

Everyone longs for the answer. The question we all ask ourselves is older than time. It’s a question of deep, primordial significance that delves into the essence of what it means to be human, to be alive. What is my purpose? What am I here for? 

I’ve come to believe people have been lying to me about the answer to that question for a long time. Anyone who says they know what you are supposed to be doing in life typically wants your money, or worse, your time. My purpose is my own, and it is for me to find, as is yours. No one can tell you why God put you on this planet, or why tragedy has struck you, or why you have it all together. I don’t have any answers for you, I don’t even have any answers for myself, but I’m searching. Out in the woods I have found clarity. I have found a place to think, and I’m thinking about this stuff every day. 

Some of you are shaking your heads at the screen right now. Your thinking I’ve got a screw loose. “How is a hike giving you the answers to life’s questions?” your asking in disbelief. Still some are saying that I am not reading my Bible enough, that I am wasting my time out here. To you I say, you’re missing the entire point. In a world with so many competeing sources of information, how am I ever just supposed to take someone at their word? No, I can’t tell anymore, there are just to many voices back in the “real” world. Too many people wanting to pull your money, your time, and your attention their way. My answers will be found in the seclusion of quiet woods, or on the summit of an impossibly long mountain. I will search where most don’t, and I hope to find what most don’t, myself. 

For now though, I have nothing to put down on this page. The hunt is ongoing, it may never end, but I can give you this: Don’t let someone else tell you why you are here. Question everything.  Test every idea. More importantly, test yourself. Don’t be like most men, as Thoreau put it, and “lead lives of quiet desperation.”

More to come. Happy trails. 

30 Days: Lessons Learned from a Month in the Woods

    We stepped off officially from Amacolola Falls on March 12th, today, around thirty days later, I’ve been given a chance to contemplate what this first month has taught me.

    I decided a while ago not to hold any expectations, about this trip or anything else. It might be unhealthy, but I view expectations as a weakness, easily exploited by “Murphy’s Law”, which states any time you make a plan or have an expectation, it is very likely the exact opposite will occur. All that to say, I came out here with a completely open mind.

    Physically, I was completely prepared. In the months leading up to our step off date, I began working out regularly, with the intention of being able to carry 50 pounds every day for 8-14 miles a day. Luckily, I overprepared, and I haven’t had to carry anything that heavy, but I was prepared for the worst case scenario. However, I learned quickly within the first week that I have a lack of patience. My younger siblings were not in the same physical shape I was, they were gaining their strength (as was I for the record) on the trail itself. What resulted was a slower pace then I desired, and it frustrated me. The trail highlighted a problem I didn’t know I had. I’ve learned and am learning the true meaning behind “far not fast”. You travel at the slowest persons pace, and eventually, everyone gets faster. If we were all moving at the pace I would have liked in those first few days, it is likely one of us would have developed stress fractures in our feet, or some other injury. 

    I also have learned about problems I want to avoid. It’s funny, mountains have personalities. The mountains we’ve been climbing happen to suffer from multiple personalities, they are extremely treacherous. On one day, we had 70 degree weather with clear skies, within the next two, we were hiking through shin deep snow drifts. Rain can come out of thin air, followed by cold, a deadly combination. That’s the exact person I don’t want to be like. 

    And then I learned about what I do want to be like. I wrote earlier about the fires that ravaged this area last year, and I am working every day to be the type of person that isn’t broken by that heat, and is able to come back and grow. 

    So there is a few of my thoughts from month one, I know I will have many more to come. Here’s to month two! Happy trails. 

The Fire by Taylor Owen

In the territory surrounding and encompassing  northern Georgia last year, several wildfires were set off. The area has seen its fair share of fires, typically claiming three or four acres of underbrush and deadfall. Last years fires, however, claimed hundreds of acres, and the damage can still be seen today. I walked through the aftermath of those infernos this week, and was struck with a couple thoughts.

The terrain has been completely ravaged, tree trunks are charred, and the soil itself bears the blackened scars of ash and embers. The entire place screams of the disaster. But, there is something else to see. Through the burning, and removal of all the brush, the terrain has now become a blank canvass. The ash has worked its way into the soil to create a nutrient rich mix, ready to bear an entirely new eco-system. I say all that because it gives me a lot of hope. It gives me hope that we can heal, and by “we” I mean all the families that have been scorched in the fire of war. It gives me hope that we can all grow back to be healthier, stronger, and more productive than we were when we started, but that is going to take some work on our end. 

First of all, to the men and women who are going through the ringer as far as PTS, or similar circumstances, you are going to have to admit you need help. To the father that is separated from his family, you are going to have to force yourself to understand that “never leave a fallen comrade” applies just as much to your family as it does to your brothers and sisters at arms. You took an oath, you donned a Creed, an ethos. Live by it.

To the family of those individuals, you are going to have to trust, pray, and hope. You are going to have to force yourselves to understand that sometimes, your loved one has a physical or psychological wound that will not allow him or her to think strait. And when all is said and done, whatever the outcome, you are going to have to forgive. Not just for your father, or brother, sister or daughter, but for yourself. “Bitterness keeps you from flying.” In the words of Tim Mcgraw. 

And finally, to you, the reader, if you can’t relate to those already mentioned, you have a job to do as well. You need to pray, to whatever God or gods you worship, pray for all those who bear this or similar burdens. Then you need to do good. The burden is on the Warrior to fight for his nation, but in our nation, it is the people who tell him where to go, who to fight. It is on you to make sure that our sacrifices are not for vanities sake, or to line the pockets of some rich politician, he is no better than the Taliban, or any other savage that deserves a shallow grave. 

From the ashes, anyone can rise, regardless of where you come from, your profession, your family, or your circumstances. Embrace the fire, let it mold you, and then fight to heal from it. 

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