“Cut it out.” I mentally screamed at myself. I was sick of hearing myself complain. “Ha, you act sooo hardcore don’t you? One hailstorm and now you think you get to complain. Shut your soft mouth.” Sometimes the only person that will give you the hard truth is yourself.
The night before had been a long one. A rainstorm had blown in, and it quickly turned into a fierce squall. Wind buffeted us at record speeds, tossing the rain sideways, within twenty minutes, we started getting pelted by dime sized hail. Eventually, the tents flooded… Let’s just say it wasn’t a sleep filled night.
That’s part of the reason I came out here, to find my limits, to find that place where I want nothing more than to quit. And then to burn that place to the ground.
There is a picture I keep on my iPod, it’s the image of a canadite, undergoing the stresses of Hell Week, an infamous 1 week smokefest that marks the beginning of Navy SEAL training. Canadites are put through the ringer, getting less than six hours of sleep for the entire week, while undergoing grueling physical challenges. In the image, the canadite is holding a log over his head, covered in sand, trying desperately to complete one exercise or another. The caption says,”Trust the process.” So simple, yet so true.
Those words lingered in my head, as I stewed on my sleepless night, wanting nothing more than to be home in my bed. Trust the process, let it mold you. Take all that pain, take all that frustration, take all that weakness, and let it wash away. You’re allowed to hate it, you’re just not allowed to quit.
It’s a microcosm for life. Do hard things, and let it show you where you are weak. Let those experiences shape you, let them strengthen you.
So there I sat, looking up the next hill, not wanting to move. “Trust the process. Here we go.” I stood up, and took another step. And then another, and another. I won’t quit, because I want to know just how far I can go, and then I want to go farther. So I’m going to keep rushing headlong into what might feel uncomfortable, but what I know is forging a better version of me.
So here we go, one foot in front of the other… Happy trails.
There is a trail near my home in New Hampshire. It’s called the Lonesome Lake trail, and it leads up to one of the ATC huts along the Appalachian trail. Around halfway up sits a little swimming hole, around 15 to 20 feet deep. Above the water, sits a small ledge, about 10 feet tall. If you are anything like me, you already know what I’m thinking. Let’s jump off it.
Those were my exact thoughts the first day we hiked that trail with my grandparents. I was eight or so. As many of you can probably relate, the excitement of the idea of flight, was quickly replaced by a sense of fear as I reached the top of the little cliff. I collected myself, and promptly decided to jump, before stopping myself at the last second at least a dozen times. But then, I did.
It’s an odd feeling, when you successfully hit the water that first time. The fear just melts away, it isn’t scary anymore. That is similar to how I feel now, having completed my first couple of days on the trail. I’ve jumped off the cliff, and here I am. The anxiousness is gone.
My last two posts went into the emotional side of this journey, today I’m going to stick to the physical. I have loved almost everything about the last couple of days. The only thing I really miss is my friends at home, other than that, this is everything I want. My pack is heavy, but it feels like it was made for me. The burn in my legs once I reach the top of a tall hill is intoxicating. Cold mountain air in my lungs, fresh filtered spring water in my pack, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.
The weather has been odd, and unfortunatly, was cold enough for the last couple nights to be dangerous. We are currently taking a two day break from the trail with a friend, who we will call Mrs. Angel. The gratitude we all feel towards her can’t be fully described, her hospitality has been fantastic.
I’m looking forward to returning to the trail, back to the quiet. It is truly spectacular. I completely understand that most people can’t take 6 months out of their lives to hike the AT, but I would encourage all of you to find some time to get out in nature, there is always something you can learn out here in the wild.
The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.
President Theodore Roosevelt said that a long time ago, but the truth in those words will never change for me, maybe you can find the same thing out here in the woods. Happy trails.
The abyss. A dark, cold, black chill ran up my spine as I watched, as I stared into the depths. His uniform, that familiar striped pattern that had wrapped me up in a hug almost every single time he got back from work. Every day. Not for the next 270. Not for the next nine months.
I have become more familiar with the abyss than of solid ground, I have lived my life on the outskirts of reality, where the rules that most people get to play with don’t exist. Life is dictated by the darkest evil humans have been able to conjure: war. I had to learn to accept the war, and accept that it was just part of my life, that it was my dad’s job. It’s a strange reality, one that I am still molting out of, like a snake changing skins.
I remember being 8 or 9, standing in Sunday school one morning. We were singing, and the song was about laying down our weapons, mean words, ect. and accepting peace. That’s when I realized it, I don’t really know what that means. Supposedly, I was supposed to feel it in God, but I never felt any change, I’m not sure I get it even now. How anyone feel peace in the midst of so much turmoil?
And so I watched. I watched my hero walk away. The man who taught me to be strong, and in the event that there is someone preying on the innocent, he taught me to be dangerous. He taught me character, that the most valuable thing to a man was his faith, his family, his country, his honor and reputation. I watched my guide walk away towards the valley of death.
They didn’t know I knew. From the moment I learned the location, and name of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, I had researched. I had checked every website, watched video, looked at photographs, and learned everything I could about the Taliban and the area. I did this because I was upset that I couldn’t be there too. I wanted to be where he was, because he was my leader, and I was his follower, to the gates of hell and back.
He came back. Unharmed, and looking the same, but I learned he was different. There was an anger that had been unlocked, a beast let out of his cage. We ignored it. We told ourselves it was just his job, it was just extra stressful right now. The truth is, we all knew something was wrong, we just didn’t know what that was.
His breakdown nearly killed me. Maybe not literally, but that is what it felt like. My leader was gone. I was alone, no direction, no purpose, nothing to loose, and angry. Angry isn’t a strong enough word… enraged. All I wanted was for the entire world to burn. Something in me snapped like it did in him, and we both found ourselves in our own predicaments. Mine happened tobe living at a friends house, his living at a hospital.
Two years later, and I have my leader again. He came back around 6 months after the breakdown. My mom, my dad, and I all sat by the fire place, and he talked. “I abandoned you, I left you out on the battlefield, bleeding, and alone.” He said. “Never again. I will always be there, if there is a breath in my lungs, I will be there. I will run out, I will take it. I will take the bullets aimed at you, and I will drag you out.” I wear a chain he gave me that day. It has left my neck only two or three times since then. It is a symbol. It is the embodiment of the strength we share. Never will we let each other fall. Never. Try to break our chain, and you will fail, it’s been melted in the fire of hell, and repaired by God himself.
I have my leader back. That man has returned, and the beast has been caged. This hike is a symbol, a symbol of that bond. To the gates of hell Dad.
So here I sit, dangling my feet over another abyss. This time it’s different though. This time we leave to heal, not to kill. This time he leads, and I get to follow. This time the pain will be one of love, instead of one of hate. Now I get the chance to learn about the ground, I get to learn the value of peace, I get to learn what God wants of me, and maybe why I had to go through so much of the abyss. But for now, I’ll just sit, and look down into the deep.
Hi. My name is Taylor, I’m 16, and I live in New Hampshire. As you are probably aware, my family and I are attempting a NOBO (northbound) thru-hike of the AT in about 2 weeks. I’d like to give a brief intro and explain my reasons for wanting to be involved in this somewhat crazy adventure.
A little about me. I’m a military kid, and have been all my life until about a month ago. It was an honor to call my dad my hero, and for him to literally be one. However, it presented our family with unique challenges that not many others really understand, like constant moving, long deployments, etc. Those experiences have shaped me into who I am today.
I enjoy skiing, climbing, shooting, weight lifting, bacon eating, and other man things! I am currently a ski patrolman at a local ski hill here in NH. (Basically, a lifeguard on skis.) I read a lot, and I like to write, so you can probably expect my corner of this site to fill up over the next couple months.
This leads to me to the “Why?”. Why in the world would I want to leave my regular life behind for six months and live in the woods. Excellent, valid question.
Here are the answers:
First off, I am walking for those who can’t. By that, I mean the friends of mine whose families have been torn by this war, by mental health issues caused by it, or by physical injuries, even death, that it has inflicted. I’m walking for the kids like me. Kids whose parents marriages have suffered because Daddy couldn’t figure out how to live back in a civilized world. I’m walking for the mother, whose child took his or her own life because they couldn’t shake the effects of war they experienced. I’m hiking for the soldier that didn’t come home, because he was making sure that someone else could. I’m dedicating my effort for those that can’t.
Secondly, I am hiking for myself. There are things that have taken place in my life that hurt, a lot. Events that nearly broke me, and experiences that I don’t understand fully. I’m hiking to find the answers, or to arrive at a place where I can accept that fact that there are no answers to these questions. On a similar note, I am hiking to possibly find the answers to what I want to do, and where I want to go with my life after the trail and high school. I need some time to think, and some time to pray about all of these questions.
Finally, I am hiking to learn, and listen. Nature has an amazing way of telling you things you didn’t realize you needed to hear. This hike will be a struggle at times, and it is at these times that I want to push myself and learn where my weaknesses are when life gets hard.
That’s about it for this post. I’m looking forward to this journey, and taking you all along for the ride. Happy trails.
Following his dads’ footsteps, Taylor comes alive in the outdoors and is fueled by challenge. He loves skiing and climbing. Recently, he was certified as an Outdoor Emergency Services Technician, and is well on his way to becoming a National Alpine Ski Patrolman.