It’s hard to believe that we’ve been off the trail now for two months. Life has a way to quickly pull you back into the “reality” of “normal.”
I adjusted back more quickly than Sandy did. After walking for months, driving the rental car was a “welcome back to the real world” slap in the face. Thankfully, the backroads were forgiving.
On the drive back to Florida, we felt a change we hadn’t expected. The need for a new home. When we left, with everything in storage, we felt free. All the bindings were broken. But on the return, we felt panic instead. As we saw a sign along the interstate for the KOA in Mims, Sandy quickly looked them up on her iPhone and found a special rate for seven days. So for our first week back in Florida, we lived in a little KOA cabin.
After dropping off the expensive, one-way rental car we began actively searching for a long-term place to stay. This search continued daily until we found and moved into a little condo in Sanford, where we had begun our journey. All in less than a week.
Many hours have been spent talking to friends and family about the trip; we’ve spent just as many hours talking between ourselves, reflecting on our hike. Even with all the pains, rains, and discomfort, neither of us regrets going, or returning when we did.
Hiking over five hundred miles on the AT is still quite a feat. Our dream was for a thru-hike. But we are satisfied with our time out there, and can’t wait until next season to continue our journey.
We had expected a “footpath through the woods” and to be among others who shared the dream of hiking to Maine. Thankfully, we found others who were enjoying the “pilgrimage.” With them we felt an instant bond. Sharing this feeling with others is an unbelievable experience. Like being part of a large, loving family. This feeling will always be with me!
At Newfound Gap, I was alone looking out into the mountains while standing in the rain. Sandy had stepped away, when a fellow walked up and stood next to me. A large mountain of a man, he was dressed in the simple clothes of a Mennonite farmer. Like me, he was looking out over the mountains as well. In a gentle voice he asked if I was thru-hiking. When I said yes, he said “you’ve been to a gentle place…a place very few people ever see.” I had to agree! A feeling of total peace over took me as I stood there with someone who understood.
It’s memories and feelings that this I will remember for the rest of my life.