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[at-l] Re: Trail support

---- Original Message -----
> Hi, Bob!
> Didn't see you at this year's Ruck, wondering how things are going. We
> chatted quite a bit last year about your thru and the rough bits with the
> family...I'm now putting together an article for  Appalachian Trailway
> on how a thru affects the folks "left home," since as we discussed then,
> a subject that often gets swept under the carpet. Care to throw any
> wisdom, philosophy out for consideration?
> Cheers, Sandy
> (Navigator)

Hi Sandy,

Yeah, I know that I missed the Ruck. Bummer. I had too many irons in the
fire that weekend and accommodations were a hassle this year. Maybe next

Things are going really well up here. The family is all OK. I haven't been
doing much hiking, and I've only been doing some running but I am very
occupied. The focus of my attention has been the study of JuJitsu as an art
form - moving meditation if you will. I've also been doing some competitive
Judo. I'm also looking at a career change (a big positive). The only
negative is that I've recently had some bad reports concerning my health.
Shit happens.

Concerning the folks left at home:
I can only comment on this from my perspective.
As I was a first time thru hiker I made quit a few decisions that were hard
for my family to take or for that matter even to understand.

My Dad (late 60's) never understood. He was negative on the hike from the
time that I first talked to him about it. I think that it was possibly a
generation thing. (You have to work, you have to make money, you have to be
there for your family...)

My Mom always knew that her son was weird and she usually just goes with the
flow, but even she had a hard time seeing my dad so upset about my absence.

Janice was fully supportive even when she couldn't handle it any more. I
don't know how the stay at home people manage to keep things together.
Before I left for the trail I had decided that It was going to be a do or
die situation. This wasn't a figure of speech. Grave bodily injury or death
were required to get me off the trail. We (my family and I) made a covenant,
that no matter what I said on the phone they wouldn't come and pick me up or
graciously receive me home unless I was too injured or ill to walk. They
abided by that covenant and extended it to the point of their own detriment.
They didn't tell me about their problems for fear that I would get off the

Communication matters. I called home at every opportunity, but the
conversations didn't cut it. They went like this: Hi, I miss you. I'm tired.
I'm having a great time. I really love the people out here. I need a (new
water filter... a new backpack... new this... new that... fill in the blank)
Please call the manufacturer and have them ship it to my next mail drop.
Speaking of mail drops, I can't stand the ramen any more, put in more chili
and I need more food. MORE, MORE, MORE. I love you, I miss you, I did 23
miles today, gotta go get the mail drop, throw the clothes in the dryer, get
a beer, get a pizza, get some sleep. I'll call the next time I get to a
phone. Hug the kids. Bye.

The hiker and the left behinds are living in two different worlds. I believe
that the rigors of the trail mandate that situation. For me, completing an
honest thru hike required the focus of all of my energy and attention to the
trail. (I don't know if it would have to be that way to do a second or
subsequent thru.) My family was the trail. The object of my affection, my
lover if you will, was the trail. I said that I loved and missed my family,
and I did. But I didn't show it. My actions said that I cared about the
trail more than anything. And I did.
But I did an honest thru hike. I'd even qualify for an Avery if I gave a fat
rats a** about awards. ( I don't.)

I talked about this with Eve (my oldest child 17 now 14 when I hiked) this
morning. She summed it up: Dad, we knew that you had to do the hike, and we
wanted you do it successfully. But real communication is important. Phone
calls and letters for six months didn't keep us together, didn't keep us
part of each others lives.

We tried, but we didn't understand each other for six months. Hardships or

Well, it's all good now. The trail can continue to be a teacher long after
you've finished your hike if you will allow it (this is for both the hikers
and the left behinds). Since I've finished I've learned alot more about
commitment and compassion and forgiveness.

I used to think that I knew the answer to the journey vs. destination
argument. I'm not so sure now.

Would I do it again? Sure! Some would say that my hike almost cost me my
family. Not doing the hike most certainly would have.

Would I do it different? Hopefully better. I'll tell ya after the next one.

Should you do yours? Follow your heart. Take care of the folks you love and
Hike your own hike.

Good hiking to all...


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