Well, here we are again at August 15th. Four years ago on this date my life changed forever. I walked up to the final summit of what seemed like just another random mountain, fell to one knee, rested my head upon a sign that read "Northern Terminus of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail", and finally exhaled the long breath that I'd been holding in for 2 years. I had made the crazy decision to not only quit my job, go back to school, and start a new life at the not-so-young age of 30, but to attempt a thru-hike of the entire 2174 mile Appalachian Trail. Sure I liked a good hike now and then, and I considered myself fairly fit, but hiking and camping for over 100 straight days while carrying my entire life on my back was something I was not truly prepared for. I had no idea what sort of mental ups and downs I would go through (nevermind the actual ups and downs of the trail). I learned a lot about what is important, as well as what we really don't need (despite thinking we need). Things about my life, that I struggled to see and understand clearly before the hike, became crystal clear as the fog that hovered around me finally had a chance to lift. I have so many vivid memories from my 2007 adventure. The people I met, the funny trailside stories, the weird hostels, the friendly trail angels, the great hiking partners, the bugs, the weather, the roots, the rocks, the PUDS and MUDS, and of course those moments....the ones where you are completely taken off guard. Those precious trail epiphanies when everything lines up perfectly and you are gazing across a spectacular valley from the top of a beautiful mountain. The breeze is perfect, temperature cool. There are a few clouds speckled across the sky and you are alone with your thoughts and this perfect image. The goose bumps come up, you breathe in the cool air....and for that brief moment you are moved beyond words. I live for these moments.
Since this magical day in 2007, I have been so very fortunate when I think about what I've been able to see and do. I have been able to experience Antarctica three different times, participate in several 100 mile (and 50 mile) ultraruns, play in the woods and mountains of New Zealand, thru-hike the Colorado Trail, complete a Masters Degree in Geoscience, begin a PhD program (and pass the entrance candidacy), get my first paper published in a scientific journal, and of course....Thru Hike the 2663 mile Pacific Crest Trail last summer. Also, I've met some of the most wonderful people since that day. I've made new friends, and found happiness again. I couldn't be more content with how much I've been able to do since this day four years ago and how alive I've been able to keep that passion within me.
my railroad spike thru-hiker
On a different front, this past weekend, I also finally had a chance to experience New York City in all its glory. I had a weekend family gathering in Southern Connecticut, and decided to finally do the NYC detour. I spent a long 10 hours traipsing around the famous spots in and around Manhattan. Despite having family on Long Island for my entire young life, I have only really been deep within NYC one time...and that was to see the Natural History Museum. This was my first time really exploring. Here are some highlights:
Empire State Building
Part of the Skyline
The proverbial Statue shot
New WTC Tower
9/11 Memorial Wall
FAO Schwartz Lego Indiana Jones
Grand Central Station
On a Leadville Trail 100 Note:
The training is all but done, just have a few miles to run this week before the big day Saturday. I am flying out on Thursday morning and everything is set. I just need to pack and get out there. Not much else to say about it. It is going to be a mad house this year with over 800 runners....ugh! My goal is simply to finish and hopefully beat my time from '09. I will have a dedicated and detailed Pre-Race post here in the next day or two so stay tuned!