I was talking to Alan the other day about a time in my life when my faith went through a major change. He shared a story with me about him and his son going hiking. He said it had something to do with teaching some spiritual lesson, but I think he just wanted to brag about hiking the Appalachian Trail. Anyway, it got me thinking about the trail I have walked and how I got here. So, I told him I was going to write this post, and he wanted all the credit so I told him to write his own post. So that is what we did. This is mine and you can read his here.
This is a story about winding up at the right place.
I always loved hiking, so when I graduated high school it seemed like the perfect time in my life to strike out on the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do with my life, and wanted to take a year off to figure it out. This would be the perfect, and possibly only, time in my life to actually do this, so I decided I was going to make it happen.
I did lots of reading and planning. I found all the right equipment and mapped out my route. A week after graduation I struck out on the trail. There were lots of things I was surprised by as I went along. The trail seemed incredibly easy to travel. There were very few inclines. The few there were, were only slight and only lasted a short while. The path was almost as clean and wide as a road. I was really excited at first. I thought, “Man, you rock! People think this is so hard and you are killin’ it! You are an awesome hiker!” But, as I went along I noticed there were lots of people on the trail, just enjoying the walk. Calling it a hike seemed a bit over-dramatic. I realized that maybe the hike was easier than I had heard, that maybe it wasn’t my awesome physical prowess that made the hike so easy, but the simple fact that the trail was easy, wide, and level. I was ok with this. I mean, as long as I can tell people that I hiked the Appalachian Trail, who cares how hard or easy it actually was. They would be seriously impressed, and this easy stroll through the woods was comfortable and nice.
After awhile I started to feel like something was a little off. Aside from the fact that the trail was far easier than I had anticipated and been told, it wasn’t nearly as exciting or impressive as I had imagined. Where I pictured mountain peaks and waterfalls, there were just trees and passing roadways and benches every 100 yards or so. Where I expected to see eagles and moose, there were just squirrels and crows. Where I expected to hear rushing rivers and thunderclaps I heard traffic and people’s cellphones. Instead of laying out at night and seeing stars I saw street lights. There was nothing really worth writing home about. It was like living in the woods behind my house for three months.
I appreciated the ease of the trail, but was disappointing in the lack of adventure and awesomeness I was expecting. This bothered me, but i kept going, because I had nothing better to do. One day I stopped for lunch at a small clearing with picnic tables. It was at a place where another trail was crossing mine and hikers were coming in from my trail as well as the other. I noticed the people from the other trail looked a little more worn out. Their clothes were ripped, their hair was dirty, their shoes were worn thin, but they had a spark in their eyes, like they were experiencing something special. The people from my trail had nice equipment that had hardly been used and they looked bored. They yawned and checked their cellphones.
The place filled up quite rapidly as it was around noon. There weren’t many places left to sit when a man came off the crossing trail. He looked around, and when not able to find a table of his own, asked if he could sit with me. I told him that would be fine. As he unpacked his lunch, I noticed that he had that same spark in his eye as the others coming from his trail. I was really jealous. I wanted to feel that way. That was why i came out here. I asked him what trail they were doing.
“Why this is the Appalachian Trail, my friend, stretches from Maine to Georgia. It’s one of the most famous trails in all the world. Have you never heard of it?”
“Of course I’ve heard of it, but you’re mistaken, because I am on the Appalachian Trail. I have traveled here from Maine on it. I did all the research and planned my route and everything. The trail I came in on is the Appalachian Trail.”
“Hey buddy, I don’t know where you got your research or plans, but that trail is not the Appalachian Trail. Have you seen any mountain tops? Have you bathed in streams? Eaten wild berries? Seen hawks fly by? I can tell by the look in your face that whatever trail you came in on was most certainly not the Appalachian Trail.”
At first I was angry, but clearly this guy and all his fellow hikers were having the adventure of his life, and whether his trail was The Appalachian Trail or not, I knew that whatever I was on was not what I wanted to be on. I wanted to be on his trail.
As he began to pack up to leave I asked, “mind if I come along with you?”
As if he expected it, like it had happened a million times before, he said, “not at all my friend, I would be glad to hike beside you!”
Since joining my friend on the trail, I have had the adventure I was hoping for all along. It has been hard and I have missed some of the comforts of the easy trail, but nothing could ever turn me away from the views and the feeling inside when I reach the top of one of those mountains.
I don’t know how, but somehow I got to the right place on the wrong path.