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William "Wanderlust" Gornto
Begins: Jun 14, 2009
Date: Fri, Jan 29th, 2010
Entry Visits: 2,301
Journal Visits: 36,645
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Guestbook Entrys: 26
Appalachian Trail Map
I finished my AT hike two months ago today. I wanted a bit of time to decompress and think before making my final post. Having done so, I can now say that I haven't had any profound insights concerning my overall experience upon reflection. I do believe, however, that hiking the trail had a meaningful, permanent and positive impact on me on my approach to others on my patience, tolerance and appreciation for others on my humility and gratitude for all things. While I cannot point to overall life application at this point, since it is only just two months since I finished my hike, I fully expect my experience to have a meaningful and beneficial impact on much of what I do going forward for years to come.
My strongest feeling overall is immense gratitude. I am grateful to the Lord to have been able to complete the full hike without incident, without serious injury, without illness, without family emergency, without having to leave the trail for any reason. I walked with joy for where I was, what I was doing, and with great appreciation for being there.
I had great support from my family and friends. I had regular mail drops from my family, always with food, often with cash, to help me along the way. I had care packages from a variety of friends to supplement the regular packages. While the material contents of the packages were necessary and beneficial, the intrinsic value of having support was just as valuable. Just knowing that there were those who wanted to help, who wanted to follow along, who cared about my success, was just as sustaining and nourishing as the food itself. For this, my appreciation knows no bounds.
Beyond the regular sustenance, there was much trail magic. While I hiked independently most of the time, and did not walk into any hiker feeds, I was not without a steady supply of much appreciated trail magic, not so much the frequency or size, but just the fact of it. From the soda in a plastic sack at a stream crossing in VT, to the soda at the spring near the shelter in NC, to the dollar given to me outside a convenience store in Wind Gap, Pa to buy a soda, to the soda in New York near the parkway crossing, to the soda in MA just outside of Dalton, to the soda and Gatorade in the cooler just outside of Monson at the end of the 100 mile wilderness, to the soda at the 501 shelter in PA, it was always unexpected and un-asked for, but soothing for the soul and rejuvenating for the attitude.
I thank 2008 SOBO Limenade for the bananas and brownies just south of Wind Gap, the Yale freshmen for the quesadillas and bananas at the Telephone Pioneers shelter in NY, the ice cream man for what else, ice cream in VT, the cookie lady for what else, cookies in MA, the weekenders for a feast at Rausch Gap shelter in PA, the AA group for burgers, hot dogs and trimmings at Pen-Mar park, the Trailplace member who sent salmon to me in New Hampshire from Alaska and countless others for other morsels along the way.
While the hostel owners are not technically trail angels, they bend over backwards angelically in every way to provide rest, sustenance and comfort for weary hikers. Yes, they charge a fee for their service. However, none of them are getting rich doing it, few can make a living at it, and many can't possibly break even. Most of them are hikers, thru hikers, themselves, though some of them have never hiked, believe that thru hikers are crazy, but nonetheless, are kind and giving ambassadors for their communities. It would be possible to complete a thru hike without stopping in to visit these wonderful people, but it would be a much less enriching experience. I wont dare attempt to list any of them here, because they were all wonderful and it would be a tragedy to leave any of them out of whatever list I might produce.
I thank the trail maintainers who give their time and material so that the trail, the shelters and the privies are in good condition. Without their freely given work, the trail would be far more difficult and would become impassible in places.
Besides my family and friends support network, the innumerable trail angels and trail maintainers and the amazing hosts, I also have gratitude for everyone who provided me no material sustenance at all, but just a word of encouragement, either in the guest book here, or on Trailplace, or on Facebook, or by e-mail, or unknowingly by their prayers. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experience on this forum and I sincerely appreciate all of your kind words or even unspoken wishes of support.
There is much to be concerned about in the world, much divisive politics, strife, tragedy, natural disasters, war, vice and other problems. We are bombarded with this negative input daily. If people throughout the US and around the world treated each other only half as well as people treat each other along the AT, much of the negative stress of the world would melt away. Yes, there are bad apples, and trouble if you go looking for it, but by and large, a trip along the AT will restore ones faith in humanity.
For me, half time is nearing its end, and I will be back among the work force living again like ordinary people. Not quite like ordinary people, because my AT hike was a perspective shifting experience and I dont think I will ever be quite ordinary again.
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is more than 2,175-mile long footpath stretching through 14 eastern states from Maine to Georgia. Conceived in 1921 and first completed in 1937, it traverses the wild, scenic, wooded, pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Learn more: www.appalachiantrail.org