I am almost through the state unofficially declared the most beautiful on the Appalachian trail. I remember the desire I had to do this trip when I first thought of the idea. I remember not really having any clue what to expect and not really knowing what sort of a mess I may be bringing upon myself.
But after reading several books, talking to at least a hundred thru hikers, studying weather patterns, and buying the right gear, I felt like I had a grasp on what to expect. I mean, all I was going to be doing was walking, right?
I have walked now for almost a month and only now am I beginning to understand what this trip is. The word walking completely understates what I am doing. I thought this life would be routine. Camp, walk, eat, resupply, repeat. But life out here in the woods is so much more than that. Life out here is freedom. It is happiness. And it is total completeness and tranquility in solitude.
I thought before I came out here that I would be alone. I knew that the flow of northbound hikers would fade quickly and soon enough I would be hiking days without seeing people. But alone, and lonely are not words to describe this experience. After the first night in the woods with squirrels raiding my tent for food, I understood that I was not alone. But without someone to converse with during the day, would I not feel lonely?
It has taken weeks for me to understand that I am never alone despite occassionally standing in a totally silent forest. I am always surrounded by the world and beauty, and the company of everything it has to offer me and I have to offer it.
While I have not yet gone an entire day without seeing anyone, I have a strong feeling that when that day comes I will not be overwhelmed. Because despite being independent of human company, I am never alone.