Rockfish Gap, January 5, 2010, 1325.8

Frustration in the deep snow turns to a paragraph sprawled across my eyes, laying there waiting to be scribed.

Georgia was once a reality. G.E.O.R.G.I.A. Easily spelled, easily reached. I could not imagine not getting there. I looked at the statistics, the 15-25% success rate and laughed. I saw my friends return home and kept walking, strong stride, consistent miles.

But when I set out seven days ago, my mom asked “Grayson, are you sure this is a good idea?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve got to give it a shot,” I said knowing the challenge I was about to face. “I’ll call you in five minutes,” I said jokingly.

Three days later, having not conversed or seen any human, I called my mom and told her, “I am going to get you to pick me up in Waynesboro, if that’s okay.”

“Are you okay though? If you need to get a hotel room, just do it,” she responded.

“No I’m safe, I promise you.” And the understatement of my life, “I’m just not having fun.”

I went a total of six days this past week without human interaction. I trudged into the woods, postholing in the deep snow as my mom yelled “I love you Grayson” from down the hill. I slept in the same shelter with the same cold, the same ten pound mice as I did on the night from hell three weeks ago, this time outfitted with better gear.

It took me only three miles to realize that the arctic weather was creating an epic adventure for me. The occasional set of footsteps provided me with some relief from the trudging. It made it quite difficult to match the stride of a man who thought he was walking on a tight rope. And another guy I swear had a left leg at least six inches short than his right.

It was a fun dream, a fun trip. I am home now though. My beard is in the trash can and the closest I can get to the amazing experience, the glory days I had a mere couple months ago is the wood burning in my fire pit and the fallen white blaze, framed and waiting to be mounted.

Its too bad that I am so willing to completely abandon all hope of finishing. But, see I made it far. And no one can really understand what I went through to make it Waynesboro, Virginia. The number one-thousand, three-hundred, and twenty-five point eight slips easily from the tongue. The pictures look beautiful, the mountains looks treacherous, the snow looks fresh, fluffy, and fun. Pictures cannot measure temperature, a number cannot summarize the struggle, the suffering, the effort, the commitment, the life I left, and the life I led to do such a journey. The number one-thousand, three-hundred, twenty-five point eight does not slide gracefully underfoot. And the one-hundred and twenty days and nights I spent in the woods did not ever come comfortably and effortlessly.

I am quitting. I have quit. I give up. Who in their right mind would not? I have frostbite on my nose and nightmares of the cold I suffered through this past week.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“To be quite honest I am a little traumatized.”

I went out on this trip to grow, to see the world and hopefully gain some ability to love everything about it unconditionally. Getting caught in the thorns that lay across the trail while struggling to lift my leg out of the three foot deep snow bank, being ripped apart by wind, crawling under, climbing over, and squeezing between fallen trees, screaming at the absurdity of the situation, that is not my idea of a good experience.

I walked over the creek I slept beside senior year of high school. That Saturday night in high school as I sat in my tent by the creek, a thunderstorm battered the mountain ridges. I thought about a trail stretching through New England and the Mid-Atlantic into the Southeast, from Maine to Georgia, the trail that I sat beside. Is it really true? I cannot imagine that the backcountry, the woods, the bush can really extend that far. When I walked over the ice sheet covering the cold waters of Ivy Creek, I stood in shock at the site where I laid my tent down that night. It is true. I actually proved it to be true. I walked every foot of the Appalachian Trail from Katahdin to Rockfish Gap and actually proved it to be true. And of course the wonder still remains of whether it truly does continue on south. But the wonder as of now is not significant enough to instigate any hint of desire to test the theory. I’ll trust what they say and Georgia can wait. For now, my new years resolution is to not do ANYTHING stupid for a long, long time.

One thought on “Rockfish Gap, January 5, 2010, 1325.8”

  1. So very proud of your accomplishment. You are very brave and determined and wise. I think you have made the right decision. Jack and I have enjoyed following your journey! Welcome home, Grayson.

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