When I finished my hike in September, 1999, it was not long before my life was back to its hectic pre-hike state. Work, raising a family, stress, starting my own business, stress, the recession, stress, rejoining the corporate workforce, stress, moving to Malaysia and now a divorce. All of these things happened to me at the speed of life. I kept telling myself I would take the time to organize my journal, my pre-journal writings, take the time to bring it all together and write a book. For years I didn't do it. My notes all sat in a box. My life raced forward.
While I was living in Malaysia, I was encouraged to write a different book, one that I had been playing with for over a decade. Indeed on my thru-hike I talked about writing this "fantasy" book with many of the friends I made along the trail. I took the time to pen this while living abroad, and am now a published author with three fantasy books to my name - or at least to my pen-name.
Still, my thru-hiking book sat idle, doing nothing. Why?
While I was walking the AT, I wondered as many of you might have, why there were balds in the Southern Appalachians. My mind racing, I wrote a short story of how the Cherokee Ugalu were responsible for the creation of the balds. This too sat - it would someday be part of a chapter of my hiking book.
While summitting Katahdin, in the fog, sleet and threatening ice-storm in September at the end of my hike, I thought of Pamola, the Penobscot Nation demon-spirit who haunted the heights of our favorite terminus, and a story of how Pamola interacted with a thru-hiker, the grandson of famed park ranger Roy Dudley. This too became a short story that would eventually be part of my hiking book.
Last year I moved back to the US, to North Carolina, and one of the first weekends I was in town, I drove to the AT at Clingman's Dome. I set up a BBQ in the parking lot and grilled burgers. There were very few thru hikers during the day - this was July, and I was here in April in 1999 - but there were a few. Cold soda, cookies and hamburgers were trail magic for the day. I envied their simple life, and their appetites.
Returning to my Charlotte apartment, I dug out my old journals and started to write. My pre-trip notes were fairly complete, as were reflections on my trip. Reading through my journal entries brought back mile after mile of pain, pleasure, accomplishment and agony - both physical and mental. This was indeed, the hardest thing I had ever done. But as I wrote many times in my book, "Life is good on the AT."
It's nice to be back as a member of the community. Sorry I was away for so long.