In it for the long haul

dottieThis morning our friends Jen and Greg started hiking 8.8 miles uphill toward Amicalola Falls in Georgia. When they reach the falls, they’ll keep going. Another 2,181 miles. If things go according to plan, sometime in the middle of October they will stand on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in the middle of Maine’s Baxter State Park. If things go according to plan, they will hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.

Yesterday, Karen and I hiked a section of that same trail, roughly 1,000 miles to the north. We hiked eight miles near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and it kicked our butts.

I wondered how Jen and Greg could tackle such an ambitious challenge and I was reminded of the proverb that says a journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step…or my personal favorite…How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Some things seem undoable. Until you’ve done them. Some things seem overwhelming, and so you don’t even try.

Late yesterday afternoon Karen and I drove through Shenandoah National Park. The sun was low and the ridgelines stacked up to create a ragged barrier all the way to the horizon. It was a daunting landscape. But putting one foot in front of the other, you can eventually cross it.Shenandoah

I wanted that reminder…that life can seem hard, but we can move through it. Problems can seem insurmountable, but if we keep our eye on the goal, we can move toward it. So we walked a mile in our friends’ shoes…eight miles, actually. It’s not the same as doing it ourselves, but now when Jen and Greg post updates on their journey we’ll have a little window into what they are living with.

But hiking a few mikes wasn’t quite enough. We wanted to give them some encouragement. We wanted to leave them a sign…we decided to leave them two.

So, Jen and Greg…as you walk north, be sure to stop in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry. They have an envelope with your names on it and inside you’ll find a peace card with a little message on the back. If you pass through on a Tuesday, ask for Dottie Rust. She just finished the whole trail last fall (she did it in sections over nearly a decade). She goes by her trail name of .Com and will be looking for you mid-June. (That’s .Com in the photo on top, holding your card just before we put it in the envelope.)

And, as you hike north of Harpers Ferry, we have built a stone peace sign by the side of the trail for you. It might be gone by the time you get there, but I actually hope it will multiply. I hope others will add their own peace signs and you’ll be greeted by a whole rock garden of peace signs to encourage you on your way. Here are the directions…it should be easy to find:

Leave Harpers Ferry headed north on the Appalachian Trail.

Cross the old rail bridge over the Potomac River into Maryland.

The AT follows the old C&O Canal towpath for a couple miles.

Then the AT leaves the canal and river to head uphill.

After 10-15 minutes you will cross under a highway bridge.

40 feet beyond the highway bridge you will find a large rock on the right side of the trail (like the size of a hotel room…you can’t miss it).

Near the far end of the rock there is a tree with an AT white blaze on it.

Just past the tree, to the right of the trail, and beside the rock, is the peace sign we left for you.

Leave your own peace sign and send us a picture. Little by little, you’ll walk that path.


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