The Hardest Hundred Miles. Stories From the Trail.

Days seven to fourteen.


You want some of this?” the man asked me gently, when he saw me hobbling across the shelter on broken feet. He held out a silver flask with the words Congratulations Stephen etched under his thumb. He was tall, attractive, had shaggy, sandy blond hair, and a compassionate expression behind Clark Kent glasses.


I took the largest gulp that could be considered appropriate for the situation. It burned the back of my throat. I coughed and handed it back.


He shook his head up and down, squinted his eyes, smiled and dragging out the vowels said, “moonshine.”

The shelters peppered along the Smoky Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail, are rough log cabins, with one wall missing. There are two giant wooden shelves inside, upon which to sleep. Each shelf holds roughly twelve dirty hikers. One must, by order of the Parks Department, sleep inside these, lest they be mauled by a bear. Except that the only maulings I heard about happened at the shelters.


At Cosby Knob shelter, a couple days into the park, there were signs everywhere speaking of a naughty bear in the area, accompanied by an aggressively scary picture of Father Bernstein’s surprisingly long teeth. It also said the shelter was closed, but because the next shelter was an eight mile hike in either direction (one way being a massive climb), and this was the first anyone was hearing of it, everybody had to stay in the shelter irrespective of any agitated apex predators who had tried to use it as a personal hot-dog stand. One needs advanced warning to mentally and physically prepare to walk sixteen miles uphill in one day.


The first entry in the log that spoke of the bear was a woman who wrote basically, “DO NOT STAY HERE. BEAR ATTACK. TOOK OUT THREE TENTS. I’M SERIOUS. DON’T STAY HERE!!!!” The writing was sloppy and hurried, she dug her pen forcefully into the exclamation points before [I assume] picking up everything she owned and running away.


This was quickly followed by one after another entry saying essentially, “Welp, we didn’t know about this and it’s nine o’clock so I guess we’re staying here anyway…  And one memorable;  “Doggy-style is not afraid of bears, Java Joe is sore, and No Nutz still doesn’t like his trail name.”


They used to have fencing around the shelters but the hikers would bait the bears from the protection of their metal cages. My hat goes off to the Parks Department for simply taking away the fences.


Five miles before we ended our hundred mile hike on the Appalachian trail I was staring at my feet, as always, in what Kerouac called trail meditation. The trail was flat and the forest around me consisted of tall trees with a full canopy and sparse brush. It was a beautiful day, we were in excruciating pain, and we were almost out of the woods. Suddenly Adam’s toes came into view. He had been walking fifty yards ahead of me but when I raised my head he was walking straight for me. He had the most intense look on his face. He was mouthing something that I couldn’t clock.


For a second I thought, ‘what kind of person would have to be coming down the trail for him to react with that much severity.’ In no time we closed the distance between us and just as I saw them, over his left shoulder, I heard what he was saying.




When she and I made eye contact she stood up on her hind legs. We were far enough away that my figurative balls didn’t shrivel but close enough that my throat went dry. Then one of her babies stood up to see us better. Adam changed his chant to,”get the camera, get the camera, get the camera.” But I couldn’t take my eyes off the littlest one, who was playing with a stick. He bit it and tossed his head around and threw it in the air. He batted it and threw it up again, while his mom and brother stood deathly still and watched to see what kind of humans we would turn out to be. We named the little one Dwayne. Life was so full of wonder he never even knew we were there.


We could all be a little more like Dwayne.


After no more then thirty seconds she dropped gracefully to her feet and waved her children away down the mountain with the universal mom double flick of the wrist. “Come along kids,” she clearly gestured. Their hips rolled along behind them as they lumbered away and were gone, over the ridge.

We carried on switch-backing down our last mountain, giddily replaying the scene over and over. An hour later, there they were, having taken the shortcut over the top of the mountain. They were farther away this time and walking parallel to us through the brush. Dwayne stopped for a grind against a tree to scratch his butt.


The only other animal we would encounter in any big way also had to do with the shelters. At night, no matter what time or weather, you could click on your flashlight and find the tiny glowing eyes of a mouse or two. If it wasn’t a foot from your head you were lucky. You could either sleep head out, toward the open forest or head in toward the back of the shelter. There was a foot of space between ones head and the wall. This the mice used as there a main road.


The first night we were in the Smokys we were awakened by the screams of one of these little guys when a nice gentleman from Washington rolled over on him. “Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry,” we heard the man say as he rolled off of the thing and it ran four feet away to screech at him for five minutes.


One day midway through our walk, Adam and I were sitting at a shelter having lunch. A gang fight broke out in the gutter above our heads. Suddenly the whole place was filled with the high-pitched screams of multiple mice, amplified by the metal. We could hear their little bodies being slammed against the sides of the gutter. We stared at each other wide eyed as this went on and on and on. I don’t know who won. As always, I hope it was the littlest one.


The next day we woke early, ate some granola, and packed in the dark. After a grueling sixteen mile day uphill I dropped my pack happily into the dirt of that nights shelter and started to set up our “beds.” When I pulled the package of granola out to get to my sleeping bag it poured onto the ground. There was a perfectly round hole chewed into the packaging that hadn’t been there when I put it away that morning. Probably hoping for less hostile surroundings, someone had hitched a ride.


There are fire pits in all the shelters, but since one side was open to the elements, depending on which way the wind was blowing, we would either be smoked all night, trying to stay low and breath through our clothing, or left shivering in our bags. One weird morning we woke up with half an inch of dirt covering us and every surface in the shelter like a blanket.


The shelters are spaced, not ten miles apart, as the park’s department likes to say, but either seven miles apart, or sixteen. This is a tough decision to make. Seven is far too short and sixteen is far too long. Our decision however, had been made for us. Because of an impending snow storm, we always opted for sixteen. This would just about kill me, but the cold was so persistent and painful and smothering without snow that I wanted out as fast as possible.



Only once did we have a shelter to ourselves. Our last night. After the sun went down this incredible, thick, blunt line of fog rolled in. We couldn’t see the end of the shelter fifteen feet away. The air felt like a liquid as it rolled over us. Even though we were utterly exhausted, I would click on the flashlight over and over to serpentine it lazily through the haze and we would stare and stare.


Every night we would fall asleep just after sunset and wake just before sunrise. Though it was a toss up whether we were asleep in between. We tried to escape the cold by tucking deep into our bags, but after they got wet, without any possibility of drying until we ended in Fontana Dam, we were left with the only option of badass-ing it out and trying not to let our teeth chatter all night in case the other person was lucky enough to be asleep. We always tried to build fires but often there would be no fire wood and anything from the forest would be wet.


On the rare occasions I did actually sleep, I would dream. It turns out I have extremely dark dreams in the woods. And then one night, after eating re-hydrated meals for a week and a half, I dreamed of fresh broccoli. In the dream I picked up a beautiful, bright green stalk out of a happy yellow bowl and brought it to my mouth. There was a warm breeze, ruffling the thin white curtains on the window next to the table where I sat. I hadn’t had fresh food in so long that I moved slowly, savoring every detail. I put in my mouth and held it there. Then I bit down. It was all wrong. I tried to bite the head off but it wouldn’t come away from the stalk. It was so frustrating that I woke myself up. To find I was chewing on my earplug.


The people were what really made the shelters interesting. The moonshine boys; Pepperjack, Nibbles, Douche Canoe, etc., we’re of all shapes, sizes, and geographic locations. They come out for one week every year with a bunch of their college buddies to drink and revamp old stories. They have been doing this a long time. They work hard to keep these traditions strong and sacred. No matter what is happening in their lives they are here every year. If one can’t afford it one year, the others pay for him. If one of their wives has the bad luck to be due to produce a baby around that time, they move it one month in either direction. Nothing will keep them from tromping through the woods and destroying and rebuilding their aging bodies together for one week each year. Later that night I would fall happily asleep to their drunken storytelling, enthusiastic exaggerations and endless laughter, at the fire outside the shelter.


They were kind, and right away were extremely interested in our packs. After they surrounded us and peppered us with questions one of them straightened his glasses and stepped forward. “Let me get this straight,” he said putting his hand up to silence everyone else. “You mother-fuckers borrowed some heavy ass camper gear, got in a car, drove here with no plan and never having backpacked before, to do the hardest hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail?”


I looked over at Adam and punched him in the arm. “It’s the hardest hundred miles??


He rubbed his arm and shrugged.


They were obviously impressed (though with our ambitiousness or stupidity I couldn’t be sure).


It didn’t always go as well as that. One night a guy came into the shelter around dark. He was young, maybe twenty, had curly brown hair and introduced himself as Hatchet. Hatchet immediately sat on the lowest bunk in the cabin and began eating Ramen Noodles raw, out of the bag, despite the myriad signs hanging around every shelter that state, for the safety of all human animals, not to eat inside of it. Even weekend hikers know not to eat where you sleep when there are bears and mice around. He dropped noodles here and there around his feet. Adam, myself, and the eclectic gang in the shelter with us that night, all sat staring at him, too tired to reprimand a grown man.


At some point I moved to build a fire, everyone else had left to hang food bags or get and filter water. I heard an alarm. A strange sound in this place. I turned my head towards the awkward noise. Just in time to see Hatchet at the back of the bunk with one leg in the air, entering a pajama leg. His extremely white dick and balls all rested on the wood below it. Unfortunately for us both, we made eye contact.



The next morning, in a packed shelter, Hatchet’s alarm went off at five am. It’s electronic sounds pierced the night. For about three minutes. People began to stir. I know it was three minutes because I saw when I turned it off. I had had the pleasure of sleeping next to Hatchet that night. He had the pleasure of me not bopping him on the god-damned head that morning. After I turned the alarm off I heard Adam hiss my name. “What??” I whisper yelled back at him, “that was ridiculous!” Now I was in a predicament though. I could either go back to sleep and let him deal with his own life or I could do the right thing. The right thing then? Ugh fine. How? I opted to punch him lightly in a kidney and slink down into the bottom half of my bag. I was delirious by that point…

By day three up in the Smokys, everyone smelled. Except the people doing day hikes to some of the more well known sites along the trail. Those people carried bottles of water and bounced down the trail smelling of laundry soap, fruity shampoo and sunshine. Our deodorant had crumbled in the plastic bag that held it and was worthless after the first day. Every night we piled fourteen of the smelliest people I had ever been around, including myself, into a tiny wooden hut. Cocooning oneself in a sleeping bag barely large enough for ones arms, after hiking up mountains for a week with no shower, is not a pleasant experience.


One day we were hiking by Kingman’s dome which is a big day hike for the area. I was leaning up against a tree when an older gentleman walked by carrying a water bottle. As he passed me, breathing as hard as I, he nodded at me and,immediately [if not correctly] pegging me as lazy and out of shape, said, “I’m like you.”


“YOU HIKED FROM YOUR CAR!!” I wanted to yell. “I hiked from Tennessee!! You carry nothing! I turtle backed a house eight miles up hill before noon!” All this extremely hard work just to be told I was weak by some thoughtless old man was viscerally painful… But then he gave me some water.

So I forgave him.

One day the trail was making me mean.. I hadn’t spoken to Adam in hours. Even though I knew he was struggling too. This particular day it wasn’t just that we had to walk ten miles up hill, but a lot of that hill was stairs. Not nice easy stairs, but stone stairs a foot high. It. Was. Brutal. I was mad. We had long stopped hiking together. He was back there somewhere, wisely giving me space.


Around the corner came an extremely attractive man. He assumed I was hiking alone and smiled at me approvingly as we approached one another. He was thirty-ish, with Jet black hair, a square jaw and lean body. He wore hiking boots and a green t-shirt which was tight around the tops of his arms. He touched my elbow as he passed, leaned towards me and said gently and sexily, “almost there.” He didn’t talk down to me. He didn’t call me honey or babe or girl. He looked at me like he knew what I had just been through because he had done it before, thought I was a bad-ass for doing it too, and just needed a little boost at the end, like everyone does. It didn’t hurt anything at all that he looked like Colin Farrell. This lovely moment, with that lovely creature, snapped me right out of my funk and I was able to stop and be more present for my partner. Plus I was almost there, as he had said… So that helped.

Everything changed everyday. The pain in my feet was the only constant. On one page of the tiny notebook from the trip, the words “feet hurt,” are written a whooping seven times. Don’t get me wrong, there was pain everywhere else as well. But oh my feet… Plenty of times I couldn’t possibly go on. But somehow I did. They got worse every day. Constantly, I feared I was doing serious damage to my body. Da Vinci said, “the human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” My gorgeous human masterpieces carried me out of those god-damned woods, but every single step was a test of human courage, endurance and mental strength.


He wasn’t doing much better. Far too often he would hiss in pain and drop from the wound on his hip. No amount of padding would help after the second day. He is a champion, my husband. He never complained, there was only that hissing sound and then, when he stood upright again, the lie, “I’m ok. I’m fine.”


He was always so worried about me. Always paying great attention to what I needed or when I needed space. “Watch your head,” he’d say ten times a day. Or my favorite, “face stuff here,” because he knew I would be looking at my feet. If I had earphones in he would stop, wait patiently for me to get to him, hold the offending object (that sometimes was pretty obviously too high for me to have hit my head on) out of the way until I passed, unscathed, beneath it.


One day he asked me as we walked through a gorgeous birch forest, “you goin dark?”


I patted him on the pack where his butt would be, “No, no. Jus climbin this mountain.”

One day we were walking and I heard an “Oof,” behind me. I turned around. Having fallen, he was laying just off the trail. He looked up at me from under his pack which was now around his head. He ass was in the air. “Oh no,” he said, his voice was muffled from under his pack, which was too heavy for him to get off his own head. “I fell!” Pure uncontrollable and unadulterated laughter ejected from my body. His face was pressed into the softest, thickest looking grass I had ever seen. He couldn’t have been better protected if he had fallen into a pile of cotton candy.


Early in the trip I asked him if I looked like a bag lady. My massive pack was brick red. Shelley’s bunk roll, which was strapped to the bottom of my pack, was blue. Tracy’s winter hat which I wore pretty nonstop, was hunter orange. Chelsi’s mittens were fancy, white wool with snowflakes on them. She is finding out just this second that I lost them. I’m sorry. I love you. I owe you a pair of mittens. Zeke’s pants were tan and the jacket Adam had bought me at Standing Bear, was baby blue. His response to the question was in the negative, however a couple days later it began to rain so I pulled out the emergency poncho I had with me. I didn’t know that it was a Vikings emergency poncho when I had purchased it back in Minnesota. When I put it on he stopped moving and  he looked me up and down. “Boy,” he said. “If you ever thought you looked like a bag lady before…”

Everyone asked us if we were ok. But not like, Hey, y’all doing ok?” more like, “Holy shit, are you OK??” Every time this happened I would look at Adam. He’d be walking around in his stupid blue shirt and shaggy hair looking like a model in a Patagonia ad and so eventually I had to acknowledge that it was indeed me they were worried about dropping dead of a heart attack at thirty-four.


Jimmy (one of the Standing Bear Boys) had suggested that when things got tough to put headphones in and listen to music. I figured I would never do this. The woods are meant for connection to nature and disconnection from devices. But when things got really tough on our first day up into the mountains, I decided to try it. The effect it had on me was nothing short of miraculous. The music made the woods more romantic and the woods made the music more delicious. Suddenly I found myself holding my head up as I walked uphill. I found myself dancing, DANCING, up the mountain, behind his back. Far from perverting the woods as I thought it would, it brought me ever more into the moment. Jason Castro’s Hallelujah came on at one point and I could have sat and wept with the beauty of it all.


After that I saved this crutch for really tough up hills. Both preserving its efficacy and keeping the pleasing parts of the trail to be experienced together.


When it was flat, which was not often, or with a slight incline, we talked and laughed. When it was steep, we tucked in and hyper-focused.

I was heavier than I had ever been before after restocking at Standing Bear, but I was moving faster, farther, and often, not an ounce of me was sad. Once we decided to go all the way to Fontana Dam no matter what, it all become just walking. It really could sometimes, be that simple. All we had to do was walk until we reached civilization again. This had become a challenging situation, not a threatening one.


We got stronger. The first three days when I would try to relieve some of the pain in my heels by landing on the balls of my feet I couldn’t do it for long. My calves would scream almost immediately. By the end of the two weeks, though my friggin feet still felt like they were going to fall off, I could tiptoe down the trail for miles.


The Appalachian Trail was this monster in my mind. It seemed so untouchable and monumental. It has always tickled the place in my brain that mobilizes me to do something big. Saying yes to this adventure was the easiest thing in the world. As always, not knowing what I was in for was what drew me to it. Sometimes it was fun and light and beautiful and lovely, and sometimes it was the hardest thing I have ever done. The trail can Stockholm Syndrome you that way. “Everyone hates the trail.” I would hear over and over again. But we were still all there. Walking up that mountain.

It was persistently cold. But thanks to that, it was the perfect week for fall color. The trail was overflowing with leaves of every color. The forest changed all the time. First tall trees with a pronounced canopy of green, yellow, orange, red. The next day every thing was hunter green and dripping with moss. The light wasn’t able to penetrate the evergreens well in that area so everything was dark magic that day. We crossed moss covered bridges and stepping stones in the shadows. It smelled deeply of pine. So much life was packed into that space it made you feel like you were vibrating.

One day it was the most beautiful white world filled with a million birch trees. Sometimes we’d be walking on a razor sharp ridge. The mountain falling away to both sides of us, making me feel comforted in my smallness. The wind whipped my hair into my face and threatened to blow me over. With our giant packs we were like billboards. Sometimes we walked in the clouds. Sometimes we walked in the rain. Once in a great while we even walked in the sun.




Of the hundred miles we hiked there was a ten mile stretch that was particularly difficult. The hike from Derrick Knob Shelter to Spence Field Shelter. Everyone talked about it in hushed tones along the trail. The morning we woke up in Derrick Knob was gray and dismal. It began raining even before we left the shelter. We packed up by flashlight, put on every stitch of clothing we brought and folded all of that into our rain gear. We bid good bye to Betsy and Alice, two motherly figures who had pushed the “Vitamin I” (ibuprofen) hard when they saw my feet, and walked into the rain. It wasn’t bad. A light drizzle. We were only going to go the ten miles to Spence so I figured no matter what the terrain, after hiking sixteen miles a day, ten would be a cakewalk.


I was wrong.


As we got to the bottom of the first majorly steep hill it began to rain harder. We looked up at the monster in front of us, the rain pelting us in the eyes. The water coming out of the sky would, of course, find the path of least resistance. This time, it was a trail carved deep into the earth by hundreds of thousands of people with something to prove. Water poured off me. I discovered I could drink it by sucking on one side of my hood. It was so cold it could have been from the fridge. As we stood there, the river became a little wider.


We began to climb.


Halfway up the hill it began to rain harder. The water was so cold that it numbed my feet. And for the first time in a week and a half, my feet didn’t hurt. This uplifted me deep inside my heart. You wouldn’t be able to tell, as we couldn’t hear each other enough to hold a conversation, but during what would absolutely be the hardest part of our trip I felt light. Because my feet were numb.


Half way up the second horrendous hill (there were three), the sky opened up. Every last inside part of us, that had thus far remained dry, was immediately soaked. I was hanging off of a rock face when I looked up to find a huge wall of water rolling flash-flood style down the “trail” above me. It rolled and rolled until it smacked into us. Now water covered my arms to my elbows and my legs to my knees. It was powerful and freezing. Tucking our heads down, on we went.


A funny thing happens when conditions get this bad. Everything you think you care about goes away. What your hair looks like? Who cares. How beautiful the woods are around you? Who cares. If your extremely precious notebook gets wet? Who cares. Trying to tiptoe around the deeper pools of water? Nope. All the triviality in the world falls away and it is you, the man you love, and the thing. In this case the thing just happened to be freezing temperatures and walls of water. But the thing doesn’t matter. It is this cusp that I obviously love (or I would cut this shit out). When reality is brought back into focus. When what really matters in life, gets to shine through. And shine through hard.


We got colder and colder. We began running dangerously down the hills but we were seriously starting to worry about our hands and feet, which we hadn’t felt in five hours. We slipped and slid all over the trail. As we crested the last magnificent hill of the day he stood to the side and said, “Don’t fall… but lead us home.” And wet kissed me on the mouth.

Everything was stiff with cold. Our fingers, our joints, and the fabric of our clothing. Every single thing in our packs dripped. When we got to the shelter we couldn’t build a fire because there was no dry wood. Adam shivered uncontrollably for so long that we started to worry. He took off his clothes and we wrapped him in a blanket that we wrung out as best we could. I made hot soup on the stove. That night he apologized for bringing me there. I told him all the things I had been unable to communicate to him while we were powering through. That I had been and would always be, just fine.


We shivered in our wet bags and I finally feel asleep.


The last morning we were in the woods, I woke up because he was moving around. It was still dark. I could immediately tell something was wrong. I laid in my bag and felt my face with my fingertips.


He put a headlamp on and turned to tell me good morning.


And recoiled in horror.


What is it???” I asked as I poked at my face harder. “I can feel it!! Oh my god!!”


He expertly calmed himself and slowly came back to me. He squinted his eyes and put a hand on each side of my face. In his headlamp he studied me.


Honey, what is it??” I begged.


Your eyes are swollen shut.”




How should I know?” He kept studying me.


As the sky lightened I realized I couldn’t see more then five feet in front of me. My eyes were so swollen that the pressure pressed them together.


………  Y’all, I was cross-eyed. Not just a charmingly little bit cross-eyed. I was completely, holy-shit-whats-wrong-with-her, cross-eyed.


YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!” I said when I looked at the picture he took of me to show me. The brutal cold, the searing pain, and now this?!


It was just another thing.


We packed up. I followed close behind him so I wouldn’t trip over anything. On we walked. My eyes wept of their own volition.


He couldn’t stop sneaking glances at me. He would get this funny look on his face and say something along the lines of, “Jesus babe,” or, “God-damn Honey.”


The last two miles out of the Smoky Mountains were the longest miles of my life. Every step made me hiss in pain. Every hour I could see a little better so at least the swelling in my eyes was going down. Endlessly we switch-backed down the last mountain. We ran into the bears which rejuvenated us just enough to get us to the end of our journey.

When we finally got out of the woods we limped across Fontana Dam. We could barely walk. I dropped my pack and went into the bathroom when we got to the visitor’s center. I hadn’t looked in a mirror in a week. I was dirty. Really dirty. My eyes were ridiculous. Swollen, bloodshot and still a little more cross-eyed than one would like. My cheeks were windburned. My blond hair was brown with grease and pasted to my head. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t expected to look so beaten. When thinking about this trip I thought I would come out of the woods feeling like a superhero. Instead I just looked sad.


Less than thirty seconds after we entered our hotel room in Fontana Village, my clothes were off and I was standing under the glorious spray of a shower. I also hadn’t seen myself naked in a week. It was more or less how I remembered it. I painfully stood on my tiptoes, my calves bulged. That was new. My feet were bone white from having spent the last few days in wet socks and shoes. I watched my skin turn red from the hottest water I could stand. The dirt and smell ran off of me. I put my head under the spray and my hand on the wall. I stayed like that a long time.


It had been brutal. The whole thing had been brutal. It was freezing up in the mountains. Sometimes literally. It hurt. So much. By day four the smell of our broken bodies was deafening. I was often mad at myself, because I couldn’t just Angelina Jolie the fuck up the mountain in front of me.


When one walks up a hill with a large child sized load upon their back, things can get dark fast. Its easy to forget dancing up another mountain or the moonshine boys or laughing with each other in the woods after one of you punches the other in the dick. You start thinking, this sucks. You want to stop. Now, yesterday, a week ago. You hate the trail, and every person who created, maintained or walked on it. Then the whole thing becomes a literal pain in your ass in the form of a muscle cramp. Every step pain shoots from your foot, to your knee, to your hip, into your back. It makes you angry. And sometimes no matter how hard you try, it makes you mean.


Why the hell would anyone do this to themselves?


Because exceptional moments often come after horrific ones. We humans have made ourselves so comfortable that we never feel truly sad and therefore never feel truly happy. A week after we got off the trail Shelley would ask Adam how it was. He replied without hesitation, “it was amazing.” I stared at him. I was sure this was the knee jerk response of an introvert asked a question about vacation. And then he began to talk. He didn’t tell her about climbing rapids in the pouring rain or sleeping in wet bags in thirty degrees, or the fact that his hip was still killing him. He spoke of magic and beauty. Of bears and vistas and sunny days with his wife in the woods. His eyes were wide as he talked. He was smiling. I looked at my hands for a moment. God-damn-it… it was amazing. It had been an amazing adventure.


If we push through the push-back, the hard thing, the tricky part, if we can stick it out through the fuck-this moment and move forward anyway, that is when real growth happens. Schwarzenegger once said it is the last two push-ups that build muscle. This can be applied to anything you want in life. If you push, and then push harder, you can do anything. And when you look back, it won’t be the bad parts that you see.


Someone once told me you have to sacrifice in life. No matter what. Why let the thing you want your life to be, be the thing you sacrifice?

We hadn’t meant to hike the hardest hundred (Adam wants me to write hundred and ten because he hates it when I cheat him of the last ten miles), but the hardest things are often, as in this case, the most beautiful. Right now we have the privilege of being alive. And I am monumentally grateful that I keep making weird decisions, and getting myself into hairy situations, that remind me of this.


The morning I woke up in Fontana Village I woke up before the sun. I realized I was in a bed that felt soft as down. I closed my eyes, blissfully ready to go back to sleep. My brain went on without me.


I couldn’t believe I had even thought it. I couldn’t believe I was still thinking it.


Who was this monster having these thoughts? I was finally out of that hell! I was going back to sleep!

I laid there for an hour trying to shake this…


But I couldn’t, it was very confusing.

After about two hours I sighed and rolled over. I snuggled real close to his back. He moaned. I put my arms around him and smelled deep in his clean neck. I whispered in his ear.


“Let’s go for a walk.”