Somewhere along the way, someone got the idea that the four of us (Whistle, Dumptruck, Grim and I) should try to do the Four State Challenge. The Four State Challenge involves starting in Virgina and walking to Pennsylvania in one day. This is a challenge that is issued by no other authority than pure group mind idiocy. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has no bearing on this. There are no awards, or prizes. It is simply an act of sheer will power, for which you receive no accolades other than bragging rights.
I can't say that I hiked the AT for bragging rights, but I CAN say that I hiked the AT for the community and relationships, and if Grim and Whistle wanted to do this challenge, then I was willing to try it.
You can find the full account of the day here: Grim Determination. I recommend you go read that first, and then come back here. I'll wait. I've got a cup of hot chocolate and it's a nice rainy night, so you do you, friend. I'll be here when you get back.
Welcome back! I am going to trust that you actually went and read that, because I have some photographs now to supplement how it actually went. Dumptruck took hardly any photographs that day, because we were just blazing like Tron through the woods. I took barely any photographs either, because I wanted to save all my iPod battery to be able to play music for Dumptruck and I to listen to to keep ourselves sane for 18 hours of hiking.
But at the end of the day, when we finally collapsed onto the ground, Dumptruck did take out his camera and took just a few photographs that accurately sum up what was going on for us physically, mentally and emotionally. I was like a numb exoskeleton, and Whistle was like a 4-year-old child that was coming down from accidentally eating an entire bag of chocolate covered espresso beans.
When we finally made it to the Mason/Dixon line, it was both glorious and disappointing. For all the heartache and hallucinations* when I had been hiking, a part of me was hoping for something a little more glorious at the end. A bouncy castle or something, or at least some balloon animals. But alas no, there was only a wooden cross.
I thought I would feel something more when I got to the end of that challenge, maybe something explosive and accomplished. I did feel pretty badass for hiking 44 miles, and I wouldn't go back and change my decision to do it. But it felt strange to do something so huge without a real motivation. Should "just because I can" be enough of a reason to do something? Maybe I didn't have a motivation before I did it, but I had a motivation afterward. I was proud of myself for trying something like that, for doing something scary and big and maybe a little stupid.
But that's part of the beautiful, incredible story of being alive. We allow ourselves to take risks, to be part of this grand adventure of living. Sometimes we have a really good reason to throw ourselves into something crazy, and sometimes we feel compelled, because our feet just keep moving in spite of ourselves.
*P.S. Whistle: "Heartache and Hallucinations" Band name. Called it.