So, just a couple of days ago, August 22nd, 2011, exactly 5 months and 1 day from my start date, I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
There will be more reflection and insights on my merging back into your crazy indoor universe in posts to come, but as for right now, I need to get to something very important off my chest.
It’s nearly impossible to recall all of the acts of kindness I have been the recipient of over the last 5 months. Friends, family, and strangers have been absurdly generous throughout this entire journey. To a weary hiker, receiving a mail drop means much more than the cookies, whiskey, or baby wipes that lie inside. It serves as a reminder of the people who care and are pulling for you to persevere. I have been running on a fuel source compromised mostly of your love (and high fructose corn syrup).
And because of this, I want to say THANK YOU.
The following list of thank you’s attempts to cover all of the individuals who have been instrumental in offering a hand along the way.
I apologize in advance to anyone I have left off the following list of gratitude. There has been a lot of love given my way- and it’s very likely I’m over looking a few people. Please be sure to leave a comment below to remind me that I’m a bad person.
Thank you Josh B. for making an amazing treasure map leading me to a buried beer along with my trusty shaman and trail mascot, Rufio. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me. You truly are a 1 in 90,000 sort of dude and an awesome friend (#WINNING). Sorry for never getting your post up. I’ll make it up to you in Spotted Cows.
Thank you Jill + Serial for going way above and beyond in too many ways to mention, but most notably taking in two desperate hikers and rejuvenating our spirits early on. Your ability to know exactly what a hiker craves most (especially a night of board games + beer!!!) made leaving Damascus that much more difficult. Your hospitality and genuine generosity will never be forgotten. Also- please let me know what I can send you guys on your upcoming thru-hike!
Thank you Jeff N. for being the spontaneous trail angel of the century. Your story is quite possibly my favorite to tell. You might be wondering “which one?”. Yes- all of them. Don’t ever lose that unfiltered sense of adventure. You are one of a kind. A big thank you to Amanda too for being so awesome with four of the smelliest, untamed human beings running through her house.
Thank you Chris, Jeff W., and Lisa for being our homebase and highly responsive with so many mail drop requests. You know in Apollo 13 when Tom Hanks keeps feeding bad news to Houston and Houston does whatever they can to make Tom Hanks feel better. You are Houston (I am currently the castaway version of Tom Hanks). You guys have gone way above and beyond. Also, thank you for letting me be the homeless guy on your couch for a week prior to leaving. And thank you in advance because I’ll be back on your couch again soon. Just kidding. Not really.
Thank you mom + dad for way too many things to mention- but most notably the unconditional support you’ve given me with not only during this journey, but throughout my entire life. I know the beginning of this trek was torturous on your sanity- but never once did you let it spill over onto me. I love you intensely.
Thank you WHOOP!!!’s parents for keeping my parents relatively sane in knowing that they weren’t alone in the daily struggle of thinking their child was being consumed by a bear. Also thank you so much for your generosity in picking me up, feeding, and putting us up in a hotel for a night. A very pleasant surprise.
Thank you Mehaps parents for an epic trail magic buffet. In the face of strong winds and cold rain- you fed a group of impossibly hungry hikers to the point of capacity, with leftovers- no small feat.
Thank you to Road Dog’s parents for the housing, the immense meals, and the hospitality. We were a tad rambunctious during our stay and you were nothing but friendly the entire time.
Thank you Orange Blaze’s parents for the killer trail magic visit directly to the hostel. Hostel magic is has now entered into the thru-hiker lexicon thanks to you. Additionally, thank you for including Spark and I in your very generous 21st birthday present to your son. My first Maine lobster experience is one I will not forget.
Thank you to Big Cat for the long ride back to Damascus for trail days. You are way too nice to your brother.
Thank you Chuck L for the great care package and beer money. Everything you sent got great use.
Thank you Dalton family for being ultra-flexible and coordinating the best on-site trail magic of the entire trail. Our large group was sincerely impressed with how cool the whole family was- especially with Chris and Mary’s supernatural patience. Mom and Dad must be doing a stellar job. It was a ton of fun to get to know you a little bit and hope that we can keep in touch!
Thank you Tim and Katie for being consistent with who you are- awesome people. The care package was amazing- the kids drawings were even better. I am going to Just For Men my beard when I get back in Tim’s honor. Your couch is also in danger of a smelly red beard.
Thank you Tim R. and Jacob W. for the very creative liquor store magic. I can say with a strong sense of certainty that I don’t think I will ever encounter a situation similar to that again. Simply awesome.
Thank you to my Padres crew for the hilarious assortment of odd items. You accomplished the impossible in making me miss an office setting in the midst of hanging out in the woods. You did forget one thing though- a frame for my Nick Golden autographed baseball.
Thank you Ashley C. for the cookies from Mars. I’m pretty sure getting an Oreo INSIDE of a chocolate chip cookie defies physics. The milk money was a great touch. You rock way too hard.
Thank you Ian P. for the taste of California. You are my hero. Next Umphrey’s concert is on this guy. (See: last sentence of Tim and Katie’s thank you)
Thank you Ian M. for being my pre-trail prep guru. Because of you I was 10,000 times more prepared, both mentally and in terms of equipment, than I would have been otherwise. Good luck to you on the remainder of your journey up the PCT (you crazy bastard).
Thank you Amy J. for housing me along the way. Your apt. was far too nice to let the rotting smell that is my pack inside. Keep rocking NYC.
Thank you Haley V (D?) for the things mentioned above and being on my page with all the crazy spiritual rants I dealt at you over our two day rendezvous.
Thank you to all of the strangers who provided hitches, advice, food, and well wishes along the trail. Your spirit is what makes the AT such a truly special experience.
Thank you to everyone who has sent a thoughtful comment or e-mail along the way. Due to a lack of Internet connection over the last few months (there is very little wi-fi in the mountains) I haven’t had the chance to respond to each one, but I do read and appreciate every single word. You guys really are amazing.
There is a 99% chance I’m forgetting at least a lot of people on this list. I apologize. I appreciate you too.