I've made it home, in a way. This morning I crossed into Virginia! Now I've got three states behind me (Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and once I get through Virginia I'll be nearly halfway done. Keep in mind, though, that it'll take me about a month to get through this state; the Trail spends nearly a quarter of it's length here.
Several days ago I had a real turning point in my walk with God out here. I knew it would be tough being away from so much support and being around people who don't know me, and it really was quite tough and in many ways still is. The tough lesson that I began to learn out here, the one that began to surface as I was worn down, was accepting grace. Whenever I would do or say something that I wasn't proud of, or passed by a great oportunity to witness, I would get down on myself. I really was trying to earn good feelings, to earn love and forgiveness; I was trying to earn the sense of peace I had before.
The most I can do is just relate this lesson with words. Many of you reading this will understand the concepts I'm talking about, but the true fruit shows not in some nice verse or piece of wisdom that's phrased nicely but in how I'm now able to wake up every day and walk in God's grace for my life before I do a thing. Now I'm spending time with God in the Bible and in prayer out of a response to his free love and forgiveness, not in an attempt to earn it.
That's the big lesson recently. I am certain of more to come and some that I'm in the middle of, but that's all I will share at the moment.
Now for some good trail stories. My "trail legs" have finally come in. That's the phrase for when your legs finally get used to hiking and all of a sudden you can do much bigger miles. I realized I had gotten my trail legs one day when I had just finished climbing a 2,000 ft mountain over three miles at the end of a 16 mile day and felt great, so I decided to go another 7.5 miles to a shelter that was made from a converted barn that I really wanted to stay at. Since then, I can hike 18 miles in a day without much trouble and can break the 20 mile mark pretty regularly. As long as I get some rest time in camp (and LOTS of sleep) I hold up just fine.
One of the best stories happened just yesterday. My friend Bookworm (also a recent college grad) and I were hiking along and came upon a parking lot where some scouts were being fed soda, snacks and fruit by a guy who drove out to do that for them during their hike. As we walked through he beckoned to us and let us have whatever we were hungry to eat. He began to wrap things up and half-jokingly offered us a cantelope to carry to camp. He was half-joking because he was willing to part with it, but it weighs 8-10 lbs and no hiker in their right mind wants to carry that kind of weight for little to no calories. I, not being in my right mind, actually accepted the offer of cantelope. Camp was only 5 miles away and I'd figure it would be cool to have a cantelope for everyone at camp, especially because it was our friend Intern's last night on the Trail.
That's when the guy also mentioned that he had a watermelon. A 15 lbs watermelon. Bookworm looked and me and smiled. He carried the watermelon and I carried the cantelope. It was pretty rough on our poor legs that had already gone 17.7 miles that day. When Intern finally arrive at camp, we brought out the fruit and carved it up. The cantelope turned into slices and we cut the watermelon in half and let everyone go at it bowl-style. It was awesome.
That's all for this post. More adventures and life changing to come over the next 1,700 miles or so.