If you have not seen it yet, in our About Section we have a page called "2021 Hiking Season!". Is it a page with a lot of fan fare, articles, videos, interviews, pomp and circumstance? No, it is literally a blank page, and inside of this blank page is a clock. A clock with days, a clock with hours, a clock with minutes, a clock with seconds. There is nothing else that needs to be said right now. That solitary clock upon that solitary blank page represent a year unlike any other and yet the same. That clock every time we see it speaks and ticks loud enough. When we watch the seconds tick by we feel and see the trail in front of us. When the minutes move slower we feel time again becoming a warp as miles blend. As the hours tick by we feel our body reacting to the trail, tightening and tightening in preparation for what is ahead. When the days move like molasses but lightning at the same time, we feel our mind gently slipping back into trail mentality and it is a feeling of warmth and comfort and peace that we have missed beyond belief. That simple clock represents all the years prior, each second, each minute, each hour, each day, each month, each year on every trail we have done. It represents all the uniqueness of each trail and their communities inside of the larger hiking community inside of the larger outdoor community inside of the larger all-encompassing community of humanity. That clock represents all our trail families, represents laughs, joys, triumphs, failures, and tears when life again took us in different directions when we finished each trail. That clock represents our growth not only as a hiker but as a person, ticking at us reminding us where we started. Those small numbers represent an unfathomable depth of love and passion that has only grown every year. So, when we see that clock, we see trail, we see freedom, we see laughter, we see loved ones, we see reflection, we see pain but beautiful pain with a reason, and we see the miles ahead and feel peace.
So simple but so complex. Live each second, each minute, each hour, each day!
As we write this article the clock is exactly at 8 Days, 18 Hours, 51 Minutes and 12 Seconds. That means it will be 8 days from now until we find ourselves waist deep in a swamp, and our grin from ear to ear could not be larger. The swamp beckons us, calls us, just as the mountains have year after year. The call is the same, the tone is the same, the language of trail that is whispered and shouted at times into our ears is a wonderful sense of familiarity. There may be not many mountains where we are going in the beginning, but that does nothing to dissipate our excitement. We love mountains, but mountains are only a piece of our love. Our love is not discriminatory it does not only love because but instead loves with and inside of each trail in its own way. If we have not dropped enough hints or said directly enough times, we will be starting the Florida Trail on February 1st, 2021. The 1st thru-hike of 5 this year of 2021, the first mile of 8,000.
When looking down the barrel of 8,000 miles in 7-8 months, our minds and body know they are capable, and excitement surges through every fiber of us. Yet, there is something that also has us slightly apprehensive. If you have listened to some of our interviews you know by now that we are a work horse. We work 7 days a week and tend to work for 12-15 hour days. We work full-time for ElevenSkys as well as full-time for another company. Work is easy, we know work, we have found strength in work, yet this year has a new connotation for us before trail. We should not have been where we are currently, we should have been in a world of snow, ice, sheetrock smushes, and love. Yet, here we find ourselves, the year of 2020 dictating decisions being made for safety and because of love not for the lack of. Everyone's world was shifted in this past year and we recognize how fortunate we still are to be where we are and recognize the pain and suffering we experience is minimal when compared to how hard this has hit others. We do recognize this, and we truly feel it in our hearts, and we will always recognize everyone who has been less fortunate and more heavily impacted. Our privilege and fortune to be safe, healthy, and loved is truly a privilege. Yet, it makes it no less difficult.
A painting we saw this year that touched our hearts especially hard.
Interpret as you will.
Simply put we are already exhausted. Exhausted before even one foot is put onto trail which will need 42,240,000 footsteps needed to complete 8,000 miles. At one number per second without any breaks whatsoever, it would take 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes and 40 seconds just to count to 1 million. Just to count! Not to actually sweat, strain and push each footstep. Not physically exhausted, but mentally. We have been digging into the tanks below our reserve tanks for months now. Realistically for a full year. A year of constant stress, a year of constant juggling, a year of constant worry. Yes, also a year of constant love, which has continued to fuel our inner fire. Yet, exhaustion has come in every form, every day, every hour. Look again at our countdown clock, and rewind it to represent 364 days 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Then feel the countdown, feel the nerves, feel the stress, feel juggling life and it brings about a whole new meaning when it is now below (10) days. Yes we are fortunate to be able to intermix our work and our play, but the journey here has been constant, a workload unlike any other we have ever known.
This has us a little bit apprehensive. We have been "exhausted" when beginning a trail before. Yet, never to this degree of burning on the fuel and fumes that are not even in any reserves tanks in ourselves burned through all of our tanks months ago, but just purely out of will. Yes, we have began exhausted, but also the scale of what we were reaching for was less. It was 2,000 miles, 3,000 miles, 4,000 miles, and now we are doubling it in about the same amount of time being spent on trail. So, the exhaustion also builds into itself. We are exhausted because we know the exhaustion that we are going to face in the midst of this goal. We are exhausted because of future exhaustion. It is a sickly ironic feeling isn't it?
We already have done the hard work. That means it is time for hard work.
So, when we watch the countdown clock our initial reaction is a large smile. We know trail, we know its comfort, we know its peace. Yet, also as we watch the countdown we relive this past year, and our hearts ache for others, for our loved ones, for ourselves, for the year of 2020. With each second we feel the exhaustion unlike anything we have ever known. With each minute we relive the minutes that we did not even have enough time to change out our coffee thermos instead it became a blend of weeks old coffee, with each hour we see the schedule that was a necessity laid out before us months before with every single hour and almost every single minute delegated and accounted for and balk at how we functioned through it, and with each day we miss having even a shred of energy in even a reserve tank, outside of burning through pure will, when it is not us who chose when to sleep but our bodies and minds simply not being able to function any longer.
Yet, that is who we are, a persistently stubborn survivor. That is who everyone is this past year. So, we will continue ahead. We are again privileged and lucky enough to continue ahead towards trail. Yet, within the smile and the peace we see when we watch that clock, we also feel apprehension. Trail is not a cure all. There will be new demands. There will be physical demands daily, there will be mental demands daily, there will be new challenges. We have burned past any tank inside of ourselves, burned through our reserve tanks below months ago, and now we are running on pure love and pure will. We look forward to the challenge, look forward to continue adding to this self-feeding fire within ourselves, and watch as the trail may not fill it with what it wants at the time, but what it needs. 42,240,000 footsteps begin here now in 8 days, we are exhausted but also completely ready inside of that exhaustion. Let us find strength inside of ourselves, let us all find that strength.
Only 41,239,999 footsteps remain.
Granted we will also be wearing shoes...
With an internal fire burning always feeding itself,