It is the day after Christmas, and as we had stated in our previous post, we know it has been a whirlwind of change, a whirlwind of emotions, and a whirlwind of a year. Within this metaphorical whirlwind much can be lost. Physical separation has become a must for safety as this whirlwind has picked up families, friends, and loved ones, and pushed them to their separate habitation bubbles. Communication has been picked up in this whirlwind and swirled around and around, looking for the sender and receiver, but with the ferocity and hectic nature of this wind, it can be lost in the storm. Time has been consumed by this wind, to the point that it has sucked in days, weeks, and months, into its cycle, and while necessary, has claimed the time for its own. Feelings have ebbed and flowed within this same cyclone, not knowing if its the creation of the cyclone itself, or the feelings being added to the cyclone from an outside source, but those have been going on a 1,000mph journey around and around as well. Much can be lost to this whirlwind of change, this whirlwind of a year. Yet, more has been gained when you take a step back and really look at what this whirlwind has defined in its chaos. Love, love for friends, love for families, love for partners, love for love itself. The whirlwind while throwing everything in disarray and consuming much, has never found a away to consume love. It has only increased it, the wind has fanned the flames of love between those closest to you. While stripping away appearances, stripping away fakeness, stripping away falseness, this whirlwind has defined love purely. So take a step back this year, calm the winds by stepping outside of the whirlwind for a moment in time, it will suck you back in soon enough, and really take stock, really look into these winds from an outside view, and while seeing how much this wind has taken, also see how much it has defined and given.
Love for others, love for yourself, love for this world.
Before we get to deep and too metaphorical, let us just say one more time, that yes it has been an insane year, and yes we feel loss, feel grief, feel sadness, for the world. Yet, it is okay to internalize this, okay to feel this, but this does not have to be the only feeling felt. It is okay to feel along with this love, it is okay to feel along with this happiness, it is okay to find laughter side by side with tears. It does not have to be one or the other. It would be a bleak world indeed if each and everyone one of us that has been affected, which is every single one of us, would only wallow in grief. Give yourself permission to feel the grief and in turn give yourself permission to grow. Look outside of the grief and look around you at all the goodness being done in the world, and you will realize grief alone is detrimental. Yet grief paired with love, paired with happiness, and paired with laughter is where true understanding and true harmony are created.
Again, we said we didn't want to continue in this metaphor, or continue down this path, but it needs to be stated, and we believe we have stated it enough, for the moment, for you to understand. So, let us go find love and let us find it in the bonds and joy that is grown between trail families. Trail families are an immensely beautiful part of a thru-hike, and even surpass just the hike itself, but are felt in daily life. Just like a childhood friend, any member of a trail family, could be years out of touch, but one phone call, and one text, and you have a family member welcoming you with open arms. Time is a funny concept where deep and unshakable friendships are concerned. It is felt, it passes, but the connection never is lost. We of course, have members of trail families that we stay in contact with daily, but then just as in how crazy life is there are some members of trail families, that we have stayed in contact monthly and even yearly. Yet no matter, the time in between or the time apart, the friendship only continues to thrive, and family is family, no matter the time, no matter the distance.
Even in this picture some were trail family for 700 miles and then some for the entire 2,000+ miles, but all were family.
So, what is a trail family? It is the people you chose and who chose you, to be your hiking companions, friends, and yes even family. Just as in "real-life" the saying goes friends are the family that you get to chose, the same can be said for the trail, Hence, the term trail family. There is a special type of connection that is created when sharing in unfiltered freedom, unfiltered happiness, unfiltered pain, when sharing in feelings raw and true that the trail creates. It is a bond forged through joy and through suffering, and hence a bond that is not filtered, or only one side of a person, but the pureness and completeness of what makes you, you.
A trail family can be your trail family for the entirety of a trail or for a few hundred miles. We have had trail families that we have hiked with for 500 miles, then all of our paces changed, and we continued in different ways. Then we have had trail families that we have hiked with for 2,000+ miles and the entirety of a thru-hike. Both are loved, both are family, and will always be what made our hikes special. What continues to amaze us is the bond that a simple mile can form. One mile, 5,280 steps, and you can learn about the person in front of you or behind you, as if you had been part of their life since childhood. Within that (1) mile you can hear much of each others life history, the joys and sorrows they have gone through, the type of person that you are hiking with. Now extrapolate that out over 1,000s of miles and you begin to get a sense of the cemented bond that is formed between trail families. Extrapolate that over 100s of dinners under the stars shared, of Nero days in town where you all slump into a pool chair at the motel from exhaustion, of mornings that you wake up together with the sun. These moments are irreplaceable and you truly see and feel your family member next to you.
The trail has special way of stripping away filters, and lets people express themselves in the ways that form lasting and bonding friendships, lasting and bonding family. The term trail family did not simply grow from nothing. There is reason that it has grown to be family instead of friends, because that is honestly how the people around you feel, that chose to hike with you and you chose to hike with. The love felt for each of your family members can never be quantified. It comes from a place that is deep within each of you, molded, and bonded over and over again, day after day, and mile after mile. It is a special type of love, a love between brothers and sisters, a love for a mother who continues to make sure you have enough blocks of cheese, a love between a father who has been in the mountains since time irrelevant and knows all the knowledge, a love between your weird night-hiking uncle, and a love between your snoring grandpa that prefers the shelters. Just like a family it takes all types and all personalities, and that is what makes the love so full.
So, trail family is really the family you choose and chooses you. Love for family and friends can never be replaced or imitated on trail. Honestly, we would never want to try to imitate that type of love or bond, because when comparing the two, they may have the same words of family in each, but the growth and formation of the love cannot be compared. Again, not a good thing, not a bad thing, just different. It is like trying to compare the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. Yes, both are long distance hiking trails, yes you will be hiking, and yes you may spend months on trail, but that is where the similarities end, and then it is a completely different experience. Same could be said for the love between trail family when compared to family and friends. Yes, you love both, yes you share experiences and life, yes you will always be there for each other, yet the love is still love, just formed and bonded through different scenarios. What we are trying to say, with our weird and lengthy metaphors again, is find love. Find love in friends this year, find love in family this year, find weird hiker love in trail family this year, there is no wrong way to find and celebrate love. This is a special type of Holiday Season and a special type of year, and there is so much love around you, and inside of you, do not be scared to reach into it, share it, and simply love.
The whirlwind of this year may have affected much, but love will be the way to calm it, understand it, and our way through it.
All of Our Love,