Thursday, July 26, 2012

The AT Thru-hiker

So I pulled into my driveway, as I do every work day, stopped to get the mail - my mailbox is across the road.  I was vaguely aware of a car further down the street coming toward me but as I walked away from my mailbox my mind was on the mail I had received.  I realized the car was speeding up as if to run over me. . . it could only be two scenarios - a drunk driver (I don't think so) or Eric.  It was Eric.

Eric is a 20-something that I watched grow up on my street.  When I first moved in, some 15 years ago, Eric was a pain-in-the-butt kid.  Back then, I tried my hand at rollerblading.  Never being athletically inclined, still I wasn't afraid to try, no matter how awkward I looked on them.

I remember Eric coming along on his rollerblades, weaving in and out around me, showing off his skill and scaring me. . . "ERIC, get away from me!" I screamed one day, sure that he was going to knock me over.

Fast forward many years.  Eric grew up and developed an interest in firearms.  One of the neighbors told him I had a few handguns.  He was eager to get his pistol permit as soon as he turned 21.  If he saw me in the yard, he'd stop and talk handguns.  One day I was walking my dog on a quiet afternoon on our street.  A car pulled up behind me and stopped.  Out jumped Eric waving his new toy - his first handgun - in the air to show off.

"ERIC, would you put that thing away!" . . . Later I gave him the business card of the place where I have taken many firearms classes.  "I want you to go talk to this guy.  You need training, Boy!"

He did.

Everytime he got a new gun, he'd come running to show it to me!  "What?  Are you trying to keep up with me?" I would tease him!

Then I noticed I didn't see him around for several months.  This was maybe May or early June of this year.  One of the neighbors told me he had gone to hike the Appalachian Trail end-to-end.

Although I have never hiked the trail end-to-end, I do know a thing or two about it, having several friends over the years who have done it.  "He started in early March and he will finish in August," I was told by a neighbor.

"No, No!"  I responded.  You don't hike all 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine from March to August.  It is more like March to late September or October.

So today, July 26, here is Eric in the street at the end of my driveway.

My jaw dropped.  Now, I knew once he started the hike, he would finish - never a doubt on that.  But from March to the end of July?

He finished on July 4th, just over 100 days on the trail.  He started out doing 15 to 20 miles per day - a remarkable accomplishment.  Most people don't do more than 8 or 10 per day until they get acclimated to the trail.  But "most people" are not Eric.  It was not unusual for him to do 20 to 30 miles a day.  He said his longest day was 67 miles in 27 hours.

What Eric lacks in maturity and "walking around sense", he more than makes up for in a lust for life and making every minute count.

He will go far in life.

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