I imagine that some significant portion of my time on the trail will be spent in thinking about why I am out there in the first place. (I’ve certainly spent the many years of dreaming about the trail and the last several months of actually planning for the hike thinking about such things; I don’t see that ending just because I start walking.) Many people have asked me (as they ask all thru-hikers), “Why are you doing this?” It would be nice to have a compact, orderly, powerful answer to satisfy the curiosity.

But I don’t have such an answer. I have a few dozen answers, and they’re hard to articulate, and none of them of their own accord carries enough weight to carry me a couple of thousand miles. Still the desire burns.

Here are a few beginnings of answers:

Generation Tree

Denver, Poncho, and Born Dancin’ with Granny.

These are my kids, posing with their grandmother at a recent picnic—a kind of bon voyage celebration with Granny, since I won’t see her again before I head out. There’s a lot that I love in this photo.

Many folks are incredulous about my wandering the wilderness for a few seasons because of the existence and youth my offspring. With still-growing children at home, how does one walk away for so long? (“And where,” many a man hath cried unto me, “does one find a wife such as would allow—nay, encourage—such extravagance?” Bide, gentle petitioner. She shall have her own post anon.)

This has been one of the stickiest points of my own contemplations. A part of me does wonder if choosing so much time on my own is not colossally selfish, leaving my poor family to make do without their father while he swans about in the woods.

A lot of this journey, though, is about them. I want them to know that no matter how big, crazy, impossible, or difficult their dreams may be, it’s worth chasing them. I prayed about hiking the trail for more than ten years, most of the time barely believing that it would ever happen. Now I’m leaving in three days, under circumstances I could not have imagined a decade ago. I don’t know what will come of this, but I do not think I will look back later in life to regret accepting the challenge and making the attempt.

It also helps a great deal that they will be my cheering squad and emotional support. Even when they mention that they will miss me, they quickly add that they are excited for me and what I’ll be accomplishing. It’s probably immensely self-serving, but a part of me absolutely lights up to think that I will be making a journey that reminds them of the epic odysseys that the characters from the fantasy novels we read (which I’ve pushed them to love for so long) have undertaken. There will be hardships and hard times, without doubt, but I hope those help them to see their inner strength and joy, too—as I’ll be finding mine. I want to be the hero of their stories, and for them to become the heroes of their own stories, wherever that leads them.

G Mel and DJ Jolly Green

Here are Granny and I again. I have to say, if anyone can be blamed for the wild fancies that sometimes make me hare off into the wilderness, it might be her. Since I was very small, Granny was always the one jetting off for adventures and finding joy in every place she could. When I told her about the hike coming up, tears sprang up in her eyes, and she could not stop repeating her conviction that this will be a defining event, a peak around which other parts of my life will rearrange themselves. I think there is a part of her that wishes she could make the journey as well; the thought that I am blessed to make the trek—as so many others cannot—will, I hope, keep me moving forward.

I take it as a very good sign that the people who have been most enthusiastic and the least concerned about my adventure are grandmas. It seems like they should know what’s most important in a well-lived life, and if they are thrilled for me, then so am I.

Categories: Pacific Crest Trail, Preparation | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Motivation

  1. Fantastic! Look forward to following your journey, adventure, growth! Happy hiking

  2. Tony

    “Just around the next turn. That is where the excitement starts, the place you were hoping to be… and enjoy. Just another few steps, and you’re there.” This is the gist of the encouragement I would give the boys when, as Scout Master, we set out on a long and challenging hike. You have heard these words and know that they are so true. And, young sir, I learned so much from the you as we shared hikes and adventures.

    I have not your mother’s skill at being self satisfied in one’s own company. Being the gregarious type, I have forever been chained to the companion of others. Suffice it to say, after knowing that the Spirit is a constant companion always, I have become better at being to myself.

    You, on the other hand, have inner strengths and levels of consciousness (albeit not schizophrenia but multiples of personal awareness and skill) that elude me and will suffice you on this journey. One of the levels is the always awareness of those whom you love and support you, even in your craziness.

    I sincerely hope that just a few moments are spent in reverry of “Dear Old Dad”. It would do my heart good. Pop

    • I think you speak too largely of me, father, but the thoughts and prayers are always welcome.

      You will certainly be on my mind as I hike: as my progenitor, as the model of manhood through my youth, as The Man Who Does Not Give Up that I hope to emulate, and much more.

  3. cathleen

    This is lovely, Michael.

  4. Lovely photo’s…..and I most emphatically agree with grandma’s, wise women that they are. And of course your wife may not yet be a grandmother but is already wise. Mine said to me that the only regrets I should havie in life are for the things I didn’t do. Your hike is providing yet another example for your sons of how to be an adult man. What a great family you are! I wish you all well, and I hope you begin your quest with a light heart and an even lighter pack! Happy Trails

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