The journey of a million dreams begins with a simple wish (Pt. 1)

This is the first installment of a three part series documenting a recent hike I took along the Appalachian Trail. It was a simple three hour trek that reacquainted me with the Zen of simple moments. 

I was getting close.

The main square of Bethel, Pennsylvania lies at the foot of the Blue Mountain range. If you speed when passing through the town, you’re already somewhere else. I made a left hand turn and lost it in my rear view as I began my ascent. I would be hiking at an elevation that snakes up to a peak of just over 1,400 feet- modest stuff for the Trail when you consider the Great Smoky Mountains reach almost five times that height. Still, when you drive up to the 501 Shelter, you understand this isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Your ears pop and you experience a few white knuckle moments when you peer out through the clearings; naturally hewn apertures of rolling valleys that look as if they were painted by Cezanne from his seat on the moon. My eyes feasted on the sights as if a little boy peering out from the missing pickets of a fence. The scale of it pinched at my nervous system and made my insides squeal.

There are 2,179 miles worth of trek along the Appalachian Trail. Each step a possibility, each yard a different challenge, each mile a humbling truth. I have hiked it scores of times, from different places and heights; in all kinds of weather and with every single one of my prevailing thoughts being the same: If the world ends now, I’m good.

After parking, I walked across the two lane road and navigated a gradual slope that served as a barrier; protecting the ancient silence from the hum of everyday living. I stood inside the quiet and I let the surroundings drink me in. I proceeded through my checklist- two sets of gloves, a couple packs of hand and feet warmers and my cap. The air was damp and chilly and the forecast was calling for a chance of rain, so everything I packed and wore was waterproof- it’s my inner Boy Scout that comes out to play, even on simple hikes such as this one.

There were several inches of snow on the ground and my footsteps spoke a foreign language as a result of this. The accent of this delightful sounding language would change according to the specific trudge- an elongated grunt through the deep plunges, a whimsical snort on the quick trespasses. I had miles to go, and a smile on my face as my breath formed miniature cumulus clouds when it collided with the densely packed winter air.

Jack Kerouac believed the mountains to be timeless fascinations, what with all the patience that was tucked inside their belly. Hundreds of thousands of years worth of sitting there, watching the world grow up. This is why a good hike in the mountains will provide you with an education.

As an earnest pupil, I would abide.


83 thoughts on “The journey of a million dreams begins with a simple wish (Pt. 1)”

      1. No kidding!
        That’s alright, bold women rock!

        As for the post, I did this hike a few weeks ago and scratched out some notes in draft. It was my first hike of the winter and I almost didn’t even get this one in! But I’m glad I did.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. That we do 😎

        We definitely do not have the ideal temps here to do such a hike – Well, one could if one put crampons on one’s boots and brought more than 2 sets of hot pocket warmers and layers and layers of clothes… I even wonder where there are passable trails, come to think of it…

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Whoa Canada!

        You peeps are the legit wilderness! It’s interesting to see the differences in our hiking exploits. I have to drive some in order to get to a place where I ain’t hiking near any Wal Marts. You probably have to drive some in order to get to passable trails.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hah!

        There is a nice little place about 20 minutes from my house. I used to go Nordic Walking (using poles) there… I haven’t been in years.
        Maybe you’ve given me the kick in the are to go out there! No altitude per se but a nice provincial park nonetheless.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. It’s probably majestic as all get out and you’re like “Whatevs” . . . lol.

        And are you speaking of cross country skiing? Because if you are speaking of that particular activity, I prefer to call it the “Activity Which Cannot Be Named:”

        As you can tell, I had an unfortunate experience with it . . .

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Nah. Not this little Mount Bruno. It’s puny.

        And oh hell no. I said Nordic WALKING, not skiing! It’s more of a work out as you use the poles as you would when cross-country skiing but you are hiking instead.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Okay good. Because my experience with cross country skiing happened in Vermont, some time ago. I was the cocky ‘athlete’ (hah) who sniveled at something that I called “too easy”. After which I experienced intense wildfires in my nether regions, lol. It’s a really, really challenging sport.
        As for poles, I dig it! I use a hiking stick when I attempt certain trails. I’m looking to do an all day hike this summer.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. And speaking of Americanizing stuff . . our US team women FINALLY broke through and beat Canada, after so many tries. That’s huge news here in the states. The Canadian women have been the gold standard- no pun intended- forever!

        Liked by 2 people

      9. NO comment… I went out with a girlfriend last night and she is still weeping… ok… not weeping, just bummed. But for once, we are ahead of you in the medal standings… major achievement this time!

        Liked by 2 people

      10. I hear ya. Trust me… Mind you, I didn’t watch the game, Linda said we deserved to lose… though it did go all the way to a shoot-out.

        Liked by 2 people

      11. That’s how good the Canadian women are, they STILL almost won it! Amazing . .
        And this is to say nothing of the men’s curling team beating Canada to make it to the gold medal round! Although, truth be told, Americans have embraced this Olympic event as their “trend of the week” pick. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of curling. Even if I still have no blessed idea what is going on at times . . .

        Liked by 2 people

      12. You know… way back a few Olympics ago, Mick and I ended up watching curling and getting into it. I still enjoy watching it today. I kinda sorta know what’s going on and, from what friends who have tried it have told me, it ain’t as easy as it looks!
        Yeah… can’t believe we lost to you guys there too…. sigh.

        Liked by 2 people

      13. i’m starting to meet fellow bloggers and think it would be cool to do so IRL. so far none from here though! if visiting let me know! lived in Philly for a semester, i liked it mostly. outside town is very pretty when not the rust belt or -20! have a good night. off to my yoga.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The Zen of simple moments… I like that.

    This past weekend I spent a couple of days with my 20-year-old son. We went for a six mile hike. We had talked about doing this for months — not the specific hike, but just coming up and spending a day or two with him and throwing in the hike. He asked me several times if the hike we did was what I had in mind. I kept telling him it was great. The only thing that mattered that I was out in the world, on a hike, and we were spending time together. yes, the Zen of simple moments. Exactly.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Trails like that can provide a moment of true clarity as well as a peacefulness in the heart. If you’re ever out west looking for the perfect sammie, I’ll get you enrolled in the 14’er club (14,000 ft. mountain trails and vistas you will not believe). Those trails have the ability to touch the soul.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is awesome!!!! The only thing that eats at me, is that I want to read the other parts immediately!

    This is a great piece of prose! I really enjoyed it.

    Read it while sat in a quiet pub as the rain fell steadily outside – a perfect way to sink into an afternoon!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m glad you are taking us along, Marc. Your descriptions are to die for. Can’t wait to continue. PS: When you going to tie this blog to twitter so I can tweet with your handle instead of WP. I could just write @CaymanThorn on my tweets but don’t know if that is what you would like.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have been on short segments of AT, most notably the Presidential Range of New Hampshire. There continues a longing to through hike this, the PCT and the CDT- sometime in my 70’s, with life not getting in the way. The dream is worth it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I liked this post without reading. Got back to it. Glad I did. “If the world ends now, I’m good.” I feel that way about bicycling often. Walking daily, and twice while in the woods for a few weeks with a dog, has been a revelation. Need a car to get out of the city, though. Or maybe bike-hike-bike. Sounds tiring. Anyway, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Working on it. This weekend was good, I did more miles than I had in a while. The big hills and scary road were actually almost easy for me. So alot of it is mind over matter. But I do have to take care of diet, supplements, rest (my worst habit which blogging is not helping is not sleeping enough!). We do our best and inspire each other I hope. There’s a hiker named Bel out there.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I waited until this morning to read all three. Thank you for your gift. What bliss. “I have hiked it scores of times, from different places and heights; in all kinds of weather and with every single one of my prevailing thoughts being the same: If the world ends now, I’m good”.

    Liked by 1 person

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