Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blazing a Trail

For the past two weeks much of my time off the desk at work has been spent learning about and designing a program telling the story of the Appalachian Trail. It is really quite a fascinating story and quite a fascinating trail. Did you know, for example, that the 2178.3 miles of the trail not only pass through 14 states, but also involve a total gain in elevation of 471,151 feet? To put that in perspective, that would be like spending five months climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest from sea level 16 consecutive times. Sounds fun huh?  I would love to hike the entirety of the trail someday, but for now am contenting myself with reading about the accomplishments of others and hiking bits of the trail here in Shenandoah.

Just last night I hiked another mile of it as I descended to one of the park's many waterfalls. Hiking the trails here in general is always inspiring, but there is something about that particular trail that places it in a different league. It is a great way to feel part of something bigger than yourself and that is never a bad lesson to remember! It is this feeling that inspired me to use the AT as the centerpoint of the program I am designing. I don't get to do much interpretation here in Shenadoah, so I want to maximize this opportunity! It is just a simple talk given on the terrace of the Visitor Center, but why not make it something more and leave people with something more valuable than information itself?

Life is indeed a precious gift and the celebration of life continues to call to us. As you may have noticed, the world failed to end last Saturday when it was scheduled to do so. Apparently now the date has been revised to October 21. It was rather convenient that it didn't end at 6:00 Saturday evening as that was right in the middle of my friend Wes' wedding, which Alison and I traveled to Kansas City to attend. Instead of the world ending we were blessed with the opportunity to see two individuals join together as one, something we ourselves will be doing in 232 days in case you are not counting down yourself!

When we returned to the house in which we were staying following the wedding we soon found ourselves hiding in the basement in fear of a tornado headed in our direction. Thankfully the tornado did not strike that particular house, but it came pretty close. The next day, after a visit to the Truman Library and some very tasty barbeque we arrived at the airport only to find that our plane was delayed, resulting in us missing our connection in Minneapolis where we would have been stranded had we not been rescued by old friends who lived in the area whom I had not seen in 13 years.  Though delayed until the following morning we still made it back to DC in time to drive out to a pretty amazing ropes course by the name of "Go Ape" in Rockville, MD where we spent more than two hours traversing various suspension bridges, swinging on tarzan ropes, and sliding down ziplines.

It was a splendid celebration of both my birthday and the manner in which our lives have become so intimately connected to each other.   It is sometimes nothing short of amazing how the interweavings of the web of life come together to form new and interesting patterns. As Alison and I continue to look forward to our own wedding and the beginning of our own new life together we find ourselves not out on our own, blazing a new trail through unknown wilderness, but instead walking a path that has been trod by others if we have the eyes to see the blazes marking the way. It is all too easy to find oneself lost in the forest of life, cut off from seeing the path ahead. In such moments the blazes of those who have walked the trail before us can provide the guidance we need to reach our destination.

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