We older guys are the ones who should set examples and inspire young whipper snappers like you. Now look at you, a young guy who turns 26 today, inspiring an old cuss like me.
You know how it is. You do one thing. Then you set your sights on the next thing. Some of us live this way because we know no other. And we know we’ll never know how much we can do until we try something that’s more.
Just a few days after returning from camino in 2015, my wife told me about a local guy who recently through hiked the Appalachian Trail in 99 days. She’d seen him on the news.
“No, you’ve got your facts all wrong. You missed something somewhere,” I told her. “Nobody through hikes the Appalachian Trail in 99 days. It takes about twice that long. It’s nearly 2,200 miles for crying out loud.”
A few days later we walk into the Gearhead outlet and she whispers, “I’m pretty sure that’s him. The AT guy. You ought to go over and talk to him.” So I did.
“You didn’t really through hike the AT in 99 days did you?” I asked, confident in my own recent 40-day trek over 500 miles.
“Yes, sir. It was quite an experience. I had some of the greatest days and some of the lowest days of my life out there, but I made it,” you said.
No wonder they trail named you “Mission.” My goodness gracious. Sakes alive.
What a pleasure to meet you, Jackson. In fact, what an honor. I can barely imagine your glorious achievement atop Mount Katahdin. The really cool thing is that no one else possibly could imagine it. It’s between you and the trail. Some of the most special things in life are so special, they are meant to stay between you and God. Just the two of you.
I’m hopeful to walk that footpath on my own some day. If it happens, I’ll remember many things you shared with me that day. I’m so proud of your achievement and will cheer you on in your next adventure.
Thank you for helping me keep the dream alive. It’s like breath in my lungs.
Happy birthday, young sir.
With much respect,
Steve “High Roller” Watkins, AT dreamer