The End

Well, here we are. I feel somewhat obligated in this- my final post to the blog that has chronicled my 2185 mile walk along the Appalachian Trail- to sum up my experience with pithy, poignant commentary. Unfortunately, I don’t do pithy and I suspect the insights I’ve gained apply rather narrowly to me. Nevertheless, I’m happy to share them with anyone interested.

Last stream crossing, final morning

Last stream crossing, final morning

In my case, this hike was less about the AT and the act of long distance walking than it was about taking time away to connect with something meaningful that could carry me smiling into my latter years. During the 10 months that have passed since I started (six months hiking, four months off-trail injured), I learned- in no particular order-

…that I am a more social being than I previously understood.
…to be (much!) less skeptical of human nature.
…that I value simplicity over wealth.
…the difference between southerners and mountain folk (thank you Hydro!)
…that it is liberating to look like a hippie.
…that I feel at home in small town public libraries.
…that God is great, and that freedom from religion is glorious.
…that it is grand to be unimportant, and unimportant to be grand.
…that self-created variety can be an antidote to boredom.
…that Northbound AT thru hikers never believe they are in ‘the bubble.’
…that when a path forks, the toughest looking option is almost always correct.
…that running downhill with a backpack is exhilarating enough to justify risk of injury.
…that taking a ‘gap year’ later in life should be a thing.
…that I am surrounded by magnificent people.
…that music lays bare my soul.
…that watching the news is unhealthy.
…that the profession most suited to me is Wandering.

Before I leave you with a final set of pictures and videos, I mentioned some months back when I was off the trail injured that I am compiling an audio/video scrapbook of my hike with sights and sounds of the trip. I will post an announcement soon when it is uploaded to YouTube, in case anyone is interested. It has been a tremendous pleasure to share these life-changing months with so many. I’m still undecided as to what steps I’ll take next, but hopefully I’ll spot a white blaze now and again that confirms I’m on the right path. My love and best wishes to you all and thanks again for your indulgence.

Michael- and now, forever, Max.

Ducky, Freight Train, Dirty Bird and me, three days before finishing

Ducky, Freight Train, Dirty Bird and me, four days before finishing

Back-to back, comparing packs: Freight Train's giant vs. my mini

Back-to back, comparing packs: Freight Train’s giant vs. my mini

The rain really greened things up during the final two weeks

The rain really greened things up during the final two weeks

My hike plan for the final 10 days, to which I added a day off on 4/25 to summit when Ducky and Dirty Bird could drive me to the Atlanta airport

My hike plan for the final 10 days, to which I added a day off on 4/25 to summit when Ducky and Dirty Bird could drive me to the Atlanta airport

With Mello and his dog Yello at the Top of Georgia hostel

With Mello and his dog Yello at the Top of Georgia hostel

Early morning as I was leaving the last hostel: Mountain Crossing at Neel's Gap

Early morning as I was leaving the last hostel: Mountain Crossing at Neel’s Gap

Neel's gap is the first resupply stop for Nobo hikers, 32 miles from Springer. A tree of shoes and boots above the hostel, purported to be cast offs from hikers who've already thrown in the towel

Neel’s gap, 32 miles from Springer. A tree of shoes and boots purported to be cast offs from early quitters

Blood Mountain shelter from a cliff above

Blood Mountain shelter from a cliff above

Blood Mountain, sweat and tears, feeling emotional on my second-to-last morning

Blood mountain, sweat and tears: feeling emotional on my second-to-last morning

Ice cold trail magic from a couple of former (and current) thru hikers at Unicoi Gap

Ice cold trail magic from a couple of former (and current) thru hikers at Unicoi Gap

Me on a Georgia peak, second-to-last morning

Me on a Georgia peak, second-to-last morning

Same view without me in the way

Same view without me in the way

One of the last of the 80,000+ white blazes on the AT

One of the last of the 80,000+ white blazes on the AT

Saying farewell to the trail and to my hiking buddy shadow

Bidding farewell to the trail and to my shadow companion

PTC badasses Kimchi and Storybook: their first night on the AT was my last. They fed me like a king!

2013 PTC thru-hiker badasses Kimchi and Storybook: their first night on the AT was my last. They fed me like a king!

Smiling like a man with less than a mile remaining of a 2200 mile hike

Smiling like a man with less than a mile remaining from a 2200 mile hike

Speechless, at Springer

Overwhelmed and speechless at Springer, Yello in the background

Me and Yello, photo by Mello. Best hiking dog I encountered on the trail

Me and Yello, photo by Mello. Best hiking dog I encountered on the trail

Enjoying my last trail magic apple on Springer Mountain

Enjoying my last trail magic apple on Springer Mountain

Savoring the conclusion of the hike in relax mode, shirt courtesy of Mellow

Savoring the conclusion of the hike in relax mode, shirt courtesy of Mellow

My entry in the final trail log at Springer Mountain. The cut-off quote from the bottom left: "And yet sometimes at night I dream, he's still that hairy man, shodowboxing the apocalypse, and wandering the land."

My entry in the final trail log at Springer Mountain. The cut-off quote from the bottom left: “And yet sometimes at night I dream, he’s still that hairy man, shodowboxing the apocalypse, and wandering the land.”

Back in Minnesota enjoying a Sunday waterfight: two of our brood (Jerry and Art) with me holding grandson Jack

Back in Minnesota enjoying a Sunday afternoon waterfight with two of our brood (Jerry and Art) and grandson Jack

8 thoughts on “The End

    1. max Post author

      Thanks Stevie! I thought about you and Annie a lot on the trail and was sorry I missed you guys recently when your mom was in town. Definitely looking forward to catching up again soon!

  1. Ollie G

    Congratulations, and thanks for taking the time to post pictures and thoughts so we could all follow your progress overland and otherwise. give me a call whenever you can. i cant wait to hear more about it. glad to have you back safe

  2. FastCarbon

    Excellent adventure Mike! Lots of great pictures, videos and insight that has been inspirational to follow along with. Looking forward to checking out the YouTube channel when you get that up and running.

    FastCarbon aka Mark the Data Architect now modeling down in NC.

    1. max Post author

      Mark: Thanks for following along and sorry it didn’t work out to connect with you when passing through NC- such a spectacular state in so many ways: abundant beauty, kind people, sensational music, great food and delicious beer! Looking forward to catching up again in person sometime soon. All the best for a great 2015!

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