So here’s the deal, Luke.
Daddy’s leaving on Saturday to go on a backpacking trip. Yes. Your mom knows. I told her up front, before we even got married. You know, that backpacking was my thing. See, a buddy and I hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year. One day we hope to complete the entire 2,200 miles.
Here’s the catch though. Both of us are family men and don’t like to be away from our brood for too long. So we take two short trips a year and try to knock out as many miles as possible. Last time, we hiked 18 miles on three consecutive days. That’s about average for us — 50-ish miles per trip, two short trips per year.
Even at that pace, though, this thing will still take us over two decades to complete, a patient man’s goal to be certain. Obviously quite a commitment, but commitments are good, Luke. The discipline it takes to honor them makes you a better man. And that’s part of the reason why I’m doing this.
The other part is all the lessons I learn each time I go. Here are 15 I want you to know about.
It's always hard to leave
This is exactly why my friend and I pack in so many miles per day. Becayse we want to get back as soon as possible. It’s hard to be away from y’all.
You won't always know where the trail is taking you
But leave we must if we are to complete this ambitious goal of ours. Because the trail awaits. And while it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where the trail is taking us, we have faith that it’s somewhere worthwhile. But no matter where it leads, it’s important to enjoy the unique beauty it affords. Which is sorta like life when you think about it.
The trail isn't ours
But as you walk that trail, you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to everyone. And everything. You have to share it.
The reason why kids like tents
Once you’re done sharing the trail for the day, it’s time to set up your tent. Y’all love my tent. Every time I get it out, you and the triplets, and even Alli delight in climbing inside. You know why y’all like tents so much? Same reason I do. They’re incredibly cool. They just are.
Don't invite trouble
Once we’ve finished dinner and brushed our teeth, we always hang our food. You know why? So we don’t accidentally attract hungry animals to our campsite. You don’t ever wanna invite trouble son. No matter where you are.
The cornerstone of a nutritious diet
When morning comes, it’s time to for breakfast. And while most will tell you that a good breakfast is the cornerstone of any nutritious diet, few will tell you this: that cornerstone tastes a lot better when you’re eating it before a mountain sunrise.
Each little step adds up
All those little steps we take, Luke? They add up. And if you backpack like me, before you know it, you’ll find yourself in another state. And that’s a pretty cool feeling.
Organization is key
But you’ll never get to another state unless you’re organized. You have to have a method to your madness, son.
Preparation is key, too
Plus, if you’re organized, you’ll be prepared for anything. We didn’t expect snow on the day this picture was taken. But we had our act together enough to be prepared for it. And as a result, the six inches we went on to get didn’t really affect us that much.
The trees will sometimes talk to you
You never met your Aunt Holliday. She died before you were born. Just before you were conceived, actually. You would have loved her. Anyway, I sometimes think about her while I’m hiking. Especially when it’s really, really hard. On the day this picture was taken, I’d been thinking about her for an hour or so when, out of nowhere, I see this tree that’s shaped an “h.” An “h” for Holliday. I really appreciated that tree. For letting me know I wasn’t the only one thinking about her.
The feeling from atop the mountain
All the hard work eventually pays off when you reach the summit. And I gotta tell you Luke — when you stand on top of a mountain, you feel like a total bad ass.
But the feeling is short lived. Because just as soon as you start tooting your own horn, you’ll happen upon a view like this that reminds you in the blink of an eye that this world isn’t about you. It never has been. And it never will be.
And all that perspective that backpacking lends is such a good thing. Because it helps you see things more clearly. Helps you better appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. The beauty we all take for granted. We’re so lucky to be able to witness it. Don’t you think?
Nothing's too big to be uprooted
See this, Luke? It’s a giant tree that got knocked over by a storm. Talk about perspective! It’s a wonderful reminder that NOTHING is too big to be toppled over. And a reminder, too, of just how important it is to stay grounded.
Relationships are everything
This picture was taken at the end of a trip which saw us hike 62 miles in just 95 hours. And we experienced so much in those 62 miles, just as we have in all the other miles we’ve hiked together. Because of these experiences, there’s a breadth and depth to our friendship that’s hard to come by. And that’s just it son — it doesn’t matter what the relationship is — it’ll be so much better if its a soulful one. Don’t worry if you don’t get this one just yet. I’ll be showing you exactly what I mean. I promise.