The Trail was conceived in vast devotion. It twists over rocks, through streams, and across mountains that have held the sky for millennia. The Trail is lovingly maintained by the sweat and blood of a legion of volunteers who do the work selflessly and without remuneration. The stones of the Trail are as old as Earth, and the trees have witnessed the slow advance of thousands of mere people.
So how can I honor the Trail?
I can try to take each day as it comes, and only as it comes. I can make general plans for the next three days, but then concentrate on accepting the Trail as it is, just at that single instant, at the birth of each new footstep. The Trail will present great difficulties; if I try to fight them, it won’t be the Trail that’s battered. The Trail always wins. If I relax and accept the Trail for what it is, I don’t win—but the Trail and I move together. I am permitted to float for a time on its river.
I can try not to complain. Everybody hurts. The Trail has been described as six months of pain management. I guarantee that if I’m at a shelter or a hostel and I’m hurting, there’s somebody at that shelter or hostel who’s hurting worse. I can honor the Trail with trail magic. The Trail, after all, is a moving city of fellow journeyers.
I can honor the Trail by not cursing the stubbed toes, the torn shoelaces, the leaky shoes, the snow. Instead, I can express my deep gratitude to have the opportunity to walk the Trail for as long as I’m privileged to do so, be it three days or three months or all the way to Katahdin. I have a choice between “F–k you, trail” and “Thank you, trail.”
I can treat the Trail with respect by leaving my camping areas clean and welcoming for the hikers who come after. I can diligently practice Leave No Trace.
I can smile.
Thank you, Trail.