July 29th

Today I hiked from Middle Creek Campground to Bryant Ridge Shelter, a distance of 3.7 miles. I didn’t get started until fairly late today since I was enjoying the a/c and burgers at the campground. There was WiFi as well so I was able to catch up a little bit with friends, but it kept cutting out so conversation was spotty. I continue to feel increasingly homesick. I figured out today that if I keep hiking until September 15th (the earliest date I’ve set for possibly going home) I’m still looking at 47 days until I can do so, and I’m not sure that’s going to be the date yet. I definitely miss my friends and a more normal life like being bathed every day and being able to cook dinner and enjoy a quiet evening in a soft chair with a good book.

So of course it seemed appropriate to start listening to the unabridged audio book for the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. By far one of my favorite books of all time, I’ve long felt a special kinship with Bilbo, but especially so now. I know his feelings as he sits in the rain trying to find a campsite or hiking over a mountain ridge in a dreadful thunderstorm. (though fortunately I’ve not seen any stone giants tossing boulders during such storms) I’ve often regretted leaving my pipe and tobacco behind at home (I quit smoking a few months before starting my hike, trying to “get in Trail shape”)

But Bilbo grew through his journey and I have too. I’ve spoken before about the dramatic weight loss I’ve experienced, but I’ve also greatly enjoyed the chances I’ve had to read extensively, I get through about three or four books a week, thanks to a combination of audio books while hiking and reading my kindle app at the end of the day. I’ve read up on such topics as history, economics, theology and Biblical Studies, and popular science. I feel like I’ve spent more time learning than I have since I finished college years ago. It’s been an amazing experience to stretch both my body and my brain on a daily basis.

I’ve also thrived from forcing myself to write every day. I don’t always write much, but I get a few paragraphs down just about every night. (I must admit that I occasionally fall asleep before any writing can be done) I used to fantasize about being a writer when I was a kid, but I honestly never had the discipline to pursue it. While I must admit it’s a completely different practice to do so in a context where I not only have practically nothing but time on my hands as well as something genuinely interesting to write about almost every day, I feel like it’s a great first step in that direction.
All is not lost on the Trail though. I still get moments of small fascination as I come across new sights and experiences. Be it a turtle trying to cross the Trail, or a particularly large spider chilling out in a shelter, blessedly culling the local mosquitoes and biting flies population.

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