On being a newbie:
In 2014, we all had our first experience with long-distance hiking. I took the kids, then 8 and 10, to Maine because we had some time to kill that summer. I said, “We can go a day or two, until you get tired.” We ended up hiking all of Maine and absolutely fell in love with the A.T.
The hiking was really a shock to us, and the boys fell a lot. Maine is beautiful but slippery, rugged and wet. It’s like someone waters it before you get there every day. Every time they got back up and were ready to go. I hate to admit this, but we also ran out of food on our last day in the 100 Mile Wilderness. It was still a pretty magical day. I’ve seen grown men whine over much less.
As a leader in the Army, you try to keep your men from being in those situations, no food, wet all the time. But I was able to watch my kids in wonder that they would voluntarily put themselves through that and keep doing it. All I was really doing was following them. The experience made me proud as a vet that these two kids were that resilient at that age.
On savoring time together:
This is really why I appreciated our time on the A.T. so much. When the boys were young, I prioritized every second I could with them because my job didn’t allow me to be there all the time. On the A.T., I was able to spend quality time with them, unimpeded by normal day-to-day routine, school, chores. As a single father, that time is precious. It was only us walking place to place, and eating. Each day was a treasure for me having missed so much time when they were younger.
On valuing the natural world:
We are so homesick for the A.T. right now. I have no doubt we’ll all be back on the Trail at some point. They’re very independent boys, and it won’t surprise me if I have to let one go on their own.
But I know when they’re grown and their generation is in office and in charge, my boys will be the ones voting so that we don’t lose these lands. They appreciate all those spaces that are wild, and I know they’ll do their part to keep them that way.