July 7. I could finally sleep in a bit in a nice hotel bed! We did not have time to resupply yesterday so we had some town work to do today and we didn’t plan to hit the trail too early. It was nice to have clean clothes…I hadn’t washed my clothes since Killington, Vermont and my shorts hadn’t been washed since Bennington, Vermont! We got moving…kinda. My feet hurt incredibly bad. Every step felt like standing on marbels, my legs were sore, I thought about taking a zero day (not hiking), but we both wanted to make at least a few miles! We walked down to the McDonald’s for breakfast. We sat and ate and Rafiki headed down to the post office to pick up his resupply. I sat at McDonld’s and waited and talked with a few locals about the trail. By 11:00 AM we were still there and as we walked back to the hotel we discussed just taking a zero day. We still had to get to Wal-Mart for my resupply and there was a chance of rain. If we hiked out in the afternoon we would probably only make it 10 miles or so…we could instead stay another night and get an early start in the morning. We got back to the hotel and noticed there was a hot tub…sold…a zero day it would be! We got a ride to Wal-Mart from a Southbound hiker. He was with his brother who had to take a few days off from an injury so he rented a car and was driving hikers all over town. At Wal-Mart I bought food and seriously considered buying an MP3 player but none would take a mini-SD card and I didn’t have any way to uplaod music…so I settled for headphones that I could use with my phone if needed. I will be looking forward to getting home and having a chance to listen to music for real! We stopped by Subway and the outfitter and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon to relax. I picked up a six pack of local brew and took a plastic patio chair out to the grass by the road and watched the world speed by. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon so groups of motorcycles cruised by, people were out riding bikes, and lots of cars with kayaks and canoes on the roof racks passed by headed to the river. Everyone was out enjoying the fantastic weather (while the rest of the country was having a deadly heat wave) and it made me slow down and think a little more about this trek. I have been pushing hard since Pennsylvania, and enjoying everything, but today I had my first zero since Amy came to visit and it gave me some chance to think. I am less than 2 weeks from the end, less than 300 miles from Kathadin. No, I don’t want to slow down, but yes, I will enjoy every grueling step. I watched everyone pass by, enjoying a Saturday afternoon, and remembered, I am living the dream! Countless times along this walk I have heard people say they wish they could be in my shoes…and countless times while climbing up 4,000 foot mountains, with a 30 lb pack, in the rain, cold, and snow…I have wished to be in their shoes…at home, warm, dry, and comfortable. I have spent 4 months living in the elements…if it was hot, I was hot…if it rained, I was wet…cold, I was shivering. I have had to carry my own food, I have had to search for water, I have had to endure blood, sweat, and pain. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel like I am living the dream, everyone’s dream! The dream to do something crazy, something no one thinks you can do, something no one thinks they can do. But why not? Just go do it! Early on in the trail I had a thought that I have reminded myself when things are not going well, a quote that I want to live by now and after the AT…”Dream BIG, and go get it!” Growing up I never would have imagined I would walk from Georgia to Maine, and here I am now 15 miles from the Maine state line. We all live once, and life is short. You may not be inclined to hike the AT, but I think it is in all of us to do something crazy…to start a new job, move, or pick up a hobby…to change things up, to try something different to see what it is like. Life should be lived…not just endured. For me, I like to push my limits. While most other northbounders are slowing down now to enjoy the last few hundred miles I am pushing hard. Maybe it is from cross country and track in high school…always finish strong, but that is what I want to do. I have surprised myself with the miles I have been able to pull since PA…and I don’t want to slow down, not because I don’t like hiking, but because I like to test myself. How will we ever know our limits unless we test them? How do you know what you can or can’t do unless you try? This is probably my last zero day before the end of the AT…but I am not sad…the AT is not the end of this adventure called life. After this I have plan to go after bigger dreams and goals. Everyone else around me is giving me a hard time for pushing so hard to the finish and not slowing down to “enjoy” it. Yes, I am sure the AT will be a big part of my past, but I don’t think I will regret finishing strong. I can remember the last semester of college, my buddy Justin Bates and I talked constantly about wanting to get out of school and into the real world to start a business and get going. We enjoyed every last minute of college, but we were looking forward to the next adventure. That is how I feel about the AT…it will be over soon, but I am not slowing down to try to make it last, or prolong the change. I am staying focused and pressing on, enjoying every experience I have, but knowing there will be more to my life than just the AT. I have heard so many NoBo’s say they have nothing to go back to, no reason to finish soon…I am thankful that I am looking forward to my “normal”, post AT life. I have a wife I love, a dog I miss, a lifestyle I am blessed with, and goals I want to achieve. I am just as excited for my life post-AT as I was for my life post-college. For now though, I am living the dream, hiking in the woods for the next two weeks, and I am going to live it up! And when this is done, and I head home to “real life”, I am going to live that dream too! I can already say doing the AT has been one of the best decisions of my life. I was comfortable…comfortable with my job, my town, my lifestyle…and the more I think about it, the more “comfortable” sounds dangerous to an adventerous lifestyle that goes after all that life has to offer. I didn’t know if I could make it from Georgia to Maine, I didn’t know if I could be away from Amy for 4 months, I didn’t know what would happen, but we tried it and we are about to succeed! It makes me step back and wonder what else in life seems to be just out of reach that I could actually accomplish…that for me is what is dangerous about comfortable. It doesn’t have to be about success, money, or luxery items…but if you think something is out of reach and you don’t go after it because you are comfortable, is that really living life to the fullest? I am going to live with no regrets, live life to the fullest, dream big and go get it, and live life every day…for the next 2 weeks, and beyond! Tonight is another night to relax, tomorrow it is back to the Appalachian Trail!