Last week was a great week. I reunited with my parents, brother, sister, and brother-to-be. Parties and meals and heart-to-heart conversations all affirming how blessed I am.
On Valentine’s Day I spontaneously trekked to Signal Mountain in southern Tennessee with my brother and his roommate. The hilarity of three dudes doing dude-things in the mountains on a day devoted to romantic bliss combined with Mother Nature’s sweet allure made it a good day. A glad day.
But my Valentine’s Day was a glad day that was also a sad day. It was a glad day that was a sad day reminding me my year-long, cross-continent quest is fast concluding.
At first, we were just going to admire the view; Signal Point Park gives you a gorgeous look of Chattanooga and the valley below. I can only imagine the same view at autumn as quilted trees of red and orange drape down either side of the hazel river splitting this chasm.
But as all adventures go, there must be something else beyond the bend. An overlook leads to a sign leads to a trail of marked trees and wooden/earthy stairs and climbable boulders.
My brother donning a pea coat and myself a pair of Converses, we unwittingly hiked a mile to a waterfall overlook, stopping along the way for epic pictures and following a freshly graffiti-laden trail of love that ended in unexpected tragedy.
We reached the overlook and admired the falls from a wind-sparred distance on the opposite side of this Tennessean trench. We were just hitting our stride. The falls seemed far, but oh so close.
We continued our quest, my brother trumpeting The Lord of the Rings’ battle cry as we meddled deeper into Middle Earth. Eventually, however, we turned back upon realizing the falls were quite a deal farther than first projected.
That Valentine’s Day in the wild evoked many sweet memories with Mother Nature. I remembered the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake and the Badlands of yestermonth. Yesteryear.
My gosh, have I been wandering for nearly a year? Has it really been that long? Am I really three time zones away and fifty degrees cooler from where I started?
It all seems a bit hazy now.
Hiking at Signal Point proved a pivotal signal for my journey. The sun is setting. The long winding staircase of my #RunningTo adventure is very really absolutely soon reaching the final step down.
“There are two types of people in this world,” I wrote in Struggle Central. “Those who climb hills and those who don’t.”
I’m glad I chose to climb hills across the continent nearly nine months ago. It’s been the greatest epic of my life, and I wouldn’t sacrifice a single moment. The lovely and the lonely.
But every journey must end. The hobbit flees the Shire for perilous ledges and encounters dozens of characters along the way. He meets them, and they meet him, and nobody is ever quite the same for having crossed paths.
I know I will never be the same when #RunningTo runs out. I’m already not the same. Without the routine of rent checks and resumes and relationships that don’t rotate week-to-week, I don’t entirely know who I am anymore.
I don’t entirely know who I am anymore, but I know I’m a vastly different version of the Tom that left California last May. The places and people I’ve encountered on this 25,000-mile course have forever altered my existence.
Soon, I’ll be back in some sort of “normal” life and start the messy process of figuring out who I am again. Until then, I’m going to sit here and stare a while.
I’m going to admire the view while the sun is still up and I still have this sacred moment.