a little over seven months ago, i was sitting in a library in western massachusetts and writing a blog entry that detailed the end of my 1500+ mile journey. those five months changed my life forever. :) i now think two shirts and two pairs of pants comprise a month's worth of clothing. i'm okay with eating things off the floor. pooping in the woods is sometimes preferable to using certain restrooms. i don't freak out if i forget deodorant for a day, and there have been occasions when i voluntarily brush my teeth with soap. for three months after getting out of the woods, i slept on the floor, and "within walking distance" has taken on a whole new meaning.
with the exception of a small pit stop in bristol spending time with awesome people, i basically went straight from massachusetts to mississippi and spent the holidays with my family and best friends that i grew up with. after six years, it was nice to finally wake up in my home town on christmas morning. my original goal was to only be home through the new year, and after january 1st, i began looking for a job elsewhere. i had a couple of options on the table and had applied to a few REIs in the DC area, the southeast, and out west. one afternoon in mid-january after a nice, long run, i got back in my car to head home and a call came in from a 919 area code. i answered, and i'll be damned if it wasn't an REI in north carolina, formally inviting me to an interview two weeks later. :)
suffice it to say, after driving 14 hours to north carolina for the interview, i got the job and started three weeks later. i packed whatever i could fit into my little blue scion, and not that i didn't love my life prior to the move, but God has been nothing but good to me since i got to north carolina. i LOVE working at REI... i work with the best people, i have the coolest job, and the area is so active! there's a state park ten minutes from the house that has a six-mile loop trail that swayze and i have gone hiking/running on a few times, and i've been rock climbing once, and last month a dozen or so of us took kayaks and canoes out on falls lake under a full moon around midnight. it. has. been. awesome. francois's sisters live in raleigh, so he was there the first two months or so that i was in town, so we hung out, and then reese came up from south carolina for a few nights. i've actually even run into college AND high school classmates in my store! taylor and carolyn even stopped by on their way from florida back to west virginia. :)
so basically, life is better than good: it's awesome. and tomorrow morning, it will get even better when i step foot into the woods and hike north to finish those 80 miles that i skipped last year in virginia.
i have missed the mountains and the appalachian trail oh so much. a few weeks ago, two friends and i had a couple of days off in a row so we drove up to grayson highlands and did a little over twenty miles. we got licked by "wild" ponies and we got caught in a pretty nasty golf ball-sized hail storm and we soaked our feet in ice cold streams. other than "perfect", it's hard to describe the exact feeling that comes with walking five miles into the woods, taking off your shoes, finding a nice rock to lay on, and letting the sun shine down on you while the wind tries to blow through your nappy hair.
despite working at REI, my gear hasn't changed much at all from last year. funds haven't allowed me to go completely crazy and revamp every item i own. i did buy a new headlamp yesterday, though, because i've somehow misplaced mine. so i'll be rockin' a 60-lumen petzel instead of the 50ish energizer that i picked up last year in pearisburg when i realized that 8 lumens isn't enough to night hike with. :) i did check out the new sawyer squeeze filtration system from the gear bank, so i'll be using that. it's actually an amazingly simple system, and i'm super excited about it because it was free and i won't have to clean it in the field! :)
so here's to hoping that these next 80 miles will be nothing short of wonderful. we'll hopefully be done with the trail by thursday morning, and that will leave just enough time to drive south, pick up jennifer's car, pick up a hitching hiker or two, and then head to trail days! i am SO excited about trail days this year! SO MANY DIRTY NASTY STINKY HIKER HIPPIES! i love it! and there's a weddin' a brewin' in bristol next weekend for nick & knicky, so hopefully i will be in attendance.
i mean, really. what have i done to deserve a life like this? :)