The path of my research into the mysteries of walking is littered with hundreds of books on vitality. It seems that the pursuit of health aims at longevity, and ultimately at immortality. Likewise, pursuing knowledge eventually leads to wisdom and perhaps even enlightenment.

I am grateful for the research and insight of many authors who have taught me valuable lessons. However, do those books benefit me much more than walking for an hour daily?

You gain enlightenment for what?

To put it aside quickly as possible, in order to sharpen your mind for the challenge before you.

A hiking journal can only tell you to find nourishment in rays of light, drink from pure mountain springs, and breathe invigorating clean air. These words tell you that ordinary people have increased my faith in the human spirit, and that the future depends on the character of our people.

The long walk let me taste a drop of the eternal. But the daily grind of “real life” makes that experience seem distant. I have stayed indoors in order to describe the outdoors, and feel like a pocket turned “inside out.”

Every now and then a jotting on scrap paper makes me smile. One of them reads, “The first hundred years are the hardest.” Another says, “Your petition for enlightenment and immortality has been indefinitely postponed.”



A home is what you return to. Otherwise it’s just a house. A house can be empty. You must have a starting point in order to return home. A home is lived in, has familiar comforts, associations, and emotions. A home has spirit. Life can grow in a healthy home. On the trail, home is a temporary shelter, or that secret place which holds your memories.

For a plant, home is favorable soil. For a bird, it’s a nest. For a boat, it’s a safe haven. Otherwise you have only rocks, twigs, or puddles to return to. Make your own definition of home, and keep it in your heart. Then if you are displaced, neither rocks, nor twigs, nor water can wear your place down.



7. Star Bright

The inspiration for my distance hiking centered on gaining the health and vitality to lead a long, productive life. The inspiration answered a secret wish deep within, and it provided the drive to endure discomfort of all kinds.

I thought I was done when I finished thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Yet the “idea” wasn’t done with me. Time and again, I returned to the trail and to roads in order to wrap up unfinished business. At times the “idea” became an elusive quest for enlightenment and immortality. On the last day of my last hike I went 50 miles, my symbol for longevity. Finally I was done, or so it seemed.

Once again, the “idea” had not finished with me. The persistent challenge to compile the data of the hikes and reflect on their outcome was hardly what I wanted to face. I can only hope that there will be an unforeseen benefit. The challenge has been, like the mountain of rice in my childhood, too much to stomach.

The walk grew beyond my expectations into a bigger “idea” than my own. One strand of the bigger story tells of a father’s love for his stricken daughter and how her prayers were answered. The story arc of this strand crosses above the steps of my walk like a rainbow.

The “idea,” after all, is weightless, radiant “light.”

[12-page concluding chapter]