Well, it has been a very long/short year hiking the Smokies and I simply could not have done it without the help of my hiking friends. Thanks to you all, my goal is met, every trail except one is done, the Old Sugarlands Trail, and those steps will be taken tomorrow, Saturday, April 11.
Here is the speech I would make if you were all there that day:
We have seen sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls, lots of animal poop, bees and bears, deer and elk, rain, fog and lots of sunshine, spring and summer's flowers and winter's icicles and frosty breath, sweltering days and hot nights with no showers. We have slept in campsites, cabins, shelters and hotel rooms (and one abandoned house). We have crossed dry creek beds and raging rivers (except one). We have lost cameras and hiking poles and occasionally our minds.
We have eaten energy bars, ramen noodles and pizza, drunk a lot of water and the occasional flavored libation that goes along with backpacking. We have hiked loops and driven shuttles, made plans and changed them. We have been energetic in the morning and worn out at the end of the day.
Each and every hike has been special to me. Your encouragement, good thoughts, flexibility, advice and footsteps alongside me have supported me through the miles and made this journey a highlight of my life. My wish for you is to experience the joy that you have helped make possible for me. "Thank you" seems inadequate, but I do thank you very sincerely.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. ~Edward Abbey (1927-1989)