Tuesday: For the most part, I was able to relax today. I started to unpack all of my gear, and I realized for the first time, just how bad everything smelled. I could not smell it when I was on the trail, but after my nose adjusted to an environment where most everyone takes a shower once a day, the smell was quite obvious.
At 5:40 pm, I rode my bike with my brothers to Cross Country practice; not to run, but to say hello to my coach and any of my friends who would be there working out. I hope to be able to return to practice next week, after my feet have had some time to recover. At around mile 2,000 on the trail, my feet were pretty much done. From that point on, at the end of each hiking day, I would have to set up camp as soon as I arrived, before I took off my shoes. Once I removed my shoes, I would not be able walk more than 30 feet, they hurt that bad.
Thursday: The plan for the day was to start getting ready for the big party on Saturday, the Great AT Celebration. So, in the morning, I started raking leaves and cleaning branches left over from the storm. My grandparents live two doors down from us, which is fantastic. My grandpa (we call him Papa) came down to my house and asked if I could help him at my Dad's office building (which they own). They had some rain damage from Hurricane Harvey. The rain was blowing so hard that it penetrated through the wall on the north side of the building. They needed someone to remove the damaged drywall and wet insulation so that it could dry out. It was my first time going into the new office, and while it was not quite the way I envisioned returning to work; it was great to see everyone again. The remolded office was extremely nice. What was not nice, was wet insulation. It turned out to be a bigger job than we were expecting. Everything was going great until Papa's shopvac stopped working. We made plans to come back tomorrow and clean up the mess we made. The rest of the day was spent working at the house.
Friday: I woke up around 5:10 am so I could get a shower before going to a Men's Bible Study at my church. We wanted to fill up with gas before the bible study, but as a result of the panic after the hurricane, the only gas station that had gasoline already had a sizable line - too long to stop. In the bible study, we were studying Genesis 2. After the bible study, my dad dropped me off back at home and I got the lawn mower and started mowing the yard. Around 10 am, I went back up to my Dad's office to finish up with the job we had begun yesterday. When we got started, we found out that the job was a lot bigger, as there were more areas that needed work. We finished, and in the process filled the entire dumpster that had just been emptied that morning. Back at home, my brother's and I got to work in the house. My Dad came home early and we then started working on our yard again and mowing the neighbor's yards too as we were planning on celebrating around the entire culd-e-sac. Around 7:30 pm we started to hang lights and we continued working until it was too dark to see.
Saturday: The Day of Celebration! We started by picking up the troop trailer. Troop 505 (my boy scout troop), let us borrow some tables and water coolers. Once we got back home we continued the job of cleaning up the cul-de-sac. We started roasting the pig at 11:45 am. My dad got a keg of beer for the party and Mr. Becher also donated a keg, so we had 2 kegs. Also we had a port-a-potty rented which was dropped off. We keep working hard until 3:30 pm, when we took a break to wash up. At 5:30, one of my friends from scouts - Robert Wittmeyer, showed up with a deep fryer to make funnel cakes for the party. The Great AT Celebration started at 6:30 pm and it was a blast. We had around 150 people come out to celebrate. This included friends from church, my Pastors and their families, scouts from my Troop, my coach and friends from running, coworkers from Pi Architects, neighbors and others who had been following my blog. I spent most of the time greeting everyone and saying hello again after being gone for so long. Before the band started, I introduced my trail companions. We were all together tonight for the first time since before the expedition began. This included my sister Kate, Plant (David Goeller), Gas Tank (Riley Zoch), his wife and my sister Bonnie, and my brother Max. Of course, my brother Jonathan and my Dad, who had joined us on the final day to climb Mt. Katahdin, were also both at the celebration. I shared some stories from the trail, including one about my hardest day, see blog day 82. Then the band started playing. The band was great! Their name is Steel Betty and they played a combination of bluegrass and folk music which was perfect music for the Appalachian Trail. I got a chance to get some food and sit for a few minutes. While they were playing, we had a slide show telling the story of our adventure. It was a 17 minute show that my sister Kate put together showing pictures from each day on the trail. Around 9:15 people started to head home, and by 9:40 most of everyone said their good-byes. There were a few groups of our friends who stayed late to visit. Even the band hung out until the end. Then they all helped pick up everything and put it all away.
The Great AT Celebration was a fitting end to such an incredible adventure; one that I will remember for the rest of my life. I would like to thank everyone who followed along and gave your support. Without your support, prayers, and words of encouragement, I doubt that I would have finished. It has been the most amazing summer of my life so far. I will miss the trail, but I am glad to be home. I would do it over again in a heartbeat.
P.S. I will keep the web site up until next summer. Look for an article about my adventures in the November/December issue of Eagle's Call Magazine. Thanks again, good bye for now. Happy Trails to You...