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Letter to an Appalachian Trail Hiker by Amiththan Sebarajah

Dear friend,

I can only imagine some of the feelings you must be feeling. And all those questions: Is my pack light enough? Boots or trail runners? Will it rain in Maine? Will I get sick of ramen?  Are two pairs of underwear too many?

Will I make it?  

I can offer you a story.  Maybe it will give those butterflies in your belly something to land on.

The first time I went for a big hike on the Appalachian trail, my gear wasn’t even an afterthought.  I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know.  Yet I knew the pull—that nameless one, the one that took me thousands of trail miles to cultivate and recognize.  It’s what you feel when you see an apple pie cooling off on the kitchen counter.  It’s not necessarily the delight that it promises, but that it evokes something far more profound, like the homesickness for a place that you feel in the settled hush when you close your eyes and take deep, deliberate breath.

The Welsh have a word for this: Hiraeth.  Sometimes it’s a longing for a place. Other times it’s an empty chair and a full plate you set aside at the feast for someone you miss.

Mine was for something I didn’t yet know.

It happened this way.  

Continue reading the full letter here.


March 5, 2024

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Ben Kirkland

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