I hadn't been able to put my finger on the answer before, no matter how hard I thought about it and how hard I tried.
The answer to the question asked of me on the Trail, by hikers, non-hikers, and by my own self:
"Why are you out here? Why are you doing this?"
I was watching the TV broadcast of the Ironman World Championship in Kona (it was on NBC last Saturday.) A participant who was a Navy Seal said, "You do this to test your soul."
To test your soul. That's the answer I've been looking for.
The great Christian writer Oswald Chambers said, "The author who benefits you most is not the one who teaches you something you did not know, but who puts into words what you have been struggling dumbly to express."
It's not the answer to why I run marathons or why I do triathlons, even the two Ironman triathlons I've completed. Those are physical tests. I guess my spirit is challenged to go through with marathon or Ironman training, but the events themselves don't test my soul.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail did. And I found I wasn't up to it. I have to develop some more before I can undertake that soul-test again. I have to develop and mature and change in a number of areas before I'll be ready. I thought I was ready. I guess I was ready to start.... just not ready to keep on.
Partly it was my body. My body was ready to start but not to continue past 1,000 miles.
But it was also my soul. Part of my soul is still out there, with my friends who are now in New York.
My AT hike is still a work in progress. So am I.