Join Big John Willson on a beautiful reflection of perseverance, purpose, and achievement.
I had a top ten experience the summer of 2000, one of those amazing opportunities that leaves you breathless, invigorated, and rejuvenated. I had the very good fortune to summit Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in Maine this summer with a wonderful group of students. The day began at 6:30 am as we rolled out of our tents into a world filled with clouds, mist, a spattering of rain, dashing our hopes of a beautiful summit day. At nearly sea level we had over 5,000 feet of elevation to gain before reaching the summit. As we embarked on this tremendous journey, the sun came out and filled our morning with spectacular terrain, lush mountain foliage, and breathtaking vistas. We worked hard as we ascended upward with each step, and by mid morning felt we were making excellent progress. Approximately 12:00 noon we summitted and to our dismay realized it was not the peak of Katahdin. We had not yet traversed the ridge named “The Knife’s Edge”. We debated the merits of continuing onward and upward, or having reached a respectable goal, descending the mountain. A vote of 4 to 7, and we forged ahead toward the elusive summit.
Immediately we realized “The Knife’s Edge” was an entirely different beast. This daunting and intimidating ridgeline spans 2.5 miles of rocky outcroppings, and requires climbing moves to complete a successful traverse. This band of adventurers continued to advance on the precious goal of the summit. The weather changed bringing mist, rain, and its very good friend wind. Howling, knock you down and laugh at you wind turned this day hike into an epic journey of humans testing their spirit and will, and finding the courage and strength to realize their goals. “It must be soon now” I said, “Surely we are almost there.” Our bodies reminding us that we are not mountaineers, screaming to stop, to rest, to abandon this assault on our abilities. Then at 2:30 pm suddenly, through the mist and clouds, our goal was there staring at us. We had climbed to the top and we were courageous and proud, and most amazingly triumphant.
We had overcome fear, self-doubt, and a daunting physical barrier to achieve our goal. We stayed together supported one another, and would not be deterred. I am still so proud of my summit team Drew, Max, Ryan, Andy, Joey, Eric, Jeff, Andrew, Mike, and Mark. Thank you for reminding me why it is so important to live purposefully.