Is it ‘eckers like

Born and raised in Yorkshire a little over 40 years ago, I was graced with a sibling shortly thereafter — a brother — his name is Andrew. As young lads we were inseparable; after school we’d play in our back garden, whether it be just running lengths of the lawn to a stopwatch, or a simple game of one-on-one footy (soccer to my Stateside brethren).

As we grew in age, we started our own mini journeys of self discovery and diverged into our separate clicks of close friends over time. Being three and a half years older than Andrew, we barely saw one another through high school; I’d be about to graduate as soon as he was finishing his first year. Our footy games tapered off and we stopped running timed lengths of the back yard.

Looking back on our years at home, and unbeknownst to me at the time, we were growing apart. It didn’t hurt much back then.  As each year speeds onwards while I’m enjoying my new life in the U.S., I miss him. It hurts nowadays, though.

I sit here on a Virgin Atlantic flight to Heathrow Airport with excitement coursing through me. Andrew has no idea that I’m “coming home”, no clue that one of the reasons I’m taking this trip is to tell him, my dear brother, how much I miss him. He’s grown so much since we ran the up ‘n down track in the back garden all those years ago. Now a devoted father and husband, I’m very proud of him. I want to sit him down and tell him all about the Appalachian Trail and my impending journey this March, and what it means to me to be partaking. I don’t think he understands, and that’s ok. When I broke the news to him some three weeks ago he tried to talk me out of it; the only person to have done so thus far. And the days since that phone call I have started to understand why: his love for me and our brotherhood is as strong as it was when we were kids.

We have a saying from my neck of the woods: “‘Eckers”. It’s northern slang for the word “heck”. Like the exclamation, “Heck, what was that?!”

As our plane descends into UK airspace I can’t stop thinking about Andrew, how he’s going to react when he sees me — it’s been quite a while — and I wonder if I’m daft to burden myself with the question, “does he miss me, too?”

Is it daft? Is it ‘eckers like.

The trials

There are many physical obstacles ahead of me; mountains, fatigue, storms, hunger, rattle snakes, and bears. But nothing can measure up to the emotional pressure of being on my own for the better part of half a year.

I picked up a copy of Appalachian Trials by Zach “The Good Badger” Davis recently, and his journey was one of both immense physical turpitude, and a test of his mental and emotional fortitude; a journey that hits home the most with each turn of the page. In the sea of AT books on the market — and of the ones I have read — Zach’s account is by far the hardest hitting.

I’m certain that I will face my own trials once I am knee deep into this journey, but it’s humbling to realize that I am experiencing these tough pre-Springer trials already. Making this decision and living with myself as a result, is a real test of the strength of the life I’m about to leave behind in the name of finding a better me.

My trials have already begun.