Hiking the Mountains to Sea trail has been a gift.

I am out here every day living a dream. I say that because hiking a 1,175 mile trail with two kids under the age of five who are tagging along seems more like a fantasy or delusion than an executable plan. Yet I am able to make this hike a reality as a result of my husband’s support.  While I am out walking Brew has the difficult job of watching our kids without a home base, managing the logistics for our hike, and working hard to keep additional work at bay.

I have spent my days climbing mountains, passing farmland, and enjoying the serenity that comes with hiking long trails. Brew, meanwhile, has been busy changing diapers, searching for lost pacifiers, and trying to keep mold from overtaking Gus’ sippy cup. He has done an outstanding job of making this trip educational and social for our four-year-old daughter. And as a result he has become an expert on museums, nature centers, and libraries across the state. He has also kept our baby-turned-toddler from destroying himself and everything in his wake. (When we passed through Durham, we stayed with a friend who is a pediatric surgeon and she aptly described caring for a one-year-old as “suicide watch.”)

The only problem is that Brew hasn’t enjoyed it.

I wanted us ALL to have a great experience going across the state. Or I at least wanted everyone to pretend they were having a good time. It has been hard on me to see the toll that this trip has taken on my husband. At times it has made it difficult for me to fully appreciate my experiences.

But despite his discomfort and complaints, Brew has never once wanted to quit. When we started talking about this hike two years ago, he willingly signed on. And even after a rough start that included a trip to the emergency room, Brew has been unwavering in his commitment to his family and this trail. I have asked him a few times throughout the hike if we need to take a break or abort our efforts and his response has stayed resolute: “We are going to finish this trail.”

Brew will be the first to tell you that he has had moments of fun this fall. He was thrilled to connect with old friends along the way and there have been concerts and craft breweries that have made the trip better. (He still hasn’t found the best North Carolina barbecue, but he’s committed to keep trying.) It’s true that I wanted my husband to have more fun on this hike, but recently it struck me that the gift he is giving us might not be as valuable or meaningful if it were easy. Sacrifice trumps flowers and chocolate any day.

Brew is committed to being out here because he loves me and he realizes the significance of the Mountains to Sea Trail for recreation, conservation, and unity within our state. He wants to be a part of this effort even when it’s hard because it is work worth doing. 

This week we reached the ocean. I still have over 200 miles to hike to reach the finish, but at this point I have a strong feel for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and a good idea of what has to happen to help the path reach it’s potential and become a continuous and protected trail. It’s going to take effort, money, and sacrifice but it is work worth doing. We are going to finish this trail.