After the trail was completed Llama (Emma) and I joined my parents for a week vacation at Prince Edward Island in Canada. My parents fell in love with Llama. One of our first stops was to a mall where Llama and I could find clothes that fit into the real world, that didn’t smell or need to protect us from the elements of nature. We each entered different stores and found items we were excited to wear. We found our treasures, bought them, clipped the tags off and wore them out of the stores. I found my parents waiting for us and stood with them to wait for Llama. My mom asked, “What are you two doing?”
We both responded, “Waiting for Llama/Wadi”
Llama and I were standing next to each other and didn’t know it, we couldn’t recognize the other outside of the hiking clothes we were so accustomed to seeing daily. We liked how each other looked, surprised that clothing made such a difference.
Within a few months I was moving away from Kentucky to Washington state where I took an internship in my uncles church working with college students. It turned out to be a good fit because I ended up becoming the pastor of that college ministry for the next 10 years.
Llama went back to Chicago where she got a job at EMS, a competitor of REI. We kept in close contact and struggled to figure out where the direction of our relationship would go. She decided to move out to Washington so we could date and see where this would lead.
After a year of dating in Ellensburg, WA we got engaged and then married, two years after we met. For our honeymoon we flew out to Maine so Emma could complete the last few miles of Katahdin that sickness had prevented her from. She also passed her first kidney stone on our honeymoon (her body formed several because of the drought we hiked through when we hiked the trail.).
We both worked in the church for several years before she decided to work on her masters degree. We grew our family to have 4 kids, lived in Portland, Anchorage, and finally we are in Cathlamet WA, and living in the Columbia River. I work as the pastor of a refreshing church while Emma homeschools 3 of our kids. We love our life and still talk about how the trail shaped us and I dream of taking our kids to the trail one day.
Llama and I have kept up loose friendships with several of friends we made on the trail. Their lives are as varied and different as can be, and we love the times we can catch up and share our common stories. Some friends have passed away. Father John Prinelli, and T-Bone are two that deeply saddened me to learn of.
The trail changed me profoundly. Walking in the woods had been a long steady process of grace. God was working in unseen ways in my heart in places beyond my knowing and understanding to bring me to a point where I was ready for a new level of awareness and new depth of wholeness in relationship with God in Christ. This journey was firstly about listening to God and helping others as they listen to God. This hike was about learning to pay attention to what God was doing in my life. And that is the pattern that was cemented. In all things I do I ask, “God, what are you doing, how are you wanting me to know you, how can I hear you and how can I join you in what your doing in my life and in the lives of those around me.”
If I could I would do it all again. Every mountain, every blister, every sting, every storm, every tear. I’d do it all again. I met God in new ways. I found healing in areas of my heart that needed healing. I found growth in areas that needed maturing. I grew confidence and trust in myself to make decisions and to join God in this journey of life. And I met my best friend and fell in love with her. I wouldn’t change a thing.