Within an hour of my return to Montgomery, I was asked this question for the first time. I expect to hear it many times by the end of the week. The answer is both complex and simple. The simple version is that one member of our hiking party had medical problems that made it impossible to continue. His toes had blisters the second day and were bleeding the third day and a more personal condition had developed and was bleeding as well. These things happen and many other possible injuries and equipment failures can bring a hike to a sudden end. For those who have never hiked an extensive section of the Appalachian Trail, it is difficult to comprehend the difficulty of the footing on rocky trails that are either going up or down at a steep angle most of the time. It is very, very different from walking 15 miles on your local park walking track. Also, you can't just stop by the CVS for bandages or drugs. You have to decide before you leave which of those you will carry with you and how much weight you are willing to add to your pack in order to be prepared.
The more complex answer involves the interpersonal skills and struggles required to plan, organize, and implement such a hike. The communication required demands absolute honesty with yourself and the others in the party about physical condition, equipment, goals, desires, and flexibility (of attitude). In our case, we had a plan that could work but would be very, very challenging. What most people do not understand is that the process is not over for us. We will rehash and analyze the hike for some time. And future hikes will depend to some extent on how honest and direct we are with each other during this process. As I have been thinking about our hike, the following quote by Theodore Roosevelt came to mind. I think it applies well to our effort. Can you see applications in your life?
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."