No one could have asked for a more perfect day to summit a peak. Cloudless skies, warm sun and only light breezes. We had been sitting there enjoying the expanse before us and soaking up some sun for quite a while. Lots of other hikers came and went.

One hiker in particular came almost running up the summit, dropped his pack, which seemed like it had almost nothing in it and stood at the edge for a moment taking in the view. His t-shirt was faded and sweat stained, shoes torn and he had the physique of a marathon runner. Clearly not one of the many day or weekend hikers passing through.

Without turning his gaze from the view ahead, he asked, “Where am I?”

“Mt. Garfield” I answered.

The conversation which followed was totally unexpected. His trail name was Tough Love. He was through-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and here we had crossed paths in New Hampshire, just a few weeks away from the end of his journey.┬áIt wasn’t the fact that he was through-hiking that caught me off guard, but it was his unrestrained vulnerability and openness to talk about his life. Within minutes we were listening to him share all kinds of stories.

I asked him what was the hardest part of his journey so far and without hesitation he answered that it was the mental game. The need for mental toughness to keep going even when it’s hard and uncomfortable. Going weeks on the trail at a time without seeing civilization, being cold, in the rain, being lonely. Again without skipping a beat he started relating that revelation to everyday life.

I left that peak with a profound sense of new inspiration and motivation for life.

Before leaving though I asked him for a few portraits for my Very Interesting People project.

I’m glad to have met Tough Love for those few minutes.

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