• Joel Widman

Stephen & Wes’s Appalachian Adventure | Part 7 | Hindsight is 20/20

“I’m super happy to be home, but for me…and I didn’t know I would have this response, but I do miss the trail.” - Stephen Level

About a week ago, the guys decided to end their trip early. After much thought, the two decided it would be best to head home. A few days after they came home, we all got together and debriefed about their trip, and they told me the highs and lows of their adventure.

A bittersweet end, no doubt, as they didn’t finish what they had set out to do.

Or did they? ***Read that last sentence in a deep, movie trailer announcer voice…and then cue the music!*** “OR DID THEEEEYYYYY???” There, that’s better!

Hiking over 1,000 miles was definitely a goal, but was not THE goal. Their personal goals were met before they even reached the half way mark.

Stephen, being very pleased with losing over 30 pounds, told me how he now views food in an entirely different way. He views it as fuel, not something to constantly indulge in.

Wes informed me that quitting early actually helped him overcome fears of letting people down.

“One thing I learned is that it has to be a lifestyle. The reason I lost any weight is because I woke up thinking about the trail, I walked thinking about the trail, and I went to sleep thinking about the trail. That was my life. So, I’ve realized that if I want to keep this weight off, I have to actually incorporate it into my lifestyle…versus just something that makes my life better. The biggest thing the trail taught me was a new mindset.” - Stephen Level

“I just think that anywhere you are, you have tunnel vision, in that you have certain priorities, you have certain things that need to get done. You don’t have a lot of perspective. It’s not until you go out to the trail that you realize, ya know, some things are less important and some things are worth investing in.” - Wes

“Yeah! It’s like you have to go on the trail to gain perspective on the real life. And you have to back to real life to get perspective on the trail. You always have to be away from it to be able to appreciate it and dissect what happened.” - Stephen

Laughing, Wes chimes back in, “It kinda sucks in a way. It’d be a lot easier if we could gauge all the benefits while we’re there.”

“For sure!” I said “It’d be a whole lot easier to stay motivated.”

Stephen, giving his two cents about the benefits, “To be able to immediately make corrections. And to know I should change my routine because it’s just brining me down.”

“Well then you can even be encouraged by how maybe your hardships are helping you.” - Wes

Wes’s comment reminded me of a quote I once heard:

“When you’re suffering, seek its value for your spiritual growth and you’ll annihilate the pain of suffering.” - Leo Tolstoy

These two guys willing entered into a journey they knew wouldn’t be easy. It wasn’t a walk in the park, it was a walk in the woods…a long ass walk in the woods. And because of this trialsome journey, they have come out better men, and everyone around them will benefit from their hard work and determination.

Wes admitted to me that he is a people-pleaser, and being the people-pleaser that he is, he felt that even though he had lost a lot of enjoyment for the hike, he didn’t feel the freedom to quit. His fear was that he would be letting his friends and family down. So, ironically, by ending it early, he overcame his fear of disappointing others.

And Stephen, being the great friend he is, heard Wes’s thoughts about ending it early and decided to join him. They had decided early on that if one of them quitted, they would do it together, and not alone. Stephen also informed me that the thought of coming home didn’t sound all that bad. Both agreed it was good timing and that they had gotten what they needed to get out of it.

Stephen also told me that he feels like he’s more capable than ever. He sees everything as possible. He wants to try skydiving and scuba diving—things he would have previously seen as too challenging or not within his abilities. But now that he has hiked 426.8 miles, he feels like all of these things are now opportunities, and not impossibilities.

What can we learn from these two? That’s a great question. I know their journey, even though it ended early, will not have been in vain. Instead, I am choosing to learn from them. I’ve decided live out a new lifestyle, to adopt a new mindset, to work hard, to do something uncomfortable. What about you?

If you’d like to hear the entire interview, check out the SoundCloud player below and you can listen to 80 minutes of us talking in my dining room (sounds riveting doesn’t it?…ok, but seriously, it’s worth the listen!).

I’ve also added in a photo gallery, complete with ALL of the photos they took on their trip (in no particular order). Enjoy :)

Lastly, I’d like to conclude this wonderful adventure with a beautiful song. Please take a listen, and as you listen, try to envision Wes and Stephen on the trail. It may even be helpful to picture one of the two singers in this lovely duet as Stephen and the other as Wes.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to share it with your friends! And please subscribe.


Joel Widman


Venture Hiking

#appalachianadventure #appalachiantrail #stephenandwes