Adam and I set out on Saturday to hike the piece of the Appalachian Trail (AT) running through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Grazing along the trail are famous feral ponies. We were keen to summit Mount Rogers, but when we ran across a herd of ponies- “Squirrel!” I got distracted and we never made it to the summit. 

  Follow the white blaze. 

Follow the white blaze. 

 

While we were racing around the ponies and ooing and ahing over the babies, Marty joined in. 

  Aw!

Aw!

We were all amazed how comfortable the ponies were with us. They were working the camera giving me full-on nostril shots. Work it ladies! They were so comfortable, they were even biting at my sleeves!

Wild Ponies Grayson Highlands State Park

In a broken conversation between the ponies' fits of shocking behavior - “Ah, the pony just farted on me!”; “Oh, geez! What’s going on there? Ah! It’s not round— it’s flat!”; “He’s biting his butt!” to this thru-hiker jumping in for a quick selfie, we heard a tiny bit of Marty’s story with the AT. His story surprised me and I’ve been itching to share it. 

  Fart + burp face? Furp face!

Fart + burp face? Furp face!

  Looks like Adam's never seen one before! Ha!

Looks like Adam's never seen one before! Ha!

  The new stanky leg!

The new stanky leg!

  This was just funny! 

This was just funny! 

 

Marty’s from Virginia. He’s always known the AT was out there. It wasn’t until meeting a couple in their 70’s who had hiked the 2,000+ mile trail twice did Marty really get inspired. He started considering doing the AT himself. His considerations turned to “I’m going to do it."

 

  Meet Marty!

Meet Marty!

He started taking steps to make it happen. To cut down living costs and save more, he moved in with friends. 

 

He was so serious about hiking the Appalachian Trail, he went in to work one day to quit his job. When he sat down with his boss to give the news, his boss said, “No.” 

 

"What? Wait. Huh?" I was confused. Marty was the one telling them he was quitting. How could they say no?

 

Turns out, they saw another option. His boss said they’d give him a leave of absence to hike, but they wanted him back when he was done.

 

What an awesome surprise! 

 

I was amazed by this piece of his story. Quitting your job to go out and have a big experience isn’t the only option. Marty’s company proved that when we work hard and our work is valued, companies are willing to value our personal goals. Well, the ones who care about their people will do this. 

 

You know it’s crazy, because some folks take six months to complete the AT. That doesn’t matter. His company supports his 2,190 mile quest from Georgia to Maine. They just wanted to make sure they got him back whenever he was done. Pretty awesome, eh?

 

His company’s response shocked me and I forgot all about the farting ponies. He continued to share how amazed he’s been of everyone’s encouragement for him to pursue this big adventure. Great friends are even watching his dog while he hikes. 

 

We are inspired by Marty’s guts to drop everything for his big dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sometimes we don’t pursue big dreams because we’re afraid of what people will think. He had a big dream and went for it, and everyone’s encouraging response surprised all of us. 

 

A storm was a-brewin’. We were all reluctant to split from the ponies' free entertainment. 

Wild Horses Grayson Highlands State Park

 

Marty found a spot to set up camp and hunkered down before the storm hit. Adam and I got caught in the rain running back to the car. 

 

I imagine Marty’s moments on the trail- when he’s alone laying in his tent listening to the rain patter or during his eighth hour of walking by himself for the day- being filled with so much more comfort than expected because he knows everyone back home- family, friends and his co-workers- are cheering him on but also eagerly awaiting his return.

Adam and I can relate. When you’re so far from home and on a grand adventure, it’s the support from your loved ones you cling to during the hard moments. Their words of encouragement play through your mind over and over and continue to push you forward.

 

So awesome to meet you Marty! Thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. Keep going! We're back in Virginia cheering you on!

...

Marty's story totally inspired me. When I dream big, I always come up with a list of challenges of why it won't happen. But maybe I'm just making them up. He thought he had to quit his job to go, but he didn't.  

I hope Marty's story inspired you. Leave a comment below to share what you think and share the inspiration with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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