Hiking, Living Abroad

On Topless of the World

I can still feel the cold gusts of mist blowing around us as we pose and play on the Mt. Katahdin sign. Brooklyn and Legs are wiping away celebratory tears. Willow is cracking an egg over her head in tribute to those fighting ovarian cancer. Soon, Red beard and PBS will start recklessly racing back down Katahdin’s treacherous crags. No more worries about an injury that would prevent them from reaching their goal. We did it. After roughly 6 months, we did it. We hiked 2189.2 miles of the Appalachian Mountains, all the way from Georgia to Maine.  I’m topless.


My mind and my body say this all happened yesterday. My feet and knees whine when I walk down stairs. When startled awake at night, or after one of those blissful after-breakfast naps (seriously, you gotta try ‘em), I’m still pleasantly surprised that the warm mass in my arms is Monica. She smells a lot better, and is much more form-fitting than the battle-scared clothes sac that served as my pillow and sleeping buddy for six months. I have a tortilla addiction, and zero interest in treating it.


This body and mind present a great argument, but I didn’t summit Katahdin yesterday. It was 6 weeks ago. It’s time to get back to work. No more breakfast-after-breakfast naps (another quality-of-life enhancer that doesn’t get the acclaim it deserves), and it’s time to stop calling Game of Thrones marathons “potential research.” I’m ready to start writing and sketching again!


In the real world again


“Are you coming to the gym with me again today?” Monica asks me.

“But… I’m in RECOVERY!”

Monica doesn’t stop putting stuff in her gym bag. “C’mon, it’ll be fun. Today’s a leg day!”

“But I just finished 6 MONTHS of leg days!”

“I know Love, and we’re all very proud of you. But, if you spend too much time recovering you’re going to turn into a bearded amoeba.”


To my credit, I usually follow her out the door. I knew that some (most) of the 53 lbs. I lost on the Trail would find its way back onto weird parts of my body, but it’s amazing to see the scale move nearly every day. After the creaking and groaning recedes into the background, it does feel great to be exercising again.


So, I’m out-of-shape. Not “bearded amoeba” out-of-shape, but I have some work to do. I’m realizing that this applies to writing and sketching as well. My writing/sketching joints are stiff from disuse. Facebook, or haunting/ridiculous News coverage lingers just a click away. Once I get past the distractions, when I can imagine myself sitting next to you around a shelter out in the woods, sharing my story and maybe a bag of Doritos, then it feels great to be writing again.


I’m going to continue to share our journey to Katahdin. There will be plenty of digressions, but I’d like to think that they are the side trails that add a little extra scenery to an already interesting experience. I hope that you will continue to follow along. Your comments and encouragement thus far have been invaluable. Please keep ‘em coming!


  • Reply Monica November 20, 2016 at 1:33 am

    It’s about time you started writing and sketching again! I want to congratulate you for this challenging accomplishment. I’m very proud of you! And second, I love reading the illustrated stories, so you better keep ’em coming!

  • Reply Scott (aka Dad) November 20, 2016 at 8:05 am

    It’s great to see you writing again Gabe. I love hearing your stories of life on the trail and also about everyday life in Romania. Keep putting the pounds back on and getting back into the good life. Love you and I’m very proud of all your accomplishments.

  • Reply robert forth November 20, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Congratulating on completing the AT! That is quite and accomplishment. I hope you found what you were searching for and that you are at peace. Best of luck to you and Monica. Cliff Bar

  • Reply Papa T November 20, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Hey There my friend. Super congrats on your completion of the AT and summit of Katahdin. Glad you are going to continue to write and sketch about the journey. Even though you were silent, I just knew you would complete the journey. I enlarged your sketch of us at the Nantahala Hostel and it now blesses our stairway. Hope you discovered that better part of yourself and are ready for the next chapter in your life’s journey. All the best and happy trails

  • Reply Linda Shannon-Beaver November 28, 2016 at 11:18 am

    So fortunate to have completed this amazing journey with you. You are an inspiration my friend. — Willow

    • Reply Gabriel Burkhardt November 29, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Yup! Was great to summit Katahdin with you. Now we get to relive it 🙂

  • Reply Steve January 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    All right now we’re talking. I’m glad to see you finished the trail. I was afraid since I hadn’t seen a post since Virginia you had dropped off the trail. This is the first time I have checked your blog since October and was presently surprised to see some new posts. It was great meeting you the first night on the trail at the Stover Creek shelter. Like I told you then I knew you would finish the trail. You had that look in your eyes (not gas). You looked like a person that would never give up on anything.

    • Reply Gabriel January 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks for the vote of confidence Steve! In retrospect, you were absolutely right, so we both rock.

      And thanks for stopping back by. I’ve caught this blogging bug, so I’m going to keep on blogging for the foreseeable future. Besides, I have quite a few stories to share from the Trail, and I’m looking forward to sharing tips and tricks for Steve.

      Monica is coming with me on the next hike this spring. We’re going to walk the Camino de Santiago!

      Looks like we have a lot to catch up on, so I better get writing…

      • Reply Steve January 26, 2017 at 8:25 pm

        You truly have a gift for writing. Keep it up; your stories are incredibly well written and more than entertaining!! I will be going back to the Appalachian Trail to do another section this spring. You know, you just can’t get enough of it (like a good shot of scotch).

        • Reply Gabriel January 27, 2017 at 7:20 pm

          That’s Great Steve! Which section r you planning to hike?

  • Reply Steve January 30, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Last spring I did Hogs Pin to the state park. So I will do the next section, Hogs pPin to Dicks Creek Gap. In the fall, I would like to do Dicks Creek to the NOC. Eventually, with time, I would like to complete most of the AT, My dream is to do the John Muir. I can always dream. It is what I do best!!

    • Reply Gabriel February 3, 2017 at 3:12 am

      Steve, really sorry if you’re seeing this comment twice. Still rebuilding my blog, but somewhere along the way, my reply to your comment was lost.

      I think you’ll love the section from Hog’s Pen to Dick’s Creek. Hopefully you can tackle it once Spring has really settled in (my guess is early May).

      And the PCT is on my bucket list so I can relate to your dreams of hiking the JMT. Good luck and hoping to see you on the Trail!

  • Reply Alec Harper February 26, 2017 at 9:17 am

    This is the way life ought to be lived. We all need an occasional, epic pilgrimage to fuel the soul…

    • Reply Gabriel February 26, 2017 at 10:35 am

      True. However, I might be developing a pilgrimage dependence, because I’m already struggling with an itch to begin the next adventure. For now, I’m going to keep living vicariously through blogs like yours.

    Now it's your turn to play!

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