AT Thru-Hike #40 – What God Has Joined Together

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”    – When Harry Met Sally

“I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me.” – Roy Croft

Day 59

I awoke in a much better mood than the previous two days. In fact, I was giddy. I checked out of the motel and walked downhill about a mile to the rental car place. They put me in a brand new car with under 100 miles on it and I headed west toward Alabama and wedding week. It felt really weird to drive a car again, but I quickly adjusted. I cranked up the radio and sang my heart out for the next 7+ hours.  One song, The Proof of Your Love by for King and Country, hit me especially hard.  It talks about the importance of love, and that without it, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, say, or do.  I decided to add it to my every morning AT playlist so maybe that message will be driven deep inside my brain over the next several months.  At noon I stopped to refuel and grab a quick lunch at a gas station. Oddly, the thing I craved the most was cereal, so I got some sugar pops, a quart of milk, a pint of orange juice, and a banana.

The Happy Couple
The Happy Couple
Adding Another Amazing Daughter to the Family
Adding Another Amazing Daughter to the Family

The closer I got to Birmingham, the more excited I became about seeing and surprising Lil Jan. About 10 minutes out, I picked up Starbucks coffee for her, my friend Brad, and myself. Just before entering the driveway, I texted Lil Jan to tell her I missed her and that I hoped she was having a good day. Right after she responded, I came walking through the basement door where she, Brad, and Jenny were working on wedding signs. I asked, “Did someone order coffee?” and she looked up in shock and came running over to hug me. Surprising her with something that makes her happy is one of the greatest joys in my life. It was so great to see her and the Diamond family, who kept my early arrival a surprise. The only downside was that she wasn’t in the yellow, springy, reunion dress, but she still looked amazing!

Days 60-66 – Wedding Week

The entire week, with one exception, could not have gone more perfectly. We had a great, informal pasta dinner with the wedding party at Wes and Melissa Self’s home on Thursday night. It was refreshing to sit among people who were clean, smelled good, and peed indoors. I had to really focus on eating slowly, using utensils, and not doing anything socially inappropriate.  After dinner, against my better foot-resting judgement, I went outside to play knock-out basketball with the fellas. As I went for a rebound, a long distance shot ricocheted off the backboard and smacked me in my face, breaking my glasses and scratching my face. Lately, it seems I’m in the most danger when I’m off the trail, not on it! Fortunately, Wal-Mart was able to repair my glasses the next day.

Speaking of "til death do us part..."
Speaking of “til death do us part…”

On the health, hygiene and appearance front, Lil Jan and I, with the help of mediators, agreed that I would get a haircut and “clean up” my beard a bit, but not make it go away. That was a win from my perspective, although the beard mice didn’t like being disturbed. Another win was getting a 50-minute, deep tissue massage from a local spa, with the masseuse focusing on my feet, legs, and shoulders.

Perfect Grooms Cake for a Cereal Lover
Perfect Grooms Cake for a Cereal Lover

The Mexican-themed rehearsal dinner on Friday night went really well. I appreciate all the work put in by Lil Jan and her helpers to make it a fun, festive, and filling evening. It was so great to spend time with so many family and friends. They had plenty of questions and comments about my AT hike so far. The slide show video we put together to honor Kyle and Laci went over well. Jason, my eldest son, gave a terrific Best Man speech that not only roasted Kyle, but offered some on-target marriage advice. Olivia, Kyle’s ex-girlfriend and the Maid of Honor (weird, huh?) also delivered a sweet, heartfelt speech. The amazing Diamond family singers sang a song that I wrote, My Favorite Trail Things, along with a song of blessing for the bride and groom. It was a wonderful evening with love bubbling over between two families, friends, and the wedding party.

A Keeper, for sure
A Keeper, for sure

A few other highlights of the week included hanging a wedding poem (a series of wooden signs on posts) at the wedding venue with Scott (my brother-in-law), going to a local town festival with family and friends, and playing poker with Brad Diamond, Kyle and Jason, and the other groomsmen until late in the evening.  I was thoroughly enjoying this extended time on the mountaintop!

Hangin' with my In-Laws
Hangin’ with my In-Laws
Dispensing some final advice
Dispensing some final advice

The wedding itself was magnificent in every way possible. In Laci, Kyle has found himself a Christian wife, beautiful on the inside and out.  Her parents have modeled a Christian marriage for her and others, and she has three terrific brothers who have welcomed Kyle in and think she hung the moon. This is an answer to many prayers by Janet and me going back decades. The wedding venue, featuring mature trees, ponds, rolling hills, a lodge and barn, provided a perfect setting. The weather cooperated and even featured a nice breeze. Mark Adams, who hired them both as youth interns years ago (where they developed feelings for each other) officiated and did a wonderful job. This young couple is so in love and you could just feel that in everything said and done. In a society where Biblical purity, saving oneself until marriage, is scoffed at and considered unrealistic, this couple stayed true to their values and pulled it off. I’m proud of them for that, and the commitment they made before God to be faithful to each other and Him for the rest of their lives.

The wedding reception was so much fun!  There was food, dancing, conversation, and lots of celebration.  The venue owner commented that she had never seen such a wildly fun night that didn’t involve alcohol.  Interesting observation.  I opted for more conversation than dancing, as my feet were still tender, yet improving.  I had some really encouraging and motivating conversations about the trail, my blog, and hopefully future book with several people I’d never met before.  It’s just weird to think that something I wrote alone atop an AT mountain can impact someone thousands of miles away.

We Da Johnsons, vs 1.0
We Da Johnsons, vs 1.0

On Monday, I said my farewells, kissed my wife, and drove back to the trail rested, restored, and rejuvenated. As previously planned, I made the switch from my Oboz Sawtooth hiking boots to Salomon XA Pro 3D trail running shoes. These would be lighter, quicker drying, and more agile, while giving up some stability in return. I was anxious to try them out in AT conditions. That night I also laid out all my clothes and tent and sprayed them with Permethrin, an insecticide that not only repels but kills ticks, mosquitos, chiggers, and other insects. After spraying them inside my motel room, I noticed the instructions said to do the spraying outside. So I went to bed that night on a bit of a Permethrin high, assured that any bugs in my ears, nose, and mouth had been decimated.

Sweet Ceremony
Sweet Ceremony
Mr. & Mrs. Johnson
Mr. & Mrs. Johnson

I was in a good place mentally and physically, and it was time to get back on the trail and continue my journey to Katahdin.

Fob

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10 thoughts on “AT Thru-Hike #40 – What God Has Joined Together”

  1. Beautiful couple! Looks like a beautiful wedding, too. So happy all turned out well. I personally think YOU are the one who has a real winner with Lil Jan! Thankful all turned out well for everyone!

      1. Helen, that was so sweet! I consider myself very lucky as well!

        Steve, I haven’t been as happy as I was that week with you since you left in March! It was a wonderful time of celebrating and cherishing our family’s love for each other!

  2. Glad the timing of the wedding brought your valley up !! Enjoy your blog. I’m not a reader but when you write your book I will for sure read it!! Your amazing as is your lovely wife?

    1. Thank you! Good to get a shout out from some fellow Sojourners! Pegs n Jokers has been a big hit with our families. Thanks for teaching us and helping us make our own board. Appreciate your interest in the book. I thought of a title during today’s hike, so that’s a start.

  3. EMe and my mom still look forward to your new posts, we end almost all of our conversations with “have you checked Fob’s blog today!?” It was so good to meet you and know that Laci won in the husband department, with Kyle. Sending up so many prayers for continued safety and Mtn Dew bottles for you until you reach Katahdin! You are such an inspiration!

    1. That’s sweet of you Emily! It was great meeting you and your family as well. I’d have to say Kyle and Laci were both winners in finding each other. Appreciate the continued prayers as I hike northward.

  4. What a thoughtful tribute to wedding week and all the fun, festivities, and family time that was a part of that week! It was so good to see you in the flesh and spend time with the families together. We look forward to more good times in the future!! Continue to be careful and we will keep the prayers going!

    1. It was a wonderful week! You and Lil Jan and all your helpers did such a wonderful job pulling it all together!

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