Day 143: A Serenity Prayer

I know it’s time to write. Writing has helped me to make sense of my emotions as my son is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I was surprised, when this venture started, that I couldn’t find anything written to help parents go through this experience, to know what to expect. So I started writing. And you started reading. And I’m so grateful to you for that.

I’ve been a writer for over 30 years now, always for someone else. I refer to myself as a “writer for hire”, always telling someone else’s stories. This is the first time that I’ve written mine. So this morning, as I find myself with nothing to say, it’s an uneasy feeling.

I don’t know where Michael is. I offer that as a form of apology, for my lack of inspiration, I suppose. Maybe also for what feels like bad parenting because I don’t know where my son is and I’m not sure what to do about it.

For the past 143 days, I’ve woken each morning to one thought: did he send a SPOT?  For months before that, it was : how many days are left before he leaves?  This journey has been the focal point of my life, and certainly his, for nine months. It’s been a roller coaster of excitement and fear and celebration and trust and love. Yep, love.

I guess its love and trust that keeps me confident that he’s OK. I trust Michael to make good decisions for himself now. He’s proven his ability to survive and master the elements. Still, with the fires and smoke around him, the unclear path of where he’d go next, an injured foot and a case of intestinal turmoil, I was eager to hear from him when he reached Snoqualmie Pass last week.

I expected him to arrive last Monday. I’d sent a box of resupplies “General Delivery” to the post office, knowing it could be the last trail stop while he decides how best to work around the fires. When he didn’t call from the town on Monday, I was surprised to get a SPOT message Tuesday and Wednesday, indicating that he was still north of town, on the trail, with perhaps a day of hiking left ahead of him. Maybe he was just moving very slowly. Maybe they were having fun, enjoying the last few days on the trail.

And then it all stopped. We haven’t heard a word since Wednesday, which wouldn’t be worrisome if he were hiking the mountain ranges but it is since he was expected in town. His phone is ringing, but it has a battery pack that will allow it to ring into 2018. Maybe he’s lost it. Maybe he’s buried his SPOT tracker in the bottom of his backpack (despite me telling him not to do that. He told me it was getting tangled in his long hair. I said ‘Too bad. Wear a ponytail”). After worrying all weekend, I tracked down his credit card to see if there is activity.

On Friday, he bought a Greyhound ticket. From somewhere to somewhere, we can’t tell. I am both relieved and a bit sad. I’ve known that he is out there on his own, but I’ve been comforted in the Excel spreadsheet plans and the map with push pins on the kitchen wall and the mileage calculations on the Flat Rate boxes in his bedroom and the bags of power bars and powdered milk and butter and the PopTarts. I’ve been following along. Now, I’m a bit lost.

I know that he’s fine. I can’t explain how I know that, but I do. He’s been out on the trail long enough now that he doesn’t need the boxes and the Snicker Bars and the SPOT tracker. I do, but he doesn’t. And in the end, this is his journey, not mine, isn’t it?

So I have to travel it as he travels it. Right now, he’s somewhere, doing what he needs to do. I’ll be here when he resurfaces, a little worse for wear and perhaps a little wiser.

Here are the most recent pictures I can find of Michael. They were posted this week on Instagram by one of his traveling companions.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.




  1. JoAnn Vandet Brink Nicoletti

    September 18, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Oh Max, sending hugs. You seem to be handling all of this with such sanity and grace. I would be a raving lunatic by now. I shall keep you and Michael in my prayers.

  2. Susie Kohler

    September 18, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    You are such an inspiration! The faith and trust that you have is what everyone should have when in times of uncertainty and turmoil. Keep the faith going it will see you through. Prayers are with you all!

Comments are closed.