On paper, Hunter Pearce’s thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail was a failure.

As reported by Teresa Blake in this week’s front page feature, when the the 26-year-old Mantachie resident set off from Georgia’s Amicacola State Park on May 18, his goal was to traverse the entirety of the mountainous 2,190-mile trail in five months … practically a sprint.

Like many ambitious projects, Pearce’s grand adventure started off strong. In just six days, he’d already hiked more than 100 miles. He was feeling optimistic about his chances of reaching his goal.

Mother Nature had other ideas. Heavy rainfall and wind, extreme heat, and repeated encounters with black bears posed significant challenges along an already challenging journey. But in the end, it was the smallest thing that brought Pearce’s grand adventure to an halt. A tick bite. Pearce was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and was ordered to leave the trail in order to recover. He’d hiked a total of 1,025 miles … roughly half his goal … in 63 days.

No doubt, the sudden anticlimatic end of his journey was disappointing to Pearce. But, as he told The Times via text message, the excursion wasn’t a loss by a long shot. Pearce described experiencing a “universal sound” of silence and seclusion along the trail. Despite the significant challenges he faced, Pearce called the sojourn “meditative.” It taught Hunter Pearce about his own limitations – how hard he could push himself, how much he could endure.

Frankly, we could all benefit from a few failures like that.

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