For the first time today I'm glad I decided to leave the rest of the trail for next year.
At the time, I beat myself up for it. I didn't have a good reason for quitting. Sure, I was tired. It was cold. The Smokies seemed like a pain in the ass with their rules. I was hungry for real food and for the next adventure.
Today, I get it. I see the bigger picture, the drone's eye view of what I never could have imagined when I got up that morning, planning to drive back to Davenport Gap and said, "Nope. Not feeling it today."
Last night we said goodbye to Rico and my heart is broken.
Leaving the trail was the right thing to do.
It meant I got a few more days with my joyful boy. A few more wet kisses. A few more leg licks in the middle of the night. A few more spins. A few more games of "find me." A few more moments of the light and the laughter that he brought to our corner of the world.
I'm grateful for these last memories and for the way Rico always brought the party.
Rest in peace, my beautiful boy. You will be missed terribly.