My second time on Albert Mountain (remembering my first)
As I finish the final approach to the summit of Albert Mountain, a popular mountain in the Nantahala Range of North Carolina known for fantastic views from the fire tower at the top, I hit my usual peak-seeking speed and race up the final 100 feet of the climb. After winding through a thick rhododendron grove for most of the climb I am excited to come out to the clearing and see the rather tall tower come into view. I drop my pack and climb to the top. It’s about 9 AM, and in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains that means the view from the tower will be at it’s best for the entire day. The morning clouds are still entirely thick, just sitting there down below, creating an ocean of fog. The lower peaks poke their heads out from the ocean, island-like in their nature. The sun is high enough to illuminate the whole scene, but still enough in its morning dimness to cast a beautiful array of yellow, orange and red onto the trees. Even having seen countless views such as this over the last few weeks, I am still awed by this one. It’s a damn good view, the morning sun feels good, and at this time of day it is the absolute perfect location for me to sit down and take 20 minutes for second breakfast.
On any other mountain, I would do just that without hesitation. But not on Albert Mountain. There’s somewhere else on this mountain, not quite to the peak I am now standing on, but about three-tenths of a mile down the other side, that I want to go and sit. I take a few pictures of the view, go back down the fire tower, throw on the pack, and start the walk down in search of that place.
It’s just a little rhododendron grove on the side of US Forest Service Road 67, an old two-track road that runs nearly the whole way to the summit of the mountain and opens up to a little parking area. This particular rhododendron grove has nothing special about it. It looks identical to the thousands of groves I’ve been walking through for the last few weeks. I would imagine pretty much every other Appalachian Trail hiker - day, section or thru - does not even look across the road at this grove much less go over to it and sit in it.
As I come down to the road’s intersection with the trail, I walk onto it and scan the area for the grove. It doesn’t take long to find it. Something that has been so cool about this hike, my second on the Appalachian Trail after my thru-hike in 2016, has been seeing how powerful memory really is. So many times on this hike I have come around a bend, seen something - maybe a big tree or rock, maybe a creek - and all of a sudden a very specific memory of the first time I was there comes into my mind. It is a memory I didn’t even know I had sitting in the recesses of my brain until the very moment it popped up. This particular rhododendron grove being a feature I’m actively looking for, it is even easier than usual to find the connection between what my eyes are seeing now, and what they saw over three years ago.
I walk over to it, drop the pack again, sit down and start second breakfast. This is a daily ritual I don’t always take but usually find myself to be much happier during the weeks that I do take the time to do it every day. Sitting down to make a coffee and eat a Pop-Tart, even for only ten minutes some days, can give me so much extra energy even for hours, and also just gives me another little treat to look forward to, thus breaking up my usually long days a little bit more. I boil my water and open up the Pop-Tart. It’s strawberry milkshake today. As I take my first sip, sitting as close to what I can remember as exactly where I sat in 2016 I try to reflect on the first time I was here.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel coming through here. I knew it would be a significant moment in this hike, as has been true when I’ve passed through any place on this trail where something important happened for me in 2016. But my moment on Albert Mountain in 2016 was so unique in its nature. As I start to resonate on the memory, sitting in the place where it was made, I feel the sudden rush coming up from my stomach to my eyes. I squeeze them shut. The warm tears still work their way out. I shouldn’t be surprised this is my response to being here. My eyes still closed, coffee now sitting next to me, completely out of my current awareness, I go back.
Two days prior to the first time I was on Albert Mountain, I successfully made it to the first planned resupply location of my very first long-distance hike, Dick’s Creek Gap in North Georgia, right on schedule. Getting there on time was very relieving, and a big confidence booster for me that early into the hike. Going into this hike, resupply was what I was most nervous about. Having already done a good amount of backpacking, but only short trips, I was worried about how it would work out having to go into a town, get more stuff, and get back out on trail. Despite big nerves, I successfully hitch-hiked for my first time into Hiawassee, GA, and picked up the package I had sent to myself at the post office. After that, I gave the Top of Georgia hostel a call, and they came down to pick me up and take me back to the hostel, conveniently less than a mile from the trail at Dick’s Creek Gap.
I had started this hike in the middle of January, completely out of season for a Northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hike. So there was only one other thru-hiker at the hostel, a nice guy from Ireland who I had not yet met. Other than that it was the caretaker, Buttercup, and owner, Bob Packsalot. As the day wore on, the news of an upcoming winter storm solidified, and the four of us spent most of the evening talking about it.
My fellow hiker was fervent in his decision to wait out the storm at the hostel, even though it was still two days away. He said he would stay at the hostel for a week if he had to, to avoid being out there during it. Despite the others' warnings, I decided I would hike out the next day.
I did just that, hiking out the following day on a typically chilly North Georgia Winter morning. Despite being only a week into my first ever long-distance hike I was able to do a 13-mile day, working my way up into the Southern Nantahala wilderness. I was proud of the day. It started to snow lightly in the afternoon and into the evening, but only really accumulated into a couple of inches. Other than having some frozen socks that night I found myself to be dealing with the winter conditions pretty well. I figured I had gotten lucky and the storm hadn’t been as bad as predicted.
The next day I managed another 12 miles even higher into the mountains and got to Carter Gap Shelter. At that point, I was 16 miles from Winding Stair Gap, from which I could get into Franklin, NC. I went to bed that night eagerly anticipating a stay in town the next night. Hot food, beer, and a warm bed would all be mine in 24 hours. I was ready for them. 16 miles would be a hard day, especially with the Albert Mountain climb to begin the day, but I felt like I could do it.
I woke up to pee around two in the morning. It’s pretty easy to navigate out of the open front of a shelter to the ground in the dark, so I didn’t bother turning my headlamp on. As I stepped out of the shelter in my sleeping socks I was immediately shocked out of my state of half-sleep into full awareness by the feeling of my leg plunging into deep, wet, heavy snow. Simultaneously my face was hit with wind and big, fat snowflakes, quickly accumulating on my head and shoulders. I relieved myself quickly before ducking back into the shelter and grabbing my headlamp.
I shined it out into the winter night’s darkness. The sky was fully saturated with snowfall, blowing seemingly every which way. It was quickly filling the forest floor with piles of snow. I looked at the pristine piles on the picnic table and estimated them to be about two feet deep. I brushed the snow off myself and dove back into my sleeping bag. I was able to go back to sleep, but was starting to feel nervous about my 16 miles into Franklin; they would now be done in a blizzard.
I woke up for real around seven and quickly packed up and got ready to go. I figured the snow would slow me down, but was still feeling confident about getting to town. With the conditions worsening I knew I really needed to now.
“12 hours”, I told myself as I laced up my boots, pulled my gloves over my frozen fingers and stepped out into the blizzard. I figured at most the 16 miles would take me 12 hours and then I would be comfortable, warm and safe in town.
Albert Mountain is the first 5000 foot peak that a Northbound thru-hiker will climb on their AT thru-hike. Relative to the rest of the trail, it is not a difficult climb. Other than the final 100 feet to the summit, which is rather steep and rocky, most of the way up the mountain is a pretty easy elevation profile and the trail works it’s way up at a nice pace. Still, it’s just under five miles from Carter Gap to the summit, and the last two are entirely uphill. It’s a rather extended climb for the AT, and no 5000-foot peak is ever actually easy. When blizzard conditions are added in, it becomes even more difficult.
Within an hour of hiking that morning I was more exhausted than I had been on the entire hike to that point, already eight days in. I did not know what the term, “post-holing” meant back then - or that it was even a term at all - but I was learning exactly what it was first hand. Every step, my leg plunged deep into the heavy, wet snow, sometimes past my knee. I had to exert twice the usual energy to pull it back up out of the snow and allow the other leg to do the same. Post-holing slows you down at a pretty high rate; it tires you out exponentially.
As I began the final two miles up towards Albert I was already feeling incredibly tired and frustrated, and a little scared too. I was breathing incredibly heavy, having to stop every three-to-five minutes just to catch my breath. My water was frozen and I was unable to drink it, a serious issue considering how much I was sweating walking uphill in the snow with all my heavy, winter gear on. Still, I tried to stay calm.
“12 hours”, I repeated my earlier encouragement. “Even less now, you’ve been walking at least two. Ten hours and you’re in town and safe and warm.”
After what felt like an eternity, the trail leveled out a bit and I noticed a clearing to my left. It took a moment but I realized that it was not a clearing, but in fact, a road, disguised rather easily by the now nearly three feet of snow piled on top of it. I knew that there was a forest service road that ran up to the summit of Albert Mountain, and in seeing it I was elated to realize I was almost at the top.
“The hardest part of your day is almost over. Just a bit more up over the summit and then it’s down to Winding Stair.”
I needed a break though, so I went over to the road to sit down, have a frozen Snickers and collect myself. I turned on my phone to see what time it was.
1:30 PM. My stomach dropped. I was supposed to be halfway to Franklin by now. I was barely a quarter of the way there. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to make it that day.
I took my phone off airplane mode and was surprised and relieved to find that I had a signal. I thought about what I could do. I was at the top of a 5000-foot mountain, in the middle of a blizzard, standing on a forest service road that most vehicles probably couldn’t make it up on a clear Spring day much less in three feet of snow. I couldn’t exactly call a local shuttle driver to come up in their van and pick me up.
I called 911. I didn’t feel like I was in a true emergency, but I didn’t know who else to call; I figured that they would just know the right locals to get in touch with so I thought it was my best. I made sure to tell them that on the phone. It worked, and they ended up getting me in touch with the Nantahala NF Forest Service.
I explained my situation as best I could, trying not to sound entirely irresponsible in doing so but really feeling the weight of how dumb I was to even be out there fall on me as I spoke out loud the situation I was in to another person. The man on the other end was entirely more understanding than I deserved. He told me that they had only one snowmobile, but that it could probably make it up to get me. He knew where I was based on my description, and said he would send someone up. He told me it could take at least three or four hours and to try to stay warm.
The snow was still falling hard and I needed to get out of it. I looked around the road and saw a rather large rhododendron grove up it a little, at this point entirely covered in snow. Rhododendron branches are remarkably strong, and the snow had piled up on it almost like a roof. The grove itself still only had a few inches on the ground. I trudged through the snow about 30 yards over to it and crawled in. I sat down, I waited.
I got cold pretty quickly. I didn’t really have anything I could do about it though. So I sat there, cold and hungry. My water was entirely frozen. I put it in my jacket to try to melt it but it did no good. I knew I was dehydrated. I knew I was hypothermic. My fingers were numb and I was a little worried about frostbite. I started getting a little more scared.
But still, I had gotten myself out of it. The forest service was coming. I figured I might be in pretty bad condition when they showed up but it wouldn’t be so severe that I couldn’t recover from it with a warm night inside. So I tried to stay calm.
One hour passed; two, three. It was almost five PM and still snowing, I hadn’t heard anything yet and my patience was getting short. At five PM in January you can already become aware of how quickly the impending darkness will descend upon you.
And then, my phone rang. I answered immediately and heard the same man as before.
“Yeah?”, I replied right away. “Are they almost here? Can they not find me?”
“No, it’s not that they can’t find you. But they can’t get all the way up there. The snow is too deep past about 3500 feet of elevation. I think we’re going to need you to go down to them.”
“OK”, I said, immediately nervous at the idea and demoralized by a further delay in getting me the fuck out of there. “So should I just walk down the road?”
“Well”, he said hesitantly, “it would probably be a good four or five miles if you take the road. I don’t think you’d be able to get to them. But, if you walk up the road a bit, maybe 100 yards, you’ll see a trailhead to your left. It’ll say Bearpen Creek Trail. If you take that straight down about two miles it’ll meet up at the road below where they’ve already gotten past. I can tell them to backtrack to that spot and meet you there.”
I didn’t feel great about it but I didn’t have a choice. My condition was going from kind of bad to actually bad. It would be dark within an hour. I needed to do it. So I set off again.
Much to my dismay, not 30 seconds after I turned down the Bearpen Creek Trail and left the elevation of the road, my phone lost service. I was officially on my own now. I had no choice but to find my way down.
Hiking in whiteout conditions makes route-finding extremely difficult. On the AT, a well-marked trail that is well-trafficked, it is hard. On the Bearpen Creek trail, an old hiking trail that no one really uses anymore, it is impossible.
It only took about ten minutes for me to come to terms with the fact that I had lost the trail. I had been stopping every minute or so to try and find some sort of marker telling me I was still on it, but after about ten of those stops, I wasn’t seeing anything anymore. I had a choice to make.
I could follow my own footprints back up and just call the forest service again, but I didn’t see how that would help. He had already told me that they couldn’t get me up there and would just tell me I needed to go back down the trail. It was basically already dark at this point too, and even following my footsteps wasn’t a guarantee, especially with the snow still falling.
So, for the first time all day, I made a decision based on surviving that night not by getting to town eventually, but by sleeping out in the wilderness, in a blizzard, now lost in every sense of the word.
I continued to walk down, bushwhacking now, with the hope of finding water. My dehydration was the biggest physical issue I was dealing with, even more so than hypothermia and frostbite, and I needed to drink water if I was going to be sleeping out there.
Much to my luck, it didn’t take long. Now walking in the dark, headlamp on, I started to hear the faint rushing of a creek in the distance. I followed the sound and found my way there within a few minutes.
At the coldest I had been all day to that point, I fell on my knees in the snow on the creek bank and just stuck my head right down in it, taking big slurps from the icy water much like a thirsty dog out of its bowl. After probably a solid 60 seconds of this, I lifted my head up, my lips numb, and looked around for somewhere by the creek I could sleep.
It was tricky, I was still on the steep slopes of a mountain, and there wouldn’t be much in the way of a flat spot. I piled snow opposite the slope in order to create something somewhat flat. I needed shelter though. All I was carrying for shelter was a bivy bag and I would need something to keep the snow from literally piling up on me all night.
I thought back to my rhododendron shelter that I sat under for what felt like forever ago but was still only a few hours prior. I knew their strong branches and wide leaves were my best bet. I began breaking branches from rhododendron bushes around me and sticking them in the snow and leaning them on one another. It basically made a makeshift tent around my flat spot. I then piled and packed now up and around it to create a second layer of shelter and hopefully act as some sort of insulation.
I got in my shelter and zipped myself into my sleeping bag, that being inside my bivy bag. It was actually quite warm. I had a 0-degree bag and it was probably only about 15 degrees out. Plus the bivy probably added a good 10 degrees of temperature resistance to my bag. I slid out of my wet socks and put on the dry pair I had been saving in my backpack. The rest of my clothes stayed on despite their soaked nature. I figured the warmth of my bag could probably dry them out a little.
I ate some candy bars, and now settling into where I would be for at least the next twelve hours until it was light again, I finally decided to activate the SOS feature on my SPOT device. I knew that they were looking for me and was sure they were aware I had gotten lost at this point. I figured if the SPOT device was going to work in this situation, finding me where I would be that night was my best bet. If they hadn’t found me by the morning I thought, I would get up and keep walking downhill.
I lay there, in the middle of the Nantahala wilderness; in a blizzard; cold, dehydrated and hungry; unsure of what might happen or if I would be found that night. A rather chilling thought came into my head.
“This might be the last time I go to sleep. I very well may fall asleep here tonight and never wake up.”
The realness of the danger I was in finally, fully washed over me. The whole day had involved so much thinking and deciding, working to try to get out of the trouble I was in, that I had never had a second to stop and think about how fucked I was. Even during my hours of waiting up by the service road earlier, I still felt like I was going to get out of it OK, and so this sort of thought never found its way into my mind.
It was only then, lying in my makeshift shelter, curled up in my sleeping bag, with only the sounds of the wind, snow and my own thoughts in my head, did I realize that freezing to death that night was not only a possibility but one of the likelier outcomes of the day.
I had never truly experienced this feeling before. The most surprising part of it was the sense of calm that came with it. As I lay there, actively thinking about how that night might end in my death, I felt no panic. Just a calm, somber acceptance, and a sadness. I didn’t want to die.
Lying there thinking about all of that, I decided to do one more thing before I tried to sleep through the night. I got out my journal and pen. The ink in it was almost entirely frozen at this point, but there was just enough of it thawed in the pen to let me scrawl a quick journal entry.
Mom and Dad,
I love you both. I am so sorry. I thought I could do it.”
I packed the journal back up, and now feeling even sadder having written that, I drifted off to sleep, thoughts of regret, sadness, and death all still floating around in my tired, chilled mind.
I was jolted awake. I didn’t know if I had actually heard it or not. I was in the ever short moments between sleep and alertness where you aren’t sure which is which. I sat up, my ears were wide open.
Yep, it was definitely fucking real. I did not hesitate.
Maybe not the best response but all I could think of. I didn’t get a response back immediately but only heard a slightly fainter voice.
“He’s over here! This way! I just heard him!”
Then a call to me again.
“Michael! Is that you? Where are you? Do you have a light to help us find you?”
“Yeah, it’s me! Hold on!” I got out my headlamp, now out of my sleeping bag, and got the rest of the way out of my shelter to shine it. Within 30 seconds I saw four other lamps up the hill quickly approaching me.
As they made their final approach and we all came into each other's view, I saw four huge figures, covered head to toe in gear, lumbering up. Their faces were still visible though, and all four had ear-to-ear grins. I don’t know what mine was showing, but probably something more along the lines of dumbstruck.
“Michael”, one of the guys addressed me, now at a normal volume, “Are you hurt? What kind of condition are you in?”
“I’m not hurt. Pretty cold and I think I’m dehydrated but I’m not injured or anything.”
“Can you walk?”
“Yeah, I can walk.”
As I was having this conversation with the one guy, I could hear another one of them communicating via radio about having found me and some information about my initial condition. The other two seemed to be looking me over, but not actually touching me.
They told me that if I could walk then the best way out would be for the five of us to walk out together. It would be about two miles to where the rest of the SAR team was waiting with utility vehicles and an ambulance. As I packed up my gear, mostly just hurriedly shoving it all into my soaked backpack, the four guys, who at this point had identified themselves as members of the Otto Fire Department, were looking over the shelter I had made for myself.
“This is a pretty cool little igloo you made, buddy,'' one of them said.
I remember feeling pride at that, and then immediate guilt about the situation. These guys were out there in a fucking blizzard because of me. I felt horrible.
It was a little after two in the morning. 24 hours earlier I had gotten up to pee and discovered myself to be in a blizzard. Now, in that same blizzard, I walked for about an hour with these four strangers, risking their own safety for the sake of mine, down to the road where even more strangers were waiting for me. As we arrived to the scene where they had staged the SAR from, I was met by two EMTs who evaluated me.
They determined that I was mildly hypothermic but that was just about it. We all agreed that I didn’t need to go to the hospital and I would be ok. I didn’t have any frostbite.
This brought up the question of if I wasn’t going to the hospital, where would I go?
“Franklin”, I said, not even really thinking. It was where I was supposed to get all day, I figured I should go there. One of the firefighters who came out to get me happened to live there and agreed to drive me down.
Before the drive, he remembered that the main crew had all bought a bunch of McDonald’s while he and the other three were out to find me and saved some for them. He pulled out a few hours old Mickey D’s bag full of cheeseburgers. He gave me two McDoubles. I ate one of them immediately and shoved the other in the pocket of my jacket.
He dropped me off at the Comfort Inn in Franklin. I had planned on staying at the Budget Inn that night, which was hiker friendly and even did a $40 hiker rate for a room, but it was certainly closed at this time of night. The Comfort Inn had a 24-hour desk so it was my only option. I thanked him profusely, got out of the car, and walked into the lobby.
I had a pretty awkward interaction with the woman at the desk, as I imagine they usually are when you check into a hotel in the middle of the night in your soaking wet backpacking gear while there’s a blizzard outside. I made it to my room. I went to the bathroom right away and stripped off everything. My soaked long underwear, my saturated down jacket, my second layer under that and base layer under that; it all came off. As I pulled the jacket off, the second McDouble fell out. I sat on the floor of the bathroom, butt naked at four in the morning, eating a cold McDouble. Looking at the moment from a third-person perspective, it was the best comic relief of the whole ordeal.
Finally, having been told that my parents had been calling asking for updates about every ten minutes ever since the SOS had been activated now nine hours prior, I gave them a call. My dad picked up on the first ring.
“Michael? Are you ok? Are you safe?”
“Yeah, I’m safe. I’m in a hotel now. I’m ok.”
The next question caught me off guard.
“Are you coming home?”
I don’t remember what I answered. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation even. The question just hit me so much harder than I might have expected it to. I was eight days into what was going to be a four-to-six month endeavor. I had dreamt of it for so long. I had planned so diligently. I knew the statistics of how many people quit a thru-hike before I started but I wanted to finish so damn badly. Now, only eight days in I was already being confronted with a decision of whether I should get off trail or not. The weight of that was the cherry on top of an already incredibly emotionally draining 24 hours.
My eyes are open again, my coffee is down to its last sip. I put it down and quickly pack up from second breakfast to keep hiking. It was important for me to come sit in the rhododendron grove, important to think back to my ordeal on Albert Mountain. But I’m planning a 31 mile day today and still have 25 or so to go. Time to get moving. As I begin to trek down the hill, the four-ish miles to Carter Gap that took me six hours three years prior, I try to think about what lessons I’ve taken from that whole experience.
The obvious lesson is that I should not have been out there. I should have stayed at the hostel, waited out the storm, and not put myself in that situation. In doing so I endangered my own life and the lives of the men who walked out into the wilderness to find me. The fact that SAR teams exist is a testament to both the miracle of human kindness and the tragedy of human overconfidence. My SAR is a perfect example of this.
But the deeper, more personal lesson for me is that the trail provides. It gives us what we need and trusting it to do so is so important on a long-distance hike, or when trying to survive a night in a blizzard. The trail provided me with just what I needed to not die that night. The four men who rescued me, the rhododendron grove, just having cell phone service up there on that road. The trail gave all of that to me and saved my life. The trail provides.
And the trail provided for me the next day in Franklin. I am walking down Albert Mountain now, and as I think about how that night was a turning point in that hike for me, rather than the end of it, a smile comes over my face. Some things happen for a reason. It is a cliche that I used to laugh at, but have learned to embrace through long-distance hiking. The trail provided me exactly what I needed in Franklin the next day to keep hiking. There is a miracle in that too. And so I smile because, despite everything that happened that night, I kept hiking. And I’m still hiking, right over this mountain that almost killed me over three years ago.
I woke up late; the woman at the desk had been gracious enough to let me get a late checkout seeing as I checked in around 3:30. I started a load of laundry in the guest washer, laid out all of my wet gear in my room to dry, and went downstairs to the breakfast room and proceded to house about 3000 calories worth of waffles, eggs, and milk. I got a nice, big caffeine high too.
I checked out at noon and began the three-quarter mile walk from the Comfort Inn to the main part of Franklin, where the Budget Inn was. My dad’s question from that early morning phone call still loomed over me. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d stay in Franklin again that night at the Budget Inn but I didn’t know about the next day. All of that snow was still out there. I had no confidence in my ability to go back out there alone and keep hiking. Even under blue skies now, the blizzard having passed, the conditions were incredibly difficult, something I now knew much better than I did a few days prior.
I checked into the Budget Inn and the owner showed me to my room.
“By the way,'' he said, “there’s another hiker in this room right next to you. Not sure if you know him or not but he’s there if you want to say hi.”
Another hiker. I hadn’t even thought about other thru-hikers. The Irish guy at Top of Georgia was the only one I had met. I had heard about a few others but in the craziness of the last day had totally forgotten to even think about other hikers. But here one was, right next door to me.
I got settled in the room and sat around and watched TV for about an hour. But I was too restless, I needed to figure out what I was going to do. A little nervous, not yet familiar with how friendly basically everyone in the hiking community is yet, I walked out and over to the next room. I knocked on the door.
I heard someone inside get up, and a few moments later the door opened. Immediately I was hit with the strong, sour smell that I didn’t yet know to be just what thru-hikers smell like, but found incredibly potent at that moment. A guy walked out, middle-aged with gray hair and salt-and-pepper stubble. He was in long underwear and a down jacket. He wore small but thick glasses.
“Hi”, I said hesitantly. “Are you the other thru-hiker here?”
“Yeah, hi”, he said, his voice calm and friendly in its nature. “You the guy they had to go out and get last night?”
I was embarrassed to discover how quickly word of what had happened to me the night before had spread around Franklin, but I responded.
“Yeah, that was me. I’m good now though. My name’s Einstein.”
He extended his fist to me, the universal greeting of thru-hikers.
“Hey Einstein”, he said as I met his fist with my own. “I’m Sundown.”
Thank you for reading this if you did. This has been a story I have shared in person with more than just a few people but never told in full, and certainly never on a platform as public as the internet. But after returning to Albert Mountain a second time, I felt that it was finally time to really write it all out. I appreciate you letting me share this with you. I know it was long, if you made it through the whole thing, here’s a little bonus: