Last week, I set out with my father to hike on the Appalachian Trail. Under the original plan, we should have been picked up today, having walked around 90 miles in 7 days. Surprise, surprise…plans changed.
As a child I was not one for hiking. I couldn’t seem to figure out why anyone would enjoy it. I dreaded the bug bites, feared the wildlife, and hated the exhaustion that it came with. My family, on the other hand, has always loved hiking. My parents backpacked in the mountains of Colorado in the early years of their marriage and my sister spent many weekends in college hiking all over the western tips of North and South Carolina. So inevitably, every trip to our grandparents mountain condo involved at least one hike to the top of the rock bald that overlooks town, leaving me the option of staying behind, voluntarily assuming the role of Debbie Downer, or shuffling along at the back of the pack, willing us to be close to the top. So I think it’s fair to say that my parents were slightly surprised when I presented them with the idea that we spend time on the AT before I move to Arkansas, and honestly I’m still a little surprised as well. I haven’t changed my opinion of the wildlife or the physical exertion, but some unknown variable suddenly made it seem worthwhile.
With my father committed to go with me, I began my weeks of searching, reading, and talking about hiking on the AT. Between my sister’s college gear, my father’s boy scout gear, and a few trips to REI, we gathered what we thought we needed, scoured the maps, and planned our 7 days. We upped our evening dog walks from one mile to five miles and spent Saturday mornings hiking on local trails. I read reviews of what Trader Joe’s items had the most protein per ounce, and executed a feat of sheer precision in my grocery list. When the time came for us to begin, I sincerely believed myself ready.
Now fast forward through the 2 hour drive on a forest service road to the Southern Terminus of the AT, the night in a shelter in which I was certain we would soon be the main course at the all-you-can-eat bear buffet, the 5 foot black snake that led me to use my father as a human shield, the 21 grueling trail miles, and the 4,100 vertical feet, and you’ll find us back in civilization, having abandoned our 7 day plan on the morning of day 3. We got off the trail proud we made it as far as we did, with the intent to return again, without a plan at all.
The thing is, no amount of additional reading, charting, or planning could have prepared us for the trail. We couldn’t have known how much extra weight we had in our packs until we felt them bruising our hips and shoulders with every step. We couldn’t have known how hard the Georgia section is until we got started on the steep and rocky terrain.
So here’s to going boldly toward the things you want, diving in head first when you try something new, and good friends that will come pick you up when you bite off a little more than you can chew.
• • • • • • • • • • • •
Speaking of good friends, I can not say a big enough thank you to all of you who have given to my YAV fundraising efforts. I’m over halfway to my $4,000 goal and completely blown away by the generosity of so many. Your support is quite literally making it possible for me to, yet again, try something new. I could not be more excited for the year to come and I am so thankful to have so many sweet friends backing me up.