On 25 September, I made a decision. It was more a stroke of recognition that burned right through me like a flash of lightning. It was spurred by an innocuous post on a friend’s Facebook page. When I first read this post – about a mild-mannered woman who quietly set the women’s record for fastest Appalachian Trail thru-hike – I simply thought: Hmmm. That’s interesting. Good for her. But, in the way Inspiration often does, that post began to whisper to me at the oddest times … while I was lying in bed at night … as I was doing dishes … while brushing my bunny’s hair. Pretty quickly that whisper turned into a high-volume roar. There is something for you here. Pay attention.
So I did. I paid attention. And suddenly the desire I’d long ago held to hike the Appalachian Trail was rekindled. And this time it felt like a real possibility. It felt like a worthy goal. And on 25 September (2015), I decided to make it a reality.
Now, my mama didn’t raise a dummy. I know that there is MUCH more to this adventure than just deciding to do it. And it will be a long process to get myself to a point where I feel physically, mentally and financially capable of the adventure. But, the process has begun! I’ve been researching and reading about the trail and the experiences of others who have gone before me. I am starting to gather up gear. I’m planning some physical training to prep my body. And I’m incorporating practices like pranayama, meditation and journaling to prep my mind/spirit. I took my first actual, real-life backpacking trip a couple weekends ago with my sister and brother-in-law. My brother-in-law was an Eagle Scout, so he’s an invaluable resource.
We were originally planning an overnight hike on Cold Mountain, but tales of blustery cold weather (even in Summer) urged us to change our locale. Instead we made for Max Patch Bald on the recommendation of a friendly REI employee. We hiked (on the AT!) north from Max Patch around 6 miles. There we found a spot to set up camp, where brother-in-law made a beautiful fire and taught us how to hang a bear bag. (For those of you not in the know, that’s where you put your food in a bag and hang it up in the trees away from trunks and branches to protect it from hungry bears.) We had dinner around the campfire, then tucked into our respective tents for a good night’s rest under the stars. The next morning we awoke with the sun … well, okay, a little after the sun … and re-traced our steps back to Max Patch Bald. Somehow we managed to shave an hour off our time on the return trip. And that included stopping at one of the AT shelters to have lunch. It was an awesome experience. And while I confirmed for myself that I chose my trail name of Tortoise wisely, I also confirmed that I really want to do this. I’m excited about the challenge.
I always feel so at home in the woods. And it was nice to have this first experience with some company as I’m still not super confident in my skills, and am, therefore, a little nervous going it alone. However, in the spirit of getting out of my comfort zone, I hope to plan a solo trip soon. I’m not sure if I’ll get to do it this year or not. The weather will have a hand in that. I don’t have a lot of winter gear. But I figure I’ll be spending a good deal of next year in the woods, getting more comfortable with my Self and my backcountry skills. If you have any suggestions for good places to go in and around North Carolina, or if you’d like to plan a trip with me, give me a shout!
Have any of you hiked the AT? Did you day hike, section hike, flip flop, or thru-hike? Did you white blaze, blue blaze, yellow blaze, or rainbow blaze? Did you love it? I’d love to hear your experiences!
Post Script: Once again I’m having trouble loading photos. I will do my best to get some as soon as possible. Until then … let your imaginations guide you!