What AM I thinking??
Having just started this adventure of training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I am beginning to really see the magnitude of my goal. So many ideas I have had throughout my life never came to fruition and I feel my previous failures knocking me in the head.
Is this really achievable? Can I walk 2,200 miles in the woods? ALL AT ONCE?
There are motivational quotes I like to read when I begin to feel like this, but is a quote enough to change my feeling of doom?
I had a walk a couple weeks ago with my nephew, Matthew. I’d been after him all summer to go hiking with me. He finally found a day off and excitedly told me he had time to go somewhere with me. I was very excited to spend some time with him and enjoy his company while getting a hike under my belt. We decided on hiking the Hunters Creek Park trails. This would be my first real hike in the woods that mimic the terrain of the AT and I was prepared.
My backpack carries my water for me in a soft bladder with a cool hose that hangs around my shoulder and I can easily drink from it. I filled the bladder with cold water and checked the hose and nozzle by giving it a little squeeze. Wiping my face from the spray of water that hit me when I squeezed the nozzle, I had to push back the feeling that this was not a good start. My pack was filled with popcorn, pepperoni, crackers, first aid kit, my Leatherman, compass, a map of the park, extra socks, and my 2 liters of water. It totaled 8 lbs when I checked it on the scale. Not bad for a first hike.
Matthew and I fortified ourselves with breakfast that Saturday morning at the West Alden Kitchen. Feeling excited and anxious to begin we gulped down breakfast and soon arrived at the park. Hunters Creek Park is rustic. There are no facilities except for a parking lot, a wooden sign with a faded map to orient yourself and not much else. Matthew picked the trail and I set my app to measure our distance. We walked a narrow path that opened up to a cool, shaded woods and I always wonder if this is what the AT might look like in places. Matthew is tall and lean with a large step and quick pace. In no time he was up front of me looking back periodically to make sure his elderly aunt hadn’t fallen or twisted an ankle.
Matthew was a great leader; he kept my pace quick and didn’t let me fall too far behind him. He checked the map against the trail marks we came across to make sure we didn’t get turned around. Or so I thought. Either it was poor map reading or just a plain mischievous spirit I found ourselves walking up the same steep hill three times! As I stopped midway up the hill the third time, I looked up and saw Matthew standing at the top of the hill trying to hide his big smile. I groaned and continued up the hill, reminding myself that my Walk isn’t for four years. I have lots of time to get into AT shape.
Matthew and I stopped for a snack on the creek’s shale bed. We sat and chatted about nothing in particular, just enjoying the cool breeze and watching the dragonflies dart around the rocks. I took my shoes off and carefully walked into the creek, loving the cool water on my hot, sweaty soles.
After a while we packed up and continued on our journey. There was a rickety bridge that bounced when Matthew crossed over it. I hesitated at this bridge taking a picture and smiled as I thought, worry about the bridges when you get to them. I was worried about this bridge, luckily though the drop was only about one foot! Confident, I bounced my own way over the bridge, watching my step over the larger gaps. Matthew led me to the parking lot at long last and we blasted the air conditioning in my car. I checked my app and proudly told Matthew that we had hiked five miles!
I don’t know if this is what the AT will be like, or if I will ever get to walk the AT, and if I do walk the AT, will I finish it? I do know this for sure, the time with my nephew, Matthew, was special and I can’t wait to hike with him again.