It’s usually the first thing on everyone’s mind when they find out that someone is going to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. They wouldn’t want to do it, and they just can’t fathom why any sane person would want to do something like this -especially ALONE- so they rummage through their brains and come to their own conclusions, often quite wrong! …so let me get this out the way, first.
1.) I’m happy in my marriage. All marriages have ups and downs, good periods and bad periods, but Bud and I have weathered them all, and we have come out on the other side. We are in a very good place, together. I love Bud with all of my heart, and my marriage is the happiest it’s ever been in our 22 years together. We’re not tired of each other now that he is retired. We’re both introverts and can be ‘alone together’ if we need to be. We fit together very nicely and we actually like each other. We enjoy spending time together.
2.) Bud is behind my hike 100 percent. He has been more supportive than I could have hoped. If he wasn’t FOR this hike, 100 PERCENT, I would not choose to go, because we are a partnership. When I brought up this crazy idea of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, it was HIS idea for me to do it this year.
3.) I’m not looking to ‘find myself’. After 50 years on this planet, I can honestly say I’m finally secure in who I am, and most importantly who God made me to be.
4.) THANK GOD, I can honestly say that I am content with my life as it is. I couldn’t always say that. I was always looking for the elusive ‘something’ that was missing. I’ve found it! …and it’s settled. “I” am settled. I love my home, in spite of all of the work it still needs. I could live here in a tent if I had to, and still be quite happy! We did that for weeks at a time when we first bought the place, before our house was ‘live-able’. I love it here that much. I enjoy my role as a housewife and I can’t imagine life without Bud. I don’t even want to imagine it without him in it. I’m content…RIGHT. WHERE. I’M. AT. I don’t need to look for anything else.
5.) For the first time in my life, I’m not running away from something. I’m choosing to go somewhere. No one but me can possibly understand the magnitude of that statement, nor the impact that simple choice has had on me, nor can they understand the indication of ‘progress’ in my life that it implies. Thank you, Jesus.
I read in a book called, “Appalachian Trials,” by Zack Davis, that a good way to face the looming challenge in front of you is to make a list of the reasons why you want to do the hike in the first place. This is a way to combat those times you are on the trail and it’s raining, you’re cold, hungry, bug-bitten and uncomfortable. You want to quit. The excitement wears off and you wonder why you ever wanted to do this crazy thing in the first place. That’s when you pull out ‘the list’…the reasons you wrote down when you were high on your dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail…to remind you why you need to keep going. Without further adieu (or rambling), here is ‘the list’.
Why I Want to Hike the Appalachian Trail
1.) It’s my dream. Mine. It’s something “I” truly want to do. I’m not following the dream or plan of someone else. It wasn’t suggested by someone else that I do it. I’m not doing it to please or placate or satisfy someone else, nor does it matter to me whether they approve or not! It’s mine, and mine alone. That might sound kind of simplistic to most people, but for someone who has always ‘followed,’ and never had a dream that seemed impossible and followed through, it’s a life-altering thing, and a challenge I want to see through to the end.
2.) I want to experience life in it’s simplest form, with everything I need on my back…my food, shelter and clothing, all going with me; everything in my life being stripped to the lowest common denominator. I crave that simplicity.
3.) I once saw a video of Warren Doyle -who has hiked the AT 16 times- saying something to the effect of, “many people don’t finish the trail because they just can’t stand being with themselves.” He was implying that when all distractions are removed, it’s just ‘me, myself and I’ and one can’t escape themselves anymore. I think people spend a lot of time thinking that other people, places and things are ‘the problem,’ when it’s really themselves that are the problem. When you are alone, there is no one else to point at or blame. I have never experienced having all of those distractions removed, with only one goal for the day (to walk from Point A to Point B)…and I want to. I’m looking forward to that challenge very much…but you know, God will be there, too, and that is the part I’m looking forward to the most. Those everyday distractions also shut Him out too. If I’m honest, that is probably what I am afraid of the most, too.
4.) I’m not going to the trail looking for the trail to change me, but they say you can’t hike the trail and not be changed. That fascinates me. How will I be changed? I’m drawn to find the answer. I hope that I will come back a much better person, and a much better wife. Who doesn’t have thorns and flaws that are easy to mask with all of the trappings in daily life?
5.) I want the physical challenge of the trail. I’ve been walking 6 miles a day with my backpack, and hope to start doing that twice a day before my hike. That is NOTHING compared to what I will face on the trail. The Appalachian Trail is not just a walk or a ‘footpath’. There are rivers to ford, boulders to navigate, and vertical climbs to conquer. I’ve never been an athletic sort of person…but there is nothing like the feeling of pushing yourself to the brink and feeling the effects of that physical exertion, knowing that you did that. YOU DID THAT! …that thing that seemed so insurmountable.
6.) I have a mild case of M.S. I have the lesions on my brain which cause symptoms, but I don’t have some of the other markers. There have only been a couple of times that my walking was really affected, but I have balance problems and other M.S. symptoms most of the time. The doctor said he doesn’t think it’s progressive, but M.S. is a progressive disease. I’ve read of many people who have been told their M.S. is mild and they say, “It’s only NOT progressive until it IS.” I’m not getting any younger, and now seems like the right time to do it, while I can.
7.) Though I guess I could be deceived, and I’m willing to be shown that if this desire is coming from the other side…I feel that it’s something I’m being called to do. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that it I feel deep within me that it is something I’m meant to do in the big scheme of God’s plan for my life. There is a saying on the trail, “Hike Your Own Hike.” I truly hope and aspire to Hike the Hike God wants me to hike, and to serve His purpose while on the trail, whatever that turns out to be.
So there you have it…the rest of the story…the great mystery revealed…straight from the chicken’s mouth. 🙂
~The Hiker Formerly Known as Arkansas Traveler