Happy Fall everyone! I hope wherever you live you are either enjoying cooler temperatures, the changing color of the leaves, or both. About 3 months ago, a good friend of mine asked if I wanted to hike part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) with her this October. As my brain often does with a new idea, the roadblocks popped up. I can’t do that. I can’t get that time off from work. I can’t leave my husband. That would be so unfair of me to leave on a really fun trip and he’d be stuck at home.
But you know what, the idea actually intrigued me. I did want to go. I talked with my husband about it and he said point blank, if the shoe were on the other foot (his foot), I’d totally go. Well, why the hell not I decided.
So for the past 6 weeks I have been preparing, planning, and practicing (the three P’s) for a 101 mile journey that will last 10 days. Starting midway through MA we’ll hike south through CT, and end up in northern NY. Part of my 3 P’s has been putting a 24-28 pound pack on my back, slowly working up to 14 miles per day hiking, figuring out what items truly are essential to carry (because that pack gets heavy let me tell you), and figuring out how much food I really need. When I said yes to this adventure, I took it seriously. I wanted to be as prepared for this trip, physically, mentally, and emotionally as I could.
My husband has a hip injury right now and can’t go out with me on the longer hikes. I decided a few weeks ago to go on an overnight with a friend but she couldn’t make it either. The very next idea that popped into my head was, I’ll go by myself. I’ve NEVER solo-backpacked anywhere overnight. My mind said, if Sheryl Strayed can hike the PCT solo for 3 months, I can swing one whole night.
So I set out on my first adventure alone. One 24 hour period, just me (and my pack). Now there’s something you’ve got to know about me that’s super important. I’m not very good with maps. Take that in for a moment. Me, heading out for a solo outing, I’m not so hot at reading maps, and I’m going to hike about 20 miles roundtrip to a campsite that isn't on the map, that I’m just going to create when I get there. Let me just say, my husband was a teeny bit worried. I secretly think he was more worried than he let on, but…
Let me say this about being on a trail on your own. EVERY sound in the forest is magnified by 20. Every branch breaking, bird chirping, squirrel running from tree to tree, is quite obvious to your ears. I wasn’t scared really. No scared isn’t the right word. Highly alert is what I was. More aware than usual for sure.
I followed my map like a hawk. Every time I got to a trail junction, a creek, or a lake, I whipped it out just to make sure I knew where I was at all times. I made great time and asked the universe for the perfect campsite by the lake. It delivered.
Lest you think I have some big lead up here to a crazy mishap, I don’t. That would certainly make a great story though. Everything went great. I had no problems setting up and breaking down my tent, cooking, all the things you do when you’re backpacking alone and don’t have someone with which to share those duties.
What I learned was that I could do it. I gained confidence. I gained courage. I gained independence. I gained gratitude.
I know I’m not the only woman to do this but I’ve done it. I think I might be more amazed than proud. Amazed at what my body can do when properly prepared. Amazed at how quiet the world is when you take out man made sounds. Amazed at the awesome lightweight gear technology allows when taking everything you need to survive out in the woods. Amazed that if I really pay attention to the map, I do know where I am.
And you know what? I had such a good time I did it again the next weekend!
On Sunday October 4th I fly east to meet my friend and begin our AT adventure. I’m excited. She’s super fun. I’m a little nervous, but not sure about what. If you’ve been reading my newsletter you know I’ve been in physical therapy since May to help with an out of balance body that has caused neck, shoulder, hip, and foot pain for the last few years. I’m still going but less frequently. I’m happy to report my body is 95% better. I’m fully grateful for my physical Therapist and to myself for putting in the time to do a gazillion home exercises to get me back to a body that feels so good now. So maybe I’m just a tad nervous my body will have problems out there. It might. But I’m armed with tools to help.
So what do I know to be true right now?
Planning, preparing, and practice (those 3 P’s) are what have enabled me to confidently say yes to this adventure. I’m not just winging it like Bill Bryson’s sidekick Katz in his book, A Walk in the Woods. I wouldn't have the confidence and might not even have as much fun.
I had to let my mind have its say ay the beginning when it wasn’t sure of the whole idea, but then I listened to what I really wanted to do, and that was to say yes, go, and do it.
I’ll get back to you in a few weeks and let you know how it all went. If you could send some sunny sky vibes east I’d sure appreciate it.
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