For the past 7 months I have been making plans to put one of my life goals in action: thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.
This is something I have wanted to do ever since my 4th year at Girls Camp. In my stake, the 4th year girls backpacked for 4 days on the AT covering 40-50 miles in Maryland in the month of June, a good time to see plenty of thru hikers making their way from Georgia to Maine. I was fascinated by their stories, their drive to complete this enormous undertaking, and most of all, the culture of the trail.
Last May, Beau and I did a 4 day hike, covering many of the same parts I had done when I was 15. On the last day of our trip, I felt so sad to be leaving and kept day dreaming of ways to thru hike. You know those kind of thoughts- the "what if I...." inserting the "..." with something crazy but fun to think about. What if I left next week and went with the south bounders? What if I joined in with the thru hikers now and did VA-ME this summer, and finish the other half another time? What would thru hiking be like... how would I manage the logistics? What would my trail name be?
But then I was thinking- why don't I just GO? We don't have kids yet, I don't have a fantastic enough job to keep me from leaving, and most importantly, Beau supports this crazy adventure. From the beginning, he has been encouraging me to go. When I say that I don't want to go that long without being together, he assures me he will meet up with me every weekend he can. When I bring up concerns about day to day logistics, he reassures me that I'm a smart person and I can figure it out. When I start to think about all the things I will miss when I'm gone, he reminds me that I will miss having this experience even more.
With the reassurance from Beau, I decided that if I wanted to thru hike, I would have to make it happen. No one was going to plan it for me, buy my gear for me, or put me on Springer Mountain and send me on my way. I would have to make it happen, and the only thing stopping me would be myself.
So I'm going. All summer I've been thinking about it and planning a few things, but I've mostly kept it to myself and Beau because, I'll admit, I feel a little silly saying that I'm going to thru hike. It reminds me of a junior in high school saying, "I'm going to graduate from Harvard!" Uh, sure you are. Most people who say they are going to thru hike don't actually go. And most of the people who actually set out to begin the trail don't finish. What makes me think I'm going to be in this small percentage of successful hikers?
I'm aware that it will not be all fun and games. I try to think about the really not-fun parts (hiking in rain for days, humidity, biting flies in New England, being lonely) as much or more than the awesome ones (making friends on the trail, getting my picture in the book in Harper's Ferry, experiencing trail magic, KATAHDIN). Yes, it's going to be ridiculously enormously hard. The hardest thing I've ever done physically or mentally. But I know I can do this- I can do hard things.