An Impropable Thru-Hike Dream is Born
People keep asking me, “Have you seen WILD?” or, “Did you know Robert Redford has a movie coming out about the AT?” and I keep saying, “No, I haven’t seen or read WILD yet (though my sister keeps promising to lend me the book)” and “Yes, I own Bill Bryson’s book and can’t wait to see the movie,” BUT neither one of these is why I’ve decided to thru-hike the AT.
My dream started a decade ago when I went on my first backpacking expedition. As a “first year” at Bowdoin College, the Bowdoin Outdoor Club offered “Outdoor Orientation Trips” – a four or five day trip to get to know your fellow Polar Bears and to experience the wilderness of Maine. Being young and overly confident, I signed up to go on a 9+ mile a day backpacking trip . . . and nearly didn’t make it back because it was so much harder than I had ever anticipated.
Besides pain and embarrassment (as my hiking companions all ran up mountains singing and laughing and I invariably brought up the rear), what I most remember about that hike is meeting the thru-hikers. Hiking near Baxter State Park in fall, we met many individuals close enough to the end of their hike to count the days on their hands. Their grizzled faces, torn packs, and worn boots told nearly as many stories as they did, seated around our campfires, grateful for the warmth and the extra peanut butter. From that trip forward, I jokingly told anyone who would listen, “Oh yeah, I’m going to thru-hike the AT one day” and, “I’m going to be a 2000-miler.” Never mind I’ve never been backpacking again. Never mind I don’t have a tent yet. Never mind I haven’t had to read a topographic map since high school gym. It was never really a real plan, a real dream – it was a mirage to cling to that described the woman I wanted to be someday – adventurous, independent, courageous, and tenacious.
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