Birthing an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Dream
Birthing an Appalachian Trail thru-hike? In my lifetime, I discovered that the act of fulfilling a dream was fraught with painful sacrifices and difficult choices. To pick one dream to fulfill is like placing a foot upon a personally chosen path; forsaking, sacrificing, and leaving behind other ambitions, people, environments, experiences, and relationships. Today I sobbingly paused in my driveway and examined my own painful sacrifices being made to enable my approaching thru-hike attempt. Shedding pounds from a pack is not the only “shedding” aspirant thru-hikers experience. We all cast aside prized possessions, clingy emotions, and relied-upon relationships to take on the minimalist ways of a thru-hiker. We all leave things behind to find something special in a new goal, trail, job, or relationship.
Today when I closed the door to my car and watched my husband washing his car in the chilly December air, he sideways glanced in my direction. “You OK?”
“What’s wrong?” More tire scrubbing.
“What in the hell am I doing?” My head hung as limp as my reusable shopping bags from my hands.
The soapy sponge plopped into the orange bucket. “What do you mean?”
“The trail! What if this is lunacy and I need to get my head checked?”
I began to rattle off the things I was giving up on Feb. 10, 2019. The date of my faraway AT thru-hike did what time does so well: creep and pounce upon my psyche. He gave me a knowing glance because the day had arrived; I was giving my precious parrot to a new home, to pursue my life change. Parrots need a ton of attention and daily interaction or become very sick, pluck their own feathers until bald, and frequently die of loneliness. It takes months or years to gain a parrot’s trust and love and I was about to selfishly shatter her heart. I knew she was going to an excellent home with women who took the last three months to get to know my bird baby. But the lump in my throat felt like cancer in my heart. I could very well be breaking a bird. Was it worth it? Was any of my sacrifices worth walking 2,190 miles back home to Maine?
“But, my kids… I am leaving them for six months.”
“They are adults, Shell.”
“So. What mother leaves her family?”
He started to spray down his car and shrugged his shoulders. “The driven woman I married who has been wasting away taking care of others.”
“You are just saying that because of all of the money I spent and the hours creating some YouTube channel.” The logo of the orange juice lid was seared into my brain because I could not look up.
I heard more plops of water on a hollow, metal hood. “How many people have you heard from telling you about the inspiration and courage you are giving them?”
“Change one life, Shell. Change our kids’ lives. Maybe someday when they are ready to quit chasing dreams at the age of 44, they can smarten the hell up and remember what their mother accomplished on the AT.”
I looked up from the orange juice to see my husband of 20 years look at me with tears in his own eyes. “Low blow, mister.”
“You can’t quit now.” He twisted the hose nozzle to shut off the flow of water.
“Babe, you are already gone. You need this more than we need you.”
Birthing an Appalachian Trail Dream Requires Emotional Dieting
We live large lives, continuously accumulating material possessions and imprinting the earth everywhere we roam. When we live to leave lasting imprints by examples, encouragement, openness, positivism, and with love, can we live more simple lives filled with big impacts. You might be a student leaving behind a mountain of student loan debt and unforgiving parents to chase a dream on the trail. You might be a beautiful creature struggling with their sexuality, or a senior grasping for one more adventure before twilight calls you home. But you will leave people who will one day painfully birth their own dreams because of your incredible courage. It sucks going on a diet, but sometimes one must go on an emotional diet before changing one’s life.
As I always close my videos, never fear, dear reader. See you on the trail.
Link to more blogs. For more about my Appalachian Trail 2019 hiking vlog, here is a taste of the content. I am honored to have you follow me on The Trek as I blog in conjunction with the 2019 Appalachian Trail thru-hike videos. Merry Christmas, hikers!
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