Day 1- In Bloom

I’m in my tent…

…Listening to the rain with a belly full of warm couscous and red beans. I went a little overboard with my measurements, so tomorrow I’ll have couscous mush for breakfast. I learned how to use bear cables for the first time about fifteen minutes ago. Definitely beats tying a knot around a rock and throwing it over a tree to hang my bear bag!

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Let it be known that these Georgia mountains are kicking my arse! It’s another eight miles to the next shelter, so I decided to set up camp, chill out and enjoy my first day around the comfort of people (and a privy).

Today was nothing short of incredible. I met a woman within the first five miles standing on the side of the trail. As soon as I saw her leg braces, I knew exactly who she was; I had read her story online. I’m not sure what kind of accident she was in, but it left her paralyzed from the waist down. Instead of accepting the fate of a wheelchair, she pushed. She pushed and pushed, despite what her doctors were telling her, and now she’s hiking the Appalachian Trail. Paralyzed. She has two electronic leg braces (only 125 made in the entire world) that help her walk. There are foot plates on the bottom that can sense when her weight has shifted to the front of her foot, which causes the brace to bend her knees. Unfortunately, when I met her, her braces had run out of charge. With no juice, the braces will lock in place to keep her upright. Here she was, backpack and everything, in the middle of the trail, without being able to bend her knees. And you know what?

She could not stop smiling.

She could not say a word without a smile the size of Texas coming out first. I offered to help multiple times and she refused. This is her hike. She told me that any day outside, surrounded by beauty, was better than a day staring out of hospital windows. When I left, I made sure I was well out of eyesight and I tried walking with locked knees. I could barely take a few steps. She was able to hike another mile to a road crossing where someone picked her up to take her indoors where she could charge her leg braces again. Im sure she’ll be out and back at it tomorrow.

There’s a saying that I kept mulling over throughout my day. It’s actually a poem, by Rudy Francisco.

Instead of asking why they left
now I ask,
What beauty will I create,
in the space they no longer
occupy?

For those of you who know me well, you know that today marks the anniversary of my mother passing away. This is one of the main reasons for my hike. It’s not that I am trying to forget or cover anything up, but instead I want to create something beautiful. There’s been a hole in my heart for so long and rather than accept it’s residence, I want to plant something and let it bloom for a lifetime.

That’s what I’m doing out here.

I’m in bloom.

 

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Comments 13

  • Avatar
    Rosemary Ward : Mar 28th

    Watching, laughing. Weeping, praying and filled with admiration. Love You

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Melanie Vickers : Mar 28th

    Stephanie,
    I don’t know you, yet. Your story and motivation make me proud to be a mother and grandmother.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    mark jason : Mar 28th

    You’re amazing

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Renee hunter : Mar 28th

      Wow! What an amazing start. I love that you ran into the girl with the electronic braces and she’s smiling. I’m so happy that you’re blooming and a bit jealous I might add. I hope to enjoy more of the AT soon. Happy hiking!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Charlsie : Mar 28th

    Steph, you are amazing. We miss you but we are sooo proud of you and happy for you !! Keep it up 🙂
    -Charlsie & Roarke

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Katherine Twichel : Mar 29th

    Inspiring, funny! Meow! I wish I were out there so we could spend some days hiking together! Keep smiling girl! Hike on!!! Sending love and energy!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Kenneth Snaidman : Mar 29th

    The waiting until out of sight and then attempting to imititate in order to actually understand tells me that it is certainly the you that we all know and love writing this. Good luck, happy trails

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Andy Farquhar : Mar 29th

    Good to hear you had fun on Day 1. It was inspiring running into the woman with the prosthetics – put my walk in context. I’m sure you had good days 2, 3 and 4. A storm is coming Thursday, so try to hunker down and stay safe. I’m waiting it out in Hiawasee.
    Not Bob

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Jenny : Mar 29th

    What an amazing start to your jourrney, Steph. Brian and I are in your corner cheering for you each step of the way!!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Frank Bilbro : Apr 2nd

    That was Stacey Kozel you saw standing there. Remarkable young woman, inspiring story, such courage. All of you hikers are remarkable to this old guy. It doesnt matter how slow you go, what matters is that you keep going.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Angela : Apr 2nd

    Thank you for the poem Stephanie. I start the trail April 14, who knows if I will meet you but this poem and specifically the part about you mom passing hit home. My uncle passed 3 weeks ago. It’s been very rough. My whole family keeps asking why.

    I need to do this hike – not for my uncle – but to create beauty dispite him no longer being physically in my life. Thanks again for the post and I hope you don’t mind if I share the poem. Happy trails and let’s keep smiling!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    patsy : Apr 3rd

    Stephanie,
    when you get to Franklin come eat breakfast at first Baptist Church all the pancakes and bacon you can eat. we pick up

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Melanie Vickers : Apr 4th

    Stephanie,
    wondering where you are now and how the first week went, how’s the weather, when or how do you get messages, are there laundromats, lots of questions from someone who wants to hear about your experience.
    Melanie

    Reply

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