It’s Going to be My Dream Come Thru
Over the past few months, I have started sharing my plans to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (the AT) with friends, family, coworkers, and basically anyone who will listen to me talk. The more I share, the more questions I’m asked. “How long is the trail?” About 2,190 miles. “How long will it take you?” If I do it all, four to seven months. “Are you taking a gun?” No. “Will you smell really bad?” Yes.
I tend to get similar questions over and over, and I have my canned answers down pat. But every so often, I’ll get a question that I don’t know the answer to. Over lunch one day, one of my coworkers asked me one such question. The conversation went something like this:
Coworker: “But why are you doing this?
Me: “I guess because it’s been my dream for a while now, and why not?”
Coworker: “Yeah, but why?”
Me: “Uhhhh… like… because…”
This question left me shaking in my boots (well, actually, trail runners). What is really motivating me to attempt a thru-hike? How did this become my dream? After a lot of thought and reflection, I’ve realized the answers to these questions are really complicated. I’ll attempt to explain.
We’re weaving in and out of cars, dodging tourists with cameras around their necks and kids on their shoulders. After about 30 minutes of searching, we’ve finally done it: We’ve found a parking spot at Clingmans Dome.
It’s spring break 2016, and I’ve traveled to Western North Carolina to visit one of my oldest and closest friends. So far, we spent my visit exploring the mountains, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, and eating excessive amount of Cook Out and barbecue. It was a great trip so far. But my host tells me that Clingmans Dome is going to blow everything else we’ve seen out of the water. The parking lot situation has me feeling skeptical.
Of course, my friend was right. I was totally blown away. But probably not in the way that he thought I would be. I noticed something that day that would stick with me much more than the view or the crowds: thru-hikers. Some were taking snack breaks on benches, some were hauling their packs up to the observation deck, and some were eating pizza out the trunk of a car in the parking lot. They were everywhere, and they all looked like they were having the time of their lives.
As we drive away, I think about the view, I think about the hikers, and I can’t help but think, “Maybe I should hike the AT, too?”
A little spark like this could have easily flickered out. Hiking the AT could have just been a fleeting thought. It took me a while to tease it out, but I’ve realized that there are some things about me that made this idea stick. Here are some of the most important ones:
I love adventures (big and small).
My whole life I’ve loved adventures of all sizes. Here are a few of the adventures I’ve enjoyed/enjoy:
- Scaling the curtains to climb out of my crib.
- Riding my bike to the local ice skating rink to climb “mountains” (aka the piles of ice left outside by the Zamboni).
- Going on an archaeological dig in Cyprus.
- Taking long road trips to weird places.
- Teaching pre-kindergarten.
I am an independent woman (aka I love to do things on my own).
While I’m a big fan of spending time with friends and family, I also really love doing things on my own. Solo adventures, such as the following, are so special to me:
- Attending college 1,000 miles from home.
- Exploring my city.
- Taking both day and overnight hikes.
- Going to overnight Girl Scout camp (and being super peeved that another girl from my troop signed up for the same week as me).
I love to walk.
I’ve always been a walker, and I’ve always loved it. I have incorporated walking into my life by:
- Extending my walks to/from school by cutting through backyards, across empty lots, and down alleys.
- Skipping the campus shuttle to walk to and from class.
- Walking to and from work whenever possible.
- Wandering around Milwaukee with my friends.
- Packing nearly all of my vacations with hikes.
The spark of visiting Clingmans Dome and the fuel of who I am and what I like have, together, made my dream of hiking the AT burn very bright. This dream feels like it fits me so perfectly. I’ve now spent about three years saving, researching, and preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail. I can’t be certain that I’ll finish the whole thing, but just having the opportunity to try is really a dream come true.
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