Expectations, Reactions and Worries

Reactions and expectations are curious things. And a lot of them are going around as Adam and I get closer to our launch date. A couple of weeks ago, we went to our hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. It was a chance for us to see many family members and gauge their reactions and friends’ reactions to our aspiration for next year. We were pebbled with many questions about the AT, gear, our attitude about all of this, etc. On the whole, people were very positive. I felt very blessed.

We May Have Company

One of Adam’s brothers-in-law asked us when along the trail might be a good time for him to join us. We decided that a section hike in Virginia might be the answer to staving off any possibility of us contracting the Virginia Blues. My girlfriend’s husband has always wanted to do this and might join us for a bit. A friend in Albuquerque wants us to keep her updated on our location so that she can join us when she can. They’d be welcome.

We Are Nuts

One of my sisters-in-law said she was excited for us but that we were nuts. (I have eight sisters-in-law, so there’s little danger of outing this one.) Surprisingly, I felt relieved that someone had used the word “nuts.” In my mind, she made the other shoe fall and I was glad for it. I had been wondering, waiting for someone to tell me what I already know–that Adam and I are excited too, but that we are nuts to boot.

Don’t Back Out Before We Start

Another friend asked what we will do when we get bored of hiking each day. We didn’t have a good comeback for this, because we think it will happen and often. Travel Scrabble game kit? Not such a bad idea, but then I’d have to carry a pen and paper. This friend’s husband thinks we need to spend a week hiking 10 miles a day to see if we even want to do something like this. I don’t know. I really don’t want to train like this because I don’t want to find out that we don’t like it. What if we don’t? What do we do then? I’d rather we just “jump off the cliff” and know we have no where to go but forward. Then we can’t back out before we begin.

Parents’ reactions and expectations are harder to gauge. Adam’s parents asked us questions about the trip. They seem curious and excited. My parents went “front country” camping several weeks ago in Smoky Mountain National Park. They sent us AT stickers for our cars. This was a morale boost, although I haven’t yet put one on my back windshield.

Our Own Pressure is the Worst

Our own expectations take the lead in importance. Out of our four hip joints, one is causing a good deal of concern.  Adam recently was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his right hip. It has been causing him discomfort for many months. And the pain is increasing. Multiple x-rays, trips to a physical therapist, visits to a chiropractor and a couple of stops to see the M.D. haven’t helped. Now, an appointment with an orthopedic specialist is coming up. We are anxious about what news this visit will bring. We are committed to starting our hike in March of 2015 and we don’t want to be derailed.

My singular, personal expectation keeps popping into my mind. Twice a year for many years, my father, mother and younger brother packed up the tent and the lawn chairs and headed to Cades Cove in the Smokies. We went each spring to see the wildflowers and each fall to see the maples and tulip poplars show off their colors. (My parents still take these bi-annual trips, although Elkmont is the preferred campground.) Tucked into the Smokies are some of my favorite places in the world. I vividly remember climbing up the AT at Newfound Gap when I was about ten years old. I saw a single white blaze. I imagined going beyond that blaze.

Smokies trip 1985

Since that tree at the gap jumped in front of my brother, here’s another shot of a mid-80s camping trip. Don’t be jealous of the 20-pound tent.

I know that the AT is much more than the Smokies, but if I can start the trail in Georgia and find a way to no longer imagine what lies beyond that one blaze, I feel that I will have accomplished much. And now I am closer than ever to making this happen.

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