How did I get here?
We are hiking the Appalachian Trail. The entire trail. Even after months of deliberating on this subject it still sounds unbelievable. It sounds impossible. Yet, I know that this thought is not an alien one to the readers of Appalachian Trials. This is comforting to me. I enjoy knowing that there are other people out there who have had the same thought and felt the same drive to do this seemingly insurmountable task. I find peace in knowing that many of them have accomplished the ultimate goal of completing the trail in one of the various ways that it can be completed.
Right now, my husband, Adam, and I are in the throes of the planning stage: The preparing. The shopping sprees. The wondering. Will all of this planning be worth it? Will it adequately prepare us? Can we really do this? I don’t know and now I have come to realize that I probably will not know until we are there, living it.
Starting his plan
Our planning started in January. But I’d like to back up a bit farther. Ever since I can remember knowing Adam (ten years at this point; three dating and seven married) I’ve known that he has wanted to take on the AT. He hiked a section when he lived in Washington, DC. Since then the idea of hiking all of it has been tucked in the back of his mind. This notion would come out when we talked about taking a hike—any hike. No matter what trail we talked about taking next, part of our conversation turned to his desire to hike the AT.
Sometime during the past two or three years Adam started to talk more about the AT. He never discussed a section hike. No. That would not do. He doesn’t think like this. He works on political campaigns. He’s good at what he does because he plans to the end of a race. He always has the results on election day in mind. His professional experience has taught him that if you’re not planning to go to the end, you don’t go at all.
I don’t think so
I threw off Adam’s attempts to get me interested in the trail by saying, “I don’t want to spend six months looking at my feet. Thank you.” This is what I think much of it will be like; six months of picking my way through rocks, avoiding roots, etc.
My excuse bought me about a year. Maybe longer. Then about two years ago, books about the AT started appearing in our home. I spotted books by people with weird names like AWOL and the Good Badger. I was encouraged to read A Blistered Kind of Love, a book about a couple who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Amazon brought a couple of AT DVDs to the front door and a National Geographic video about the trail appeared in our Netflix queue. So I knew Adam was serious. Our conversations switched to him hiking the trail and me supporting him as much as I could. But how could I do this while keeping a job and living in Albuquerque, New Mexico? Springer Mountain is nearly 1,500 miles from Albuquerque. Even by air it might take me two days of traveling to get to any portion of the trail.
My thinking slowly began to turn—very slowly. I started to envision Adam on the trail and the idea of him out there without help was unsettling to me. Don’t get me wrong, here. He can take care of himself. But my overactive, paranoid imagination came up with all kinds of ways for him to get into trouble: Bears, ticks, snakes, dogs, people, cliffs, aforementioned trail rocks and roots. What if I just couldn’t get there to help or to be with him? I didn’t share much of these thoughts with him. I didn’t want him to think I was a wimp or that I thought he can’t manage without me.
This went on for about six months; Adam saying he was going to hike it on his own and me saying I know. To ease the internal worry I was having about all of the things that could happen to him, I found a compromise. I asked him to schedule out his hike so that I could figure out how many times I might realistically get to the trail to see him. Near the end of 2013 he started to plan it out in his head and one day declared, “2015 is the year.” “OK,” I said. (For the record, I never said to him that I didn’t want him to do it. I never told him I thought he was nuts. I knew it wouldn’t work. After all, I married a man who had the desire to see the entire AT.)
After his declaration, I started my research. I went to the public library and searched for books about the AT. Only a couple were in the stacks: Hiking Through and Walking Home. I read these and did another sweep of the library in 2014. I found Odyssa’s two books. I devoured these. There is something about Jennifer Pharr Davis’s “voice” and her realistic approach to the AT that resonates with me. I admire her honest, female perspective and her expressions of faith. (I read large sections of these books to Adam.)
Our collective research started to paint a picture in my mind about what the AT might look and feel like. I still couldn’t sign off, but at least Adam knew I was interested in doing my own research. We started to discuss what he could expect and how I could come see him from time to time. Then, one evening during this past February, I used the word “we” in a discussion about hiking the AT. Adam was on this in a flash. He gave me a smile and I knew I was in deep trouble. I knew that I had just signed off on the idea—the whole idea—and that we were going to do this hike together.
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