Hayley’s Note: How We Got Here

It started with a boy…a common theme you will find in your youthful twenties. I was preparing to go camping at a friend’s family property in Maine with a former coworker turned good friend. She was running down the list of who all was going (the usual suspects) and then she said “Oh yeah and this guy ‘Bo Biese’ is going too.  He’s pretty cool, he hiked the Appalachian Trail.”  So I met this “pretty cool guy who hiked the Appalachian Trail” with the childhood rhyme nickname (you know the one that starts with your last name…Riese, Riese Bo Biese, Bananafana Fo Fiese).  While we can’t say it was love at first sight, you could definitely say it was notice at first sight. I noticed him, he noticed me, and after a couple more years of social interactions and some hard pushing from friends, we finally got together.

So now we are dating, and what do you do when you are getting to know someone? Find things you can do together that are more than just Netflixin’ and chillin’. Hiking came up as a mutual hobby, but our skill levels could not be farther apart (I mostly hiked through state parks for short periods of time). However, I was determined to do the hikes Eric liked doing, and boy did I start out the hard way. Being from northeast Massachusetts, the closest hikes were in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Eric, being the experienced hiker, was smart and started us slow. I gradually got my hiking legs summiting the beasts of NH, the 4000-footers. We often joke the slogan of the White Mountains is “Welcome to the Whites….go $%#! yourself.” Every stumble, every muscle strain, every rock kick built me into a hiker. I was determined to keep up and I had some amazing falls (I even got a trail name because of one). The phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” could not have been truer during my early hiking days.

Years went by and we kept on hiking and soon we moved on to multiday backpacking. Then somewhere between our section hike of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts and the selection of the Presidentials in New Hampshire I thought, I could do this. I could thru-hike the AT. It startled me at first, how possible it felt and how much I wanted to do it. It was like kindling taking light. Why not? Why not hike it? I could do it. We could do it together. Why not? It breathed through my mind during the grueling White Mountain climbs and early morning coffee drinking beside our tent. It started to become an obsession, something I was now building into my life plan. Eric was thrilled at how this was all progressing. He always knew he would hike the AT again, and now this clumsy yet determined person he loved wanted to do it too.

The next question was when… when are we going to do this big thing? This life-changing thing that takes more time than you would think. We both had settled into our careers and were living a good life together, but the knowledge that we would someday thru-hike the Appalachian Trail was solid. I knew it was in my future as surely as a knee striking granite is painful. More time went by, and then Covid happened. We were fortunate that we were not severely negatively impacted by the pandemic, but like most people, we did feel the fleetingness of our lives. Covid was the catalyst, but we were at a good point in our lives to pull the trigger (young and fit with no house, no pets nor family members relying on us) so we decided to do it. We were going to thru-hike the AT in 2022… and here we are five days out. It’s all happening right now.  There are times in your life that you feel like it’s a dream and how could I be so fortunate?  I wish I could go back in time to the uncertain, young girl who was, I now see, poorly packing her bag to go camping and tell her, “Girl, you are going to do some great things, just you wait.”

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