Ageless Women Give Me Inspiration for My Thru-Hike
You want to do what?
I have read several social media posts from women who are disappointed and saddened that their parents, children, boyfriends, or husbands are not supportive of their plans to hike the Appalachian Trail. Or worse, many women are being told by friends and family that they will never succeed.
Whether I succeed or not in completing my hike, I can at least start the trail knowing that despite my family and friends thinking, “What the hell is she doing now?” they are also telling me, “You can do this!”
My first backpacking trip was an Outward Bound course when I was in high school in 1975. Not long after that, I learned about the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been wanting to hike it ever since. My husband and I hiked from Springer to Unicoi Gap in Georgia in 1991. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 51. In 2018, at the age of 61, I am hoping to complete the trail. My inspiration for a thru-hike comes from the Red Lodge Hiking Club, which consists mostly of retired women who spend their Thursdays in every season of the year either hiking or cross country skiing. I was initially skeptical of the group because the leaders of the club were 20 to 30 years older than me. And then I realized that most of them could out hike me.
Strong Role Models
Two of my hiking club role models are pictured here. The tiny one is Marlene, age 81. In the last few years, Marlene has hiked in the Dolomites, walked across England, and along the coast of Scotland. She’s also hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest and swam in the Antarctic among many other adventure travels. On hiking club days, Marlene, a former public school teacher and mother of two with two granddaughters, still gets up early for a short jog or other exercise before a 14-mile-plus day hike above 9,000 feet elevation with a little tennis to relax in the evening of the same day. In the winter she cross country skis as well as downhills. She usually competes in two or three events in the Big Sky State Games and in 2008 she was named the National Congress of State Games’ female athlete of the year. And her active life started out as part of her rehab to recover from polio as a child. So, no excuses!
The other woman helping to celebrate my upcoming journey (as well as Mardi Gras) is Ruth, age 96. Ruth is a great-grandmother and one of the early members of the Red Lodge Hiking Club (est. 1963) and she continued to backpack every year until she was about 90 years old. Ruth was a college chemistry professor back in the days when very few female students enrolled in college-level chemistry classes. She is still an active member of her church and the Red Lodge community, participating in weekly bridge games and several book clubs. Another of the hiking club’s founding members, Lucille, age 90ish, is still leading “shorter” summer hikes of five to six miles. And these are only a few of the amazing women in this group. So, as a youngster of only 61, I have no excuses to not give this a try.
Fortunately, I have been surrounded by many active women role models in my life. My sister, now in her 70s, not only still rides thoroughbred horses taller than she is but also jumps over things on them. That takes more courage than hiking. My father, brother, and husband might have shaken their heads over whatever I set out to do in various stages of my life but they never discouraged me. And I was also raised with camp counselors and coaches who not only told me, “You can do this,” but who also encouraged me to strive to be stronger or faster or braver.
So, thanks to everyone who has supported, encouraged, motivated, inspired and pushed me along in my life so far. What’s another 2,100-plus miles?
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