Introduce Yourself – Faith. No More
“Then you said in a song
That life was gettin’ real tough
But hey I think that you’re bluffing, what of it? Introduce yourself right on!”
Pleased to Meet Me
Hey folks. Welcome to my blog. My name is Andrea Stilwell and I recently retired after a 30-year career with the USPS. I’m starting my thru hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail in late February 2024.
From now until then I will be training as best I can with equipment I have in my basement. Winter will be knocking on my door very soon and I’m not geographically blessed to be able to work out on mountains like some of my other aspiring thru hiking comrades. But you can’t buy heart and soul and determination and I’m counting on those.
Wherefore and Why
Wherefore and Why – Gordon Lightfoot “Then I got to thinkin’ what makes you want to go
To know the wherefore and the why So many times now, oh Lord, I can’t remember
If it’s September or July”
When I knew in 2022 that I was going to retire in 2023, I started to make plans for my thru hike. I scouted out upcoming sale dates from my nearest REI. There was new equipment that I needed to purchase, equipment I had to replace.
Back in 2015, I took a 2-week vacation and section hiked the Approach Trail to the NOC. My pack weight must have been north of 35 pounds. I took what I had. I hit the trail with wide-eyed enthusiasm and equal naivete. Hostels? Resupply? Farout? Endless YouTube vlogs that proffer countless tidbits of advice? None of it. It was the “learn as you go” school of experience. Thankfully in my second week I hiked with a more experienced older man who hung my food bag when necessary and made calls to hotels for the nights we needed.
That experience gave me the realization that for this thru hike I needed lighter gear and that the terrain was no joke. Plus, I’m 8 years older and my body is not as nimble nor as flexible nor as strong.
This past September I did a 3-day shakedown with my new gear. I hiked the Approach Trail to Woody Gap. I packed out all the gear as if I were starting in February – ok, I left my 10 degree bag at home and took my 30 degree. Everything worked well. The Approach kicked my ass. Time must have erased that from my memory, or my body degraded in the intervening years. Either way, when I returned home, I promptly called my shuttle driver to rearrange my drop off at the top of Springer Mountain. The romance of starting my hike by walking through the arch was replaced by stark reality. I’m not a masochist.
There is no “why” other than I want to do it. Period. I’ve no grand illusions of self-discovery. I’ve no timeline to beat except for winter hitting Baxter. This is my retirement trip. Instead of going to Bora Bora basking on golden beaches and sipping umbrella drinks I’m going to be spending my time trudging up and down countless mountain sides, eating numerous jars of peanut butter, ramen bombs and jerky. Rain or shine. For 2100 plus miles. Hey, wait a minute….
I hope you all come with me on my journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. It’s going to be a trip.
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