Leaving Everything Behind to Hike the Trail

Disclaimer: This is totally an introduction post. Be prepared for backstory!

The beginning of the end?

It was just after Valentine’s Day. I lay in bed on a Wednesday afternoon, throat swollen in that crazy, cartoon way I never thought possible, dutifully sipping at Pedialyte and feeling really sour about it. My work laptop flashed a few new emails across the screen (tasks for a marketing campaign we were in the middle of), but I was too tired to focus on anything other than my anger and the extreme soreness I felt invading every muscle in my body.

I’d just been diagnosed with mononucleosis. At age 25, I’d been diagnosed with the freaking kissing disease despite not freaking kissing anybody (methinks getting mono perhaps would’ve been more fun at 16 than 25?), and worse, my husband and I were two weeks away from putting our house on the market. Painting needed to be done! Kitchen supplies needed to be packed! But nooo, here I was eating instant mashed potatoes and swallowing nails.

Current mood? Annoyed. To put it lightly.

On a shakedown hike

OK, so you’re right. Mononucleosis isn’t the end of the world, and it could’ve been a lot worse. But being bedridden long term wasn’t my style, and as the days progressed to a point where I could barely get out of bed (let alone read a book or keep my eyes open), my mind started to go stir crazy for change. It begged me for stimulation. Something new.

As my husband was at work, a plan — a small seed, dormant in the cold Minnesota ground where we lived — started to stir from a long slumber. I craved the outdoors. I craved travel.

I wanted to get strong again, and hike.

Let’s back up a little.

My husband (aka Hubs) and I have lived in Minnesota for the last eight years. Our northern state is, admittedly, a great place for fishing and some hiking (if you’ve heard of the Superior Hiking Trail), but it’s just not the best for intense wilderness activities. We often experience winters that last six months, a time when it’s so cold from October to April that your hands will freeze off if you’re not wearing thick enough gloves.

Still, we tolerate Minnesota OK. We work jobs we love, we live in a charming little house, and we take care of two adorable cats, but … our hearts have always been seduced by the great outdoors.

We’ve attempted to feed the travel bug with two or three adventures annually — a trip to Iceland here, a road trip to middle-of-nowhere Nevada there. We’ve done some day hikes, pitched our cute, two-person tent in some crazy places (like right outside Area 51 in the U.S.), and ate way more after a three-mile trek than we should.

Tenting Outside Area 51 in Nevada

Still, it doesn’t quite feed the hunger to GO. It’s always been in our minds to attempt something a little longer than a weekend camping trip. In fact, when we met in 2013, Hubs was in the middle of selling all his worldly possessions to hike the Appalachian Trail. But, well, we’d met. And we fell in love. And those plans went out the window for a while.

Then, suddenly, we found ourselves in a position to sell our house, downsize our belongings, and relocate to Washington state. We felt like we were waking up from a long hibernation. In Washington, we could travel endlessly to places we love (Canada to the north, Portland and California to the south). The outdoor activities are plentiful, and the job market is booming for our chosen careers. With renewed vigor, we attacked our lives, ready to cut and cull and trim them until they bent to our passions — our dreams.

And then … I fell ill.

As I spiraled into a mononucleosis-induced delirium, as the days blurred together in a string of Popsicles eaten, naps taken, and work attempted from home, my mind started to wonder if moving to Washington right away was the right course of action. I still wanted to go — there’s no way I was staying in Minnesota longer than May — but if Hubs and I were going to quit our jobs and move on good faith anyway, why not do something a little crazy?

I need this, I thought. I need something different: a break from working, a physical challenge, more time to think.

When Hubs got home that fateful Wednesday afternoon, he sat down on the edge of the bed to greet me. And through a messy, hibiscus-flavored Popsicle, I laid upon him my hopes and dreams.

I wanted to do a longer hike, just like he’d planned (but never executed) before we met. I wanted to explore the United States for five or six months, and … could we please do the Appalachian Trail? Please?

Great Basin National Park hike

To my genuine surprise, he nodded and said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

So we’ve set a date. June 20, we fly from Minneapolis, Minn., to Bangor, Maine, where we’ll take an early-morning shuttle to Baxter State Park and embark SOBO on a six-month journey. That means we have just three months to plan, prepare, do our shakedown hikes, finalize our gear, sell nearly all our worldly possessions (and our house), rehome our cats, quit our jobs, save our money, and road trip across the U.S. to see our family before we depart.

There’s a lot we need to achieve, and less than 90 days to do it.

Let’s get started.

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