Eight or nine months ago, I commited to hiking 2,200 miles, alone, with a backpack. It turns out, however, that a solo hike is in all actuality an affair only made truly possible (at least in my case) by the love, support, and pre-trail magic experienced during the planning stage. This post is a humble “thank you” to all those who have helped to make my dream a reality. It also, I hope, will demonstrate my love and appreciation for those who have loved me so well as I embark on this journey.
(I wanted to put tons of lovely pictures in this post, but I’m at the bottom of Amicalola Falls and have no reception except my cell phone hotspot. You all know you’ll get tons of pictures next time I have true internet, so please forgive this pictureless post!)
- Kraig. My boyfriend who has listened to me talk about the trail for over a year. The man who has visited REI, LLBean, and Backcountry.com with me more than any human ever should have to. Kraig has given more of his time, money, and effort than I can summarize here. A few examples of why he leads the magicians list include him graciously allowing me to take a hiatus from paying rent on our apartment while I’m gone so I can afford my trip at all and him taking ten days off his own job so he can accompany me on the drive to Georgia and spend the first few days of the hike with me. Kraig (with his parents) also bought me an Ampy for my birthday and insisted on, procured, and activated my SPOT.
- Kat and Chris. My big sister and BIL have my back. Not only are they coming out to rescue me from the trail for a few days in Gatlinburg, they also gifted me with my official ATC map set for Georgia and North Carolina. In addition, their Christmas gift to me was an amazing, hardy little digital camera (I call him Kazimir) which will accompany me on every step of the trail.
- Dr. and Mrs. Frederickson. Although I think Kraig’s wonderful parents don’t quite understand why their son’s girlfriend is going to wander through the woods for several months, they generously contributed to my Ampy birthday present. Thanks to them, I’ll be able to enjoy my luxury items (Kindle and iPod), as well as keep my phone and SPOT charged to the max. For Christmas, the Fredericksons also sent along some serious REI gaiters to keep my feetsies dry and happy. So lovely!
- Don. Every once in awhile, trail magic comes from an amazing, unusual source. Don was among my (amazing) co-workers at L.L.Bean (Easton). As Don was preparing to leave on his final day (he is a fabulous seasonal employee), he surprised me with a bag full of magic. The sparkly silver bag included hand sanitizer, sunscreen, baby wipes, a DVD of “A Walk in the Woods” (I do love Robert Redford!), and my official ATC bandanna which I will proudly sport from Georgia to Maine. Between the thoughtfulness and the surprise, Don reduced me to tears and I am especially thankful for this particular and surprising trail magic.
- Angie. To run away from work for five months, you need a boss who understands you. Really understands you. Fortunately, I have just that person in my life. Not only my boss, but among my closest friends, Angie unhesitatingly granted me an extended leave of absence with no strings attached when I explained my (crazy) plan to her. Not only that, she basically gave me a raise and a promotion. You want more trail magic? I’ve got it for you. Angie gave me my “Oh Shit” fund. It’s hidden carefully deep in the recesses of my backpack, but I’ve promised that if I ever use it, I will definitely let her know when, how, and why. She also has backed me unfailingly. Cold feet? She’s on it. Nervous? She’s got my back. Mental and psychological trail magic are a thing too, I’m absolutely sure of it.
- Maggie. Mags is one of my “BeanieBabies,” one of my nearest and dearest from L.L.Bean. Not only did she join me for innumerable pints at the inimitable Pies and Pints (Easton) to provide moral support, she also listened between the lines and gifted me with a beautiful, a propos, small, and lightweight journal so I would have something in which to record my experiences. The front of the journal says, “Trust your crazy ideas.” Love it. Maggie is a beautiful person inside and out; I am lucky to have her on my team.
- Brad. Only the coolest of cool bosses would allow – encourage – you to bring your pack to work, explode its contents all over a backroom table, and then proceed to talk gear with you for the next forty minutes. From advice on windscreens to raingear, this avid outdoorsman gave unstintingly of his knowledge and time to make sure I had the lightest, most badass pack around. If he saves a spot for me in BOH at Bean, I’ll consider that some serious post-trail magic too.
- Bob. Super cool ODS (Outdoor Discovery School) director (LLBean Easton) made me a makeshift emergency fishing line with a gear tie, some fishing line, two hooks, and two tiny flies. How cool is that? It’s packed safely in my gear and, whether in an emergency situation or just cause it’s awesome to try, I’m definitely going to attempt to land a fish somewhere along the next 2000 miles or so.
- Mike. Along with Brad, Mike helped in the gear explosion and editing. He pointed me towards rubber gear straps so I can strap things to the outside of my pack (a la drying towels and wet socks), as well as lent me his own tiny, ultralight headlamp so I could switch out my super heavy, giant battery-run headlamp. Mike has also taken on more than his fair share in terms of moral support, especially considering he’s one of my new LLBeanie friends, so for that I must thank him especially from the bottom of my heart.
- Patton. Right when I was starting this crazy venture, Patton was moving from CBus to England and needed to offload some serious camping gear. Because he let me have first crack and garage sale prices, I was able to do a first pass outfit (including Sea to Summit drysacks, a 3/4 length sleeping pad, and Black Diamond trekking poles) that saved me a great deal of time and money as I rounded out the rest of my gear. I’m not sure he thought I would actually embark on this venture, but hey look Patton! Your gear is going on a thru-hike!
- L.L.Bean Easton and the Kumon of Upper Arlington: I’d be remiss not to mention how lucky I have been in terms of my jobs. My managers have been nothing but supportive, my coworkers have been unstinting in sharing their knowledge and expertise, and I have experienced nothing but love and support from both these companies. A huge thank you to all of you for helping me fulfill this bucket list dream and hike from Georgia to Maine!
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Rachael, I am excited for you. Can’t wait to see pictures and follow you through your adventure. Have a great time.
I have been following Badger and several of its bloggers since discovering the sight last summer. I look forward to following along with your story and a few other thru hikers as you always write interesting and informative posts. Good luck in your upcoming hike.
PS. I am a 52 year old father of 3 and hopefull future thru hiker. My wife (Beth) and I are still at least 4 years from retiring due to the fact that our 3rd kid starts college in Aug. and it would be impossible to quit working while he is in school.
This post just made my day! Excited to learn about the Ampy! I had no clue!!