Saying Goodbye: How An Adventure Was Born

Last photo op with Mom in the Springer Mountain Parking Lot

Saying Goodbye: How An Adventure Was Born

Saying Goodbye

I felt like I said goodbye to everyone a hundred times for a whole year leading up to the trail. Customers at the bars I worked at, family, friends, my cat and any random person I happened to strike up a conversation with. Knowing I’ll more than likely see most of these people again but some it may be a good bye forever, like my dad. Dad was the first person I said ‘goodbye’ to not knowing he’d be the first. With death comes life and with that we had the birth of an adventure.

My Dad all dressed up

Loss And Self Destruction 

After watching ‘Wild’ and reading the book I was really inspired to thru-hike a trail. Didn’t care which one. Though I couldn’t relate to the vices in the movie/book I could relate to losing a parent. After the loss of Dad I was beyond heart broken. There kinda felt like there was no purpose left to live, No, I wasn’t going to kill myself nor have I ever thought about it, just nothing in life gave me any kind of good feeling, no joy, no satisfaction. Just the desire to go disappear in the woods for a while. The emptiness, the darkness, the bottomless, gut-wrenching loneliness that lead me to my unintentional self destructiveness. Through bouts of extreme rage and extreme sadness I managed to nearly destroy my relationship with my husband. I was incapable of caring. Sympathetically inept. Even when I wanted to care I couldn’t.

I would frequently call my mom in hysterics asking ‘why’ and looking for comfort. Not just any comfort, but something tangible, an actual reason why Dad was gone. My poor mother. Though her and my dad were divorced for nearly 20 years it didn’t lessen the pain. As Mom put it ‘watching her kids pick out their fathers casket’ tore her apart and now she was the only parent. Mom had to be strong for my brother and I, that’s what parents do, and my Mom is a strong woman and I am grateful for her everyday. I love you mom.

My husband Dylan
Till Death Do Us Part

I was so cold after my fathers death, which happened to be two weeks before Dylan moved to the States from Ireland. His flight had been scheduled a month before my fathers death An died what awful timing. I was so cold and lost Dylan was considering moving back to Ireland and I now completely understand why he was considering it.  As the year went on, with Dylan’s help, I began to learn (still learning) how to live without my Dad in my life and how to control my feelings instead of let them control me. I’m really glad Dylan stayed 🙂

My beautiful mom, Linda aka Mother Puffin

Mother Puffin aka Mom

My mom stepped up to plate after dads passing and she was sworn in under the trail name ‘Mother Puffin’ to be my interactive resupply and trail support. She did her homework and was a valuable part of the pre-trail success.
My husband was to leave for his European tour two days before my departure date so mom drove eleven hours from St. Augustine, Florida to Nashville, TN to pick me up so we could go to Springer Mountain, a five hour drive from Nashville. Some severe weather pushed us back two days but we made it to Springer Mountain about Noon on Friday, April 7th, two weeks after my registered start date.

Hiking at Radnor Lake

The days leading up to my start I was a pile of nerves and so was my mom but I knew as soon as I started the trail it would all be ok. On the drive up to Springer we realized I was starting on Friday the 7th and my dad died on Friday the 7th; and for some reason that brought such a huge sense of comfort to me and my mom, then we both cried.

The first blaze on the NOBO trail

My First Steps

We get to the parking lot at Springer and start the one mile walk to the Southern Terminus. After the scary mountainous drive mom was not managing the vertigo from the trail so she looked at me, so shook up and said ‘she would wait in the parking lot’. I’m so proud of my mom. She had been trying so hard to be strong and brave for me but she the heights was the icing on the cake. I teared up and said it’s ok momma, I’ll be right back’. I walked up to the terminus. It was windy and a little chilly. I took some photos, signed the trail journal, bid farewell to the marker and first white blaze and started my decent. From step one, STEP ONE, I was no longer scared. My anxiety and fears gone. All I wanted was my mom to get get down that mountain safely and to start my three month hike to Harpers Ferry.

I got to the parking lot and my mom had just talked to a nice section hiker lady who made my mom feel comforted about me going into the woods “alone” for 3 months. I wouldn’t be alone. I knew she felt better but she still said she felt she was ‘abandoning me’. Nonsense! I chose to go live and hike in the woods alone, she wasn’t making me go. I felt like I was abandoning her. After all she has done for me and my family putting her under such distress made me feel bad. One big hug and a kiss and I was off. Now I know I was already one mile in but not until I left that parking lot did I feel like I started, and like that I was off, with one mile of 1,024 already behind me. Time to count blazes.

My second blaze

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