SO MOM, GUESS WHAT I WANT TO DO AFTER COLLEGE?

Those intriguing words strung together in an unassuming nonchalant conversation belied an answer I would not have dreamed of. After all, four years of college tuition to prepare a young adult for the grown up world of finding a job and earning one’s way in the big bad world seemed like a reasonable answer to her query. Lols, evidently not. Rather, she uttered “I want to hike the AT and since I don’t graduate until May, I will have to do it SOBO, the hard way”. To wit, I responded, AT? As in Appalachian Trail, AT? Nah … like, seriously as in s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y.? Well, when and with whom would you hike it with and what the hell is SOBO?

SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU HIKING ALONE?

That apparently was the $64 question … and I tripped right into it when she said she really couldn’t think of anyone that she could be around for that length of time and under those difficult circumstances. I heard myself chirp, “Gee, I would do it.” Yup, you saw it coming didn’t you … she responded that she could see herself doing it with me. Yes, and henceforth, that is how I officially “invited” myself on her trek. I admit, I kinda walked around a bit flummoxed and panicked but then I thought, oh no problem, my husband will likely dissuade the idea. You, brilliant person that you are, saw this coming as well … surprise, surprise, after gazillion years of marriage, my husband thought it a capital idea since this way our daughter would not be braving the wild alone … Ahem … WHAT?!    Wait!    Hang on here … you’re already like … “okay with this insanity?!” Then, after a while, the enormity of the undertaking settled into the fabric of our minds and as the family pulled together, a plan evolved: the gals do the hiking, the guys will be ground support.

“BYE HONEY, SEE YA IN 5 MONTHS. Oh, and btw, NO HITCH-HIKING & DON’T LET THE BEARS GET OUR DAUGHTER!”

Ha ha … don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoors, was the Girl Scout Troop Leader for years, spent what seemed an eternity outside braving the elements while Alexa practiced and competed from Vermont to Florida on horseback, had my own adventures camping, skiing and hiking but this was a horse of a different color. Especially once I did a bit of research: 2,200 miles, 16 Mount Everest equivalent, 5,000,000 steps, 14 states, 5 months! Never one to be picky or overly girlie, the lack of bathing and decent food along with poo-ing in the woods were somewhere at the very bottom of the ick list – well below the refrain of dueling banjos re-looping in my mind. God! I was having a nightmare with my eyes open, while AWAKE. Yay – kill me now!

A SEED IS PLANTED

But, but, B.U.T. … once the idea had been planted, I couldn’t shake just how much I wanted, really and truly W.A.N.T.E.D., to do this and do it with my daughter. I adore her and I also LIKE her and respect her: she’s cute, funny and smart and totally kicks ass. I couldn’t think of a more amazing adventure to share with her … E P I C.

AM I GOOD ENOUGH?

I seriously have fears that I won’t be able to keep up or that I will fail her on multiple levels. But, this is a partnership and we each bring skills to the trail and we will both be tested and bested by experiences and challenges and we will have to rely on each other as women in new ways. So, in the end, I set those concerns aside and figured if she thinks I’m good enough to hike with, then so be it: in for the penny, in for the pound. Anyway, as our homework progressed and days passed, our excitement over the prospect of undertaking this challenge solidified and before we knew it, we were c.o.m.m.i.t.t.e.d. In August as she left for Fall semester of senior year, we made a pact: If one of us, for whatever reason, even at the very last minute decided that she was backing out, there would be no recriminations or anger. We parted laughing at the prospect of what our trail names might wind up being …

FAST FORWARD … HOLY CRAP! THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!!

When first conceived, I knew hiking the AT would be an amazing challenge of epic mental and physical proportions. Never did I consider how much time (and trips to REI), energy, training and $$$ would be spent preparing before the first step (Still 3 months away) could be taken.

TO DO/DONE LIST:

Flight from Washington DC to Bangor Maine: BOOKED

Shuttle from Bangor to Katahdin Stream Campground (KSC): BOOKED*

KSC: Lean-to: BOOKED

Registration ATC-Baxter State Park Start Date for AT Thru-Hike: DONE

ATC & AMC & LNT Memberships: PAID

AT Guide 2017 – SOBO: RECEIVED & MARKING UP & DOG-EARED!!!

TRAIL ANGELS: Zero day hostesses: Sara, NH; Deb, NY; Linda, PA; Joyce, MD; Lore, VA; Nancy, NC

REI Gear purchases: Mostly DONE – weighing, re-weighing, editing, trying out, freaking out

AT Re-Supply Location List: DONE, REDONE, REDONE AGAIN, FINALIZED, RE-FINALIZING – OMG I CAN’T LOOK AT THIS ANYMORE!

AT Vegan Dehydrating Food Staples: DOING, DOING, STILL DOING, NEVER ENDS

Mail Drop Boxes & Labels: TO DO … SO PUTTING THIS OFF!!!

Bounce BOX: FILLING IT

TRAINING: Yeah, yeah, yeah … ON-GOING … DAILY … GRINDING … JUST DOIN’ IT!!!

I don’t have butterflies in my belly, more like tunneling bugs! We are so stoked to start this adventure!!!

Wanna read more stuff? Check out my blog: www.JustSkedaddle.wordpress.com/

Instagram: #Just_Skedaddle WEBSITE: www.KateStillwellPhotography.com

* Shout out to our shuttle angel, Bryant @ www.MaineQuestAdventures.com

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Comments 7

  • Helen : Mar 3rd

    Very excited for both my niece and sister but worried as hell. It will be quite the adventure of a lifetime-kudos!

    Reply
    • Kate Stillwell : Mar 3rd

      Really appreciate your positive energy and support!!! XOXO

      Reply
  • Bruce Stillwell : Mar 3rd

    Great energy! Strong resolve! Detailed preparation! Tireless training! Possible lunacy! It’s All Good!

    Last summer as we were floating in our pool Alexa began talking about her goals for after graduation. Like Kate my expectation was that she was beginning a conversation about seeking a direction for her career. In prior summers Alexa had talked about her desire to do some good in and for the world… perhaps the Peace Corps?! While we loved her underlying wish to become involved as a global citizen, as parents of a fit, smart and pretty young blond woman we could not help but think of how different and far more dangerous a world she and our other children are entering compared to when the Peace Corps was founded. So, when Alexa brought up the AT, while it was a bit out there… it demanded our attention. Alexa also advocated strongly and well in response to our expressions that competition for jobs is hard and such a trek would clearly supplant looking for a career path. However, as Alexa wants to work in non-profit it was hard to argue against her logic that THIS was THE time to do an adventure like this…and that hopefully, the kind of organizations that she hopes to work with would understand and possibly appreciate the personal testing that an adventure like this brings and the character it can build.

    I believe in my daughter and her many talents, fitness, drive and determination so I could immediately see her wanting this challenge. Alexa spent a month in summer, 2015 engaged in BOSS (Boulder Outdoor Survival School) and was inspired by it to test her limits on a host of levels. SO….my immediate response was that I would be as supportive as possible… as long as we could figure out as safe a way for her to do the AT as possible. Then before I knew it, Kate had put herself forward to be her “buddy” for the adventure.

    Now, I believe in my wife and her many talents, drive, tenacity and endurance as well but expressed concern on two fronts; one that while this satisfied our family “buddy” rule…now 2/5ths of our family are out there! and secondly, that Kate is several decades older than our daughter and as such is obviously not in the same physical condition as Alexa. However, as we talked more and especially Kate began the research process my immediate concerns became more muted.

    Alexa and Kate will make a great tam and I have watched over the past several months as Kate read, prepared, made contacts and most importantly, began training. Fast forward to now and as the time approaches to commence their trek their positive synergy has intensified as they plan and train for their adventure.

    As a husband and a dad and future logistical support person I am extremely proud of and excited for them both! They are amazing women and with the help of the treking community I am hopeful this will be an experience of a lifetime for them both! With much Love!

    Reply
  • Ranie : Mar 4th

    Good luck and happy trails, Kate and Alexa!!

    Reply
    • Kate stillwell : Mar 4th

      Thank you Ranie!?? We will be like a couple or loony ??

      Reply
  • Isabelle : Mar 4th

    Amazing is your middle name, Kate. I always enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to following you assiduously on the AT…

    Reply
    • Kate stillwell : Mar 5th

      Merci et Bises!!!

      Reply

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