“Something Tookish”: In other words, when a Hobbit decides to leave the Shire…

When a Hobbit chooses to leave The Shire, you can be sure that the reason is none other than to embark on a grand adventure.  This adventure finds her, singles her out, becomes a calling, and cannot be ignored.  Well, I am something of a Hobbit and my adventure has arrived.

The Making of a Hobbit

Once upon a time, my sister’s college friend, Anne, visited our family home on fall break.  Anne stood taller than my dad and anyone else in my family at the time and so she decided that we were all Hobbits and therefore our home must be The Shire.  The Shire is 6 1/2 acres of green fields, woods, and streams, surrounded by farm land.  It is my home.  We are a close-knit, somewhat old-fashioned family and we enjoy things like walking the beach looking for washed glass, exploring antique stores and thrift shops, family dinners, and going on adventures together (probably un-Hobbit-like, but that’s 3 out of 4).  Home is a centering reality: it reminds me of what is important in life.  It also reminds me of how blessed I am.  It is always hard to leave, even though I know I must and that grand adventures lie ahead, but I know it will always be there when I return, for I am about to go wandering…

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

“Something Tookish”

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

Three years ago, I worked at a summer camp with about twenty other young adults.  On one of our free weekends, we took a trip to visit Coopers Rock State Park in Morgantown, West Virginia.  We took in scenic vistas, tested our bouldering skills, and climbed a mountain.  It was one of the best days of my life.  I felt alive!  Something Tookish woke up inside me that day and I knew I needed to climb mountains.  So I have decided to do this crazy thing: I am going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

There is a little more to it than that, though.  I shouldn’t say I have decided.  Thru-hiking has been on my radar for the past several years or so, but in reality, it was more like God decided that this is something I am supposed to do now and He hit me with it back in February of this year.  I did not give in without a fight.  Oh, I was excited at first.  When the idea first started to form in my brain, my reaction was, “Whoa, this is so cool!”  Then I started doing research and the fears began to creep in.  One week, I was in such a bad mood because I was trying to ignore this calling.  At least God didn’t send in a great big fish to swallow this Jonah for three days so I could reconsider.  He did lead me to the decision to begin saying yes.  I am still saying yes every day.  He tosses me breadcrumbs now and then to let me know I’m on the right path.  This one was the first: “He drew me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings. ” (Psalm 40:2)  Sometimes He is not subtle.

So, why?

Why am I doing this?  I guess I just want some time to figure out where I am going from here.  I have a job I love that will be waiting for me when I get back if I choose it.  I am thinking about grad school, but have no clear picture of what I want to study and I am not going to spend another boatload of money on school until I know (stupid college loans).  I also don’t have many obligations tying me down at the moment, so it seems like the right time to embark on an adventure like this.  Am I scared?  Absolutely.  I hate spending money, for one thing, so the fact that this is going to cost me a good chunk of money is scary.  Ticks scare me (but not bears, if you can believe that), hitchhiking scares me, taking on a challenge this big scares me.  I also still have tons of preparing and planning to do, which also scares me (and I am really good at procrastinating–not helpful).  And I have backpacked a total of one time in my life (luckily, it was recently, not like fifteen years ago when I was ten).  In spite of these fears, I know this is something I need to do.  I am excited, too, and I think the excitement will build more over the next few months.  I find myself thinking about Katahdin all the time, “the greatest mountain”.  One of the hardest decisions I have made so far is to not hike NOBO (northbound); I have decided to flip-flop, beginning somewhere near Harper’s Ferry, WV, in April of 2017.  But I may have to still find a way to finish at Katahdin!

Stay tuned!

Stay tuned to read about my first-ever backpacking trip!  My dad and I hiked about 30 miles of the AT in July in the Harpers Ferry area.  The best thing about the trip?  It didn’t scare me away from thru-hiking!  It is definitely something I will have to get used to, but I know I can get used to it.

“Roads go ever ever on,

Over rock and under tree,

By caves where never sun has shone,

By streams that never find the sea;

Over snow by winter sown,

And through the merry flowers of June,

Over grass and over stone,

And under mountains in the moon.”

~J.R.R. Tolkien

(I am also something of a nerd, loving all things Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, etc.  You have been warned.)

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Comments 3

  • Therese : Aug 20th

    I, too, will be flip flopping next year beginning in April at Harper’s ferry. I look forward to meeting you! It’s going to be a “once in a lifetime ” experience for sure……..

    • Gail Barrett : Aug 20th

      We will be doing the same (my husband and me). We haven’t finalized the date yet but are thinking around the 10-15th. That way we won’t get to Vermont until the end of mud season. As April gets closer, let’s all exchange dates. It would be great to at least start out with people we’ve met, or be nearby!

    • Mary Meixner : Aug 21st

      I look forward to meeting you as well! And you, Gail! I haven’t picked an official start date yet, but I agree: we should exchange dates when it gets closer!


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