What If…

Posted from Three Springs Hostel near Hog Camp Gap, Virginia @ 812.7 miles

In just a few weeks Backfire and I will arrive at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference and the almost halfway point of the AT.  

 At some point in our journey, we had decided that we would have to “flip” once we got to Harper’s Ferry–meaning we would need to take a train to Maine and start heading south from Katahdin. By the time we reach Harper’s Ferry, we will have been on the trail a total of 4 months and will have walked over 1000 miles. In spite of all we will have accomplished, the reality is, we’d have to be on the trail at least another three or four months in order to finish and call this a thru hike. 


The ‘swimming hole’ near Brown Mountain

I was having a hard time with the concept of not getting home until November or December. Every time we did FaceTime with the kids and the grandkids, we thought about all we were missing. So a few days ago, I said to Backfire, “What if we just stopped at Harper’s Ferry and called it good?”

A peaceful campsite

Originally, this was Backfire’s  thru hike– his third to be exact, and I had come along this time so I wouldn’t have to be home without him for six months –like I had in the past. I was also sucked into the challenge of it–to be able to say I hiked the AT at age 68–and survived! (The oldest woman to complete it was 74, so, at least, I didn’t have to worry about having to break that record!)


A beautiful walk across a bald

When Mel had his kidney stone and subsequent surgery back in Johnson City, Tennessee, we lost two weeks of hiking time and could have gone home then, but I was hooked at that point and really wanted to keep hiking.  After ‘the stone’, it became my hike and Backfire was willing to keep going as long as I was interested. Normally, when we go on vacation, I miss home and family after just three weeks so I am now well past my expiration date for being away from home. 


Backfire and Skitty at Three Springs Hostel

I have given this decision a lot of thought, we both have, and the truth of the matter is, I will very much miss the epic adventure of it all, and I will miss writing stories about our adventure, but seven months is just too long for me to be away from friends and family– not to mention the dogs!

“The Dogs”

 So, the plan is to head home after Harper’s Ferry and then perhaps, in the coming years, do section hikes through the parts of the trail in Maine, Vermont and Pennsylvania that Backfire has loved the best.

Idyllic Three Springs Hostel

from The Spider Diaries

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Comments 11

  • Rachel Marcus Elliott : Jul 22nd

    I’m so sad to hear that you’ll be leaving the trail. I’ve so enjoyed reading your entries. Good luck to you both and enjoy your last two weeks!

  • Josh Boldt : Jul 22nd

    I’ve enjoyed reading your stories. I actually made a similar decision in 2009. I started out with a plan to hike as far as I wanted to go, and I ended up stopping in Damascus. Now I chip away 100 miles or so each year on section hikes. It was a good decision for me because I enjoy my time on the trail each year now. I don’t feel obligated to complete any certain number of miles and I don’t have to worry about my hike becoming a “job”, as it was beginning to feel for me in 2009.

  • Elyse Connors : Jul 23rd

    Well, selfishly, I am happy to hear your decision. Potluck is not complete without you guys! It is really cool what you are doing, no matter how you do it.

  • David Wallace : Jul 23rd

    I will miss reading your posts, you are an inspiration!!! Good luck and enjoy the remaining miles!!!

  • TicTac : Jul 23rd

    I echo Rachel’s sentiment: I am so sad that you will be leaving the Trail; but I am so happy that you have arrived at this decision for the best of reasons. It is obvious that because of many issues it has taken longer than you had expected. But the fact is that the two of you stuck it out through some pretty major issues.
    Don’t you dare fall prey to recriminations. This hike has been done so far on YOUR terms, and the decision to end it are also on your terms. Mazel Tov for your achievements, and best of luck on future section hikes

  • Michael Mahon : Jul 25th

    Mike Mahon here…met you guys on the trail near Waynesboro VA on 7-25-15. Yall are living a dream! It was really nice talking, and hearing a bit of your experiences. So cool!! Hope yall enjoy your breakfast date in Waynesboro! Best wishes on the rest of your journey!

  • jill : Jul 26th

    Shoot Jeanne, we just got back from a 3 day trip to Colorado and are glad to be home. 4 months is a long time to be away from loved ones and what an adventure you have had. And will have. A very cool idea to do parts of the trail when you want to and can pick the best seasons to do it. That sounds like fun too. Keep us posted, and we sure have enjoyed your posts and pictures. Keep em coming till you quit or flip!

  • Kristina : Jul 27th

    I have been following the whole time..love it all…thank you for sharing

    • Jeanne Church : Jul 27th

      Thank you!

  • Nancy Camden : Aug 1st

    Good decision! You want to still feel the passion for this hike –not the drudgery of meeting any expectation–your own or others. Those pups are going to be so happy. For all they know–you are gone forever. I wish I could see that reunion. You are awesome–totally awesome. I am impressed. WoW! You saw and experienced so much. When you are through, you have a memory that most of us can hardly imagine. Nancy Camden

  • Nichole : Aug 13th

    Jeanne, I will miss reading your updates – you two are amazing! Please keep us posted on the rest of your adventures!!


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