Who Hikes 2,200 miles?
Welcome back to my blog! If you are new here, feel free to check out my introduction blog.
My Major “Why”
The most common question I get after I announce I am hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2023 is “WHY?” This is a short question and has been hard for me to articulate an appropriate answer. My most popular quick and dirty answer is “Because I Can.” That can come off as arrogant, or even rude, but let me elaborate.
Growing up, I faced a lot of varying health issues. My folks did their very best to protect me and keep me as healthy as possible. There were many times I was unable to participate in “normal” childhood activities due to my illnesses. Thankfully, I have either outgrown (asthma, kidney deficiencies) or learned to rehab and strengthen joints that have previously caused major adversity (hands, fingers, shoulders, back, hips, knees, and ankles).
Wow! Putting that all in print, really makes me understand why my folks (especially my mom) are freaking out! Ha!
Learning to Live
“Living” under such worrying conditions my entire life, led me to shy away from doing many things even after my health had drastically improved. I “lived” so many years with the fears of my youth, my mother’s fears of my youth. If I would feel a familiar pain, I would immediately retract, and my internal dialog would validate that “I Can’t Do This”. I was “living” in fear!
Over the past few years, I have gone down the rabbit hole of self. I was not living the life I wanted to live. I was unhappy and could not understand why. On paper, I had it all; career, financial security, loving relationships, but I was deeply unhappy. I began journaling and recognizing patterns in my life and discovered some hard truths about Nancy. I did not have a healthy, loving relationship with myself.
That day I began to eliminate the self-hate chatter in my head and change how I talked to myself. All the negative, I would reword into a positive. It was not easy, but it became easier the more I did it. Once “Negative Nancy” was gone (or at least sitting in the corner thinking about what she did), I could change my narrative and rewrite my story. I am not an invalid that cannot do anything, but I am a very capable woman that has yet to experience life in its fullest! That is the day I started to live!
Introduction to Hiking
My first hiking experience should have turned me off from hiking forever! Many years ago, a friend invited me on a day hike in Sedona, Arizona. I had no idea what I was preparing for, but I bought a cheap backpack I found in the sporting goods aisle and away we went. What was described as a total 8-mile hike turned into over 13 miles! It was hot and I ran out of water with about 4 miles left to hike. My feet did not appreciate my endeavor, to say the least, and I felt like a camel when we finally got to a restaurant. It was the most amazing day, and I could not wait to do it again! Thank you Emily!!
Odd Car Camping Experience
Over the years, I had gone on day hikes, but never any overnight backpacking trips. Car camping has been something that we have done often. On one trip up by Stoneman Lake, we had multiple hikers come through our camping area. We could not figure out why they were walking through our camp, nor where they were going.
We decided to go and check out this “path” that was invading our camp. What did we find after walking about a mile? A gate that had “Arizona Trail” on it. Neither of us knew what that was. Once at home, I turned to the internet for our answer. Much to my surprise, I discovered the truth about the Arizona Trail (AZT) and was anxious to get on it and hike it myself. My love was on board.
Still not fully knowledgeable about backpacking, we turned to Amazon to purchase a “lightweight” tent and the remaining supplies we needed for a weekend backpacking trip. We each already had a lot of the gear from car camping all these years…or so we thought. Our packs were HEAVY! We had a great time and hiked a section of the AZT. The thru hiking bug fully bit me, and I wanted more!
Thru Hiking…So Much More
After watching many YouTube videos of random hiking and backpacking topics, I stumbled across a vlogger on the AT. Her drive and willingness to be vulnerable publicly won me over. The trail itself was beautiful, but her personal growth was spectacular! As I watched her videos, I knew this was something that I could greatly benefit from. Not just the hiking aspect, but the time of quiet reflection it would allow. This hike would test me on so many different levels…mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I can prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to…Because I Can!
Because I Can
I am only a few months away from flying to Georgia to start this epic adventure. This adventure will solidify my choice to live life on my terms and to blow past all boundaries set for me in my mind.
A great quote comes to mind…
Bilbo Baggins – He defines an adventure as “Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner.” J.R.R. Tolkien (2012). “The Hobbit,” p.7, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
If I’ve learned nothing over the past few years, I’ve learned that you will experience the most growth in the uncomfortable moments of your life. If an adventure is full of uncomfortable moments, I cannot wait to grow from everything this adventure will put in front of me.
I encourage y’all to push a bit past your comfort zone and allow your spirit to grow!
Until next time, go get some dirt on your shoes!
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