Will Love Be Enough? You Betcha!

Every long-distance backpacking article and book about hiking the Appalachian Trail gives more-or-less the same advice. To successfully complete a thru-hike, you must first know why you want to embark on this 2,000+ mile trek. Knowing your motivation is central to your mental fitness plan, allowing you to keep putting one foot ahead of the other and reach your goal. So, what is my motivation?

It comes down to one word — love.

Let me back up to 2017 and a conversation shared with my husband, Chris, about retirement. We had just finished hiking in Glacier National Park, which had been on Chris’s bucket list for decades, and were talking about other places we wanted to visit once we retired. At the top of my list was the south of France. I imagined strolling through quaint medieval villages, chateaus, and lavender fields.

Chris sat quietly for a moment, then said “Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.”

Honestly, at that point, I knew very little about the AT other than it was long. However, Chris had grown up in Massachusetts, often hiking with friends or alone in the White Mountains. I also knew from decades of experience that once Chris had his mind set on something, he would make it happen.

Soon after we became empty-nesters, he began planning in earnest, setting a goal of a February 2021 launch. I began planning too — to be head cheerleader, compiling and sending supply boxes, and occasionally joining him for a short section hike. I half-jokingly threatened to start a blog of my own experiences titled “And She Stayed Home.”

Then COVID happened.

It quickly became clear that a 2021 thru-hike would be unsafe for a 60-plus-year-old man. While Chris contemplated an early summer start after he was vaccinated, it seemed best to wait until 2022. This is when love grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.

COVID exposed some hard truths. We never know how much time we have left on this earth. What I did know was that my beloved was setting off on a great, possibly life-changing adventure. Without me.

Just like that, I became a thru-hiker wannabe.

I began reading every hiking saga that I could get my hands on, first on my Kindle then through inter-library loan. I started binge-watching “Homemade Wanderlust” YouTube videos. Got my first backpack and real hiking shoes and began compiling seemingly endless lists of other essential supplies.

So here I sit, less than three months from our early spring 2022 launch, nearly scared out of my mind. But a great adventure awaits, and I plan to make the most of it, with my love at my side.

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Comments 6

  • Jane : Dec 20th

    Ms. Woodward, I look forward to your posts next year for your through-hike of the AT. You’re incredibly lucky that you have the tremendous support of your sons to look after your home and your cat. I, too, am a baby boomer (’53) and would like to thru hike the AT . . . but I do not have the tremendous support in place that you do. I find it daunting at the thought of even thinking about thru hiking the AT at my age and at my skill level . . . I wish you all the best – you seem to know what your limitations are and will not push beyond them to meet an unrealistic goal that is easily achieved by younger folks. Merry Christmas and a safe, Happy New year to you and your family!! 🙂

  • pearwood : Dec 21st

    See you on the trail!

  • Gary : Dec 21st

    So Cool!

  • Jack Layfield : Dec 22nd

    Blessings to you both as you walk the AT. Y’all can do this. I did it at age 67.
    Chappy Jack

    • Leslie Woodward : Dec 22nd

      Then you’re an expert!!! What would you say to other elders who want to thru-hike the AT??

  • David Larrabee : Jan 2nd

    I will wait with anticipation to read about your upcoming adventures on the AT. I, like your husband, have dreamt about hiking the AT for close to 40 years and am planning to do so upon my retirement in 6 years. I will turn 65 on the trail if all goes as planned. I expressed my strong desire to do so to my wife and she is eagerly planning to follow me with a camper and meat up every 4 or 5 days., We do a lot of traveling and love to day-hike together in many of our great national parks. Best wishes to you both on your AT hike.


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