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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