Sort of an Odd Child

My mom said I was sort of an odd child growing up. I didn’t fit in well with other kids, and I held a track record for being the idealistic, dreamy kid in the back of the room. Back of the dodgeball game? That was me. Child reading alone in a corner? Me again. Still, I really loved thinking up possibilities.

One day I would dream of riding wild horses and volunteering on ranches, and the next I would remember my innumerable allergies and the smell of manure. After that came astronaut, mushroom farmer, and podiatry.

I’m thankful that I can tell you, for my and your sake, those dreams did not come true. I am terrible at math. But, I do marvel at mushrooms quite regularly and use my feet a lot.

In fact, I happen to be an expert walker, one might say. I’ve been doing it all my life. Sometimes the right way, sometimes wrong, but I know how to bring the energy to any unexpected journey. While my friends had realistic pursuits, plenty would argue that I have always had a frustrating desire to blaze the nontraditional route.

I never played sports, but I picked up hiking in early high school in search of something to soothe my anxiety. Weekend trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park turned into longer distances, state parks, traveling trips, a hiker novel obsession, and new wanderlust.

After my mother and I visited Harpers Ferry in 2017, I bought a copy of the Appalachian Trail map and posted it on the wall beside my bed so I could look at it every night. I studied the cities, turns, and trail clubs. I looked up photos of trail towns and fangirled over the thru hikers I witnessed near Newfound Gap.

First time in Harper’s Ferry at an AT marker.

In 2018, done with college and hungry for change, I turned the dream into a goal, and in September of 2019, I had a tramily, Katahdin, and experiences I could pin to all those names and places I had studied. All the naysayers were at bay in my mind, and I felt proud for pushing myself.

Mt. Katahdin September 2019.

In all the dabbling over the next few years, traveling, teaching, and hiking, nothing quite satisfied that hiker hunger. Trail had served as a cornerstone of the growth I had made, and it gave me the disconnect and re-centering that I needed. I was reveling in the little things that years had worn away from me.

So I started planning again.

The hiker culture and planning flowed back so naturally. I realized I had spent so much time talking about my AT thru hike over the last three years, it was almost like I had never left.

In a super non-sappy way, I feel like I’m the best version of myself out there. I dream even more than normal. I am calm and clear-minded. I’m Torch, the happy, untamed version. My joy is senseless and necessary. I go there to learn how to live well and with what I have. I appreciate everything more and learn to problem-solve well. Life feels pretty pure, even when I’m sore and dirty.

A happy, hungry, dirty hiker.
Grayson Highlands.

This reunion was almost inevitable.

In approximately three days, I get to be Torch again and make my way out into the wilderness to do what I love best. How does that saying go?

Parting is such sweet sorrow,

But I’m stoked for that tomorrow. -Torch

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Comments 1

  • Linda Christen : Mar 23rd

    You go girlfriend! I will follow along the way . . . in spirit!! xo


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