18 score and seven days ago…

Practice hike in Brooklyn, January 2011

It’s been one year and two days since my first blog post here on Mel and Mike Hike. A whole year since my very first practice hike for that mystical path called the Appalachian Trail. I was contemplative, I was nervous, I was excited. And I was only carrying 15 pounds of gear! Of course, it was just practice, but that’s less than half of what I ended up carrying daily over the course of my 5 month and 3 week journey with my dad. And even though there’s a lot less snow this January, I can’t really say that it feels like a whole lot else has changed.


Well, that’s not entirely true. There are certain physical things that have changed — my legs are still stronger than ever (though the weight I lost while hiking all the way from Georgia to Maine is creeping back). And I’ve had a new accessory on my finger since October, when I got to marry the love of my life, Doni. What I do mean about not changing, is that one year later, I’m back to sitting in my office, staring at my computer, contemplating what’s next. Frustration with myself for not having yet edited all of the photos I could have by now sets in, concern about where to take my career, calculating how much the next round of bills will be and thoughts of the housework I could be doing instead are all at the forefront of my mind. Before I know it, hours have passed and I have barely moved from my seat. Out on the trail, I could have hiked 8 or 10 miles already. At least I’d feel like I was getting somewhere.

Is it really true? Is the same cynical New Yorker I was pre-hike, starting to creep back in to my life post-hike?!

Man, I hope not! Giving in to the power of stress and negative thoughts is like going over to the Dark Side. It sucks you up. It’s so massive and overwhelming, it seems like all of the goodness and selflessness I experienced along the Appalachian Trail, all of those life lessons, all of that strength I possessed and that kindness from strangers I experienced just vanish into thin air.

LongTime, at the end, after a long time on the trail

Until I start to remember — the names and the faces of all my fellow thru-hikers, the Trail Angels we encountered, the townsfolk and day hikers I chatted with, the encouraging and positive comments here on the blog, the memories of making it through a tough day (or week) in the rain, the laughs shared around a shelter, the mountains of food we consumed and the tears of joy and relief on my dad’s face at the summit of Baxter Peak on Mt. Katahadin in Maine.


Then I snap out of it. I remind myself that there will be ups and downs in life, just as there were out on the trail. But if I can make it all the way from Georgia to Maine on foot, then the best thing I can do at my desk on a cold January day in Brooklyn, is to just remember to keep on keepin’ on … the answers are still out there, the journey is the destination.

For those of you who don’t know already, I am now an official thru-hiker with my official certificate and patch from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. At the end of 2011, I went back and made up those missing 83 miles I skipped from Kent, CT to Lee, MA. It took 3 trips, but I have now finished every bit of the 2181 miles. My first trip at the end of October was cut short due to a freak snowstorm. On my second trip I was accompanied by my amazing husband (his first backpacking trip!) which we hiked over the long Thanksgiving weekend. For the final miles, I slack-packed over 3 days in early December because it was just too cold to camp out. On that very last day my great friend Darren came out for the last 11 miles and for the very, very last mile into Kent, I was also escorted by Long Time (who hiked backwards from where I parked my car until he found us). Thanks to all who helped along the way! Especially on this round, to Greg “Painted Turtle” Peters for some off season hiker shuttling and to Maria McCabe, an 83 year old Trail Angel who opened her home and heart to me in Salisbury, CT.

Kent, CT! My real endpoint of the AT.

Click here for Click’s final photos from Lee, Massachusetts to Kent, CT.

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11 Responses to 18 score and seven days ago…

  1. True Grit (formerly Sherpa) says:

    CLiCK! That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing your experience, and your photos. I love the one of Maria McCabe, trail angel extraordinaire.

    Your final picture brought me right back to Kent. I’ve got mixed feelings about that place. It’s pretty high-falutin’ and the townspeople gave a lot of hikers some serious side-eye, but…I think it’s a place with its fair share of magic of the trail type. It’s where I turned 30 and was showered with love by my hiker family, and it’s where you finished your epic journey. I’m going to have to reconsider Kent.

    Also, I think your husband MUST be awesome and amazing because going on his first backpacking trip, in November, for four days, in New England, is no small thing.

    • Mel says:

      True Grit does have a nicer ring to it than “Typhoid” Sherpa, I must say! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      I did hear some stories about the laundry lady and it’s a shame some in Kent aren’t friendlier to backpackers — the town is cute and so close to the trail. My experience with Kent was all food related – a tasty coffee in the morning and a really nice celebratory dinner and beer at the Millstone Cafe in the evening. I was dressed (and spending) like a day hiker at that point, though, so my experience may be skewed. My endpoint was there because it was the closest cross road to where I hit my wall back in July and where it wasn’t too far for Doni to drive from NYC to pick me up.

      He appreciates your comment by the way! 🙂

  2. Badger says:

    Click! You rock so hard! What a great and apropos post. Know that you’re not alone in these feelings. In many ways I feel like I’m already back to square one, but then I’ll get a random memory from the trail, the warm sensation of nostalgia that follows, and quickly I’m reminded that I’m always just a decision away from the next form of “escape”. There’s peace in knowing that as it serves as a reminder that what were doing is a choice, and that compared to a thunderstorm striking while still being a two hours hike from the nearest roof, things could be worse.

    Keep writing! You rock so hard! And congrats on the finger bling!!!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks Badger! I think many of us out on the trail were in some kind of transition, or on some kind of mission, even if we couldn’t quantify what that was. Now that we’re home, what do we do with that energy? How do we get back that sense of purpose? I like your book-writing approach! Kudos on that!

      Glad to know I’m not alone in the feelings. 🙂
      Trail Days reunion??

  3. SusanS says:

    Hi Melissa,

    AWESOME end to your journey on the trail and beautiful thoughts on life’s journey for all of us to contemplate. I thank you and Long Time for letting all of us be a part of your lives on and off the trail.

  4. Beth Paulson says:

    Hurray for finishing the AT! And thank you for sharing your musings about what comes next in your life and in your creative life. I find if you just keep doing your art, the next path will open. I love these early winter scenery photos–you were on the trail in a very special season.
    Aunt Beth

  5. Val and Deb says:

    We were wondering if you were ever able to get back to the trail after the snowstorm drove you off. Now we know. Congratulations on finishing, and also on hiking your own hike. It truly was uniquely done. It was also good to know that Doni, Darren, and LT, were able to be part of your final push. The photographs are outstanding (loved the Giant’s Thumb and New England landscapes). Thanks again for so eloquently sharing your thoughts, insights, and feelings.
    Val and Deb

  6. I along with all of your on-line trail mates am happy to see you were able to complete your goal. Also having your honey with you I am sure was a real bonus.
    There is a Bible verse found in the book of James that declares our lives are but vapor that appear then vanish away. That is so true given the age of our universe.

    Over my 45 year trucking career I had to deal with many people daily, as I made my deliveries,and in that time I learned that my day went a lot easier if I had a positive outlook,regardless of the varying attitudes of the people I dealt with.
    So I developed some one or two line sayings for whoever I met.
    Here are a few, for what it is worth to anyone who would like to enjoy a good perspective along the rest of their journey called our lives.

    “Yesterday is history,tomorrow is a mystery,to day is a gift,that is why it is the present” .”If any one has any problem with me, it is not my problem it is theirs.”
    “It is impossible to give me a hard time,I don’t receive any negative communications.”
    “Forth-sight is priceless,hindsight is worthless.”

    Well Mel now that your journey is complete,I guess you will be closing this blog.
    It has been good to have gone with you and your Dad on your adventure,via cyber space, in closing one last thought,from me to you.
    “May the Lord direct your path,it works for me,Perry

  7. Fred Knauf says:

    Mel, Great to hear that you finished and that your dad came out to be there. My brother-in-law did the trail in ’77 and he still says it was the game changer for his life. Miss Mike at the “little yellow box” and maybe when my time is up there I’ll get on the trail too.

  8. Jim Reynolds says:

    Hi Mel,

    Thanks so much for the postcard celebrating your completion of the AT.
    We always love to hear from the hikers that pass through Cheshire.

    I have to say, yours is the first 4×6 full color postcard that also redirects to your blog that we’ve received. That’s so cool.

    Would you mind if we quoted your kind comments on our website or facebook page, and if we posted a scan of the front of the card. It’s such a neat collage and I think folks would love to see it.

    I can remove your full names for privacy if you like.

    Jim Reynolds

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