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