Hi friends! Welcome. Welcome. Well, to get right to the point…
It’s official: I’m going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2013.
For those of you who know me well, why hello, fancy seeing you here. For those of you who don’t, a little about me. I’m a planner, always have been. For as long as I can remember, I’ve tracked my life with “Five Year Plans.” That’s not to say that my plans are necessarily the typical “climb the corporate ladder” or “get married/have babies” plans, but they ground me nonetheless. And, most of the time, I accomplish the broad goals I lay out (strategy = aim low). If it weren’t for this habit, I wouldn’t have spent two years in AmeriCorps – both as a corps member and as a team leader, studied abroad in Singapore, backpacked through India, studied three years for my master’s while working full time, or (most recently) gone on a month long road trip of national parks.
Here the problem begins. I just finished grad school and am no longer tethered to that cause. And I’ve worked five years for my current employer. Sometimes I do a good job of convincing myself I like my position. Other times, like now, when finishing my degree has opened up a natural transition, I realize my discontent. It’s nothing personal toward my employer (“it’s not you; it’s me”), but the feeling is there. Well then, what’s next?
In enters Bill Bryson, stage left. I figured my road trip would quell my restlessness. Instead it only served to intensify it. A few days after I returned, I was reading A Walk in the Woods. I know, I know, I’m not the only one. Perhaps a little over-referenced, but Bryson’s book sparked my desire. Usually at this point in the “Jor’s crazy scheme” process, I start mentioning it to friends and family, and they have the good sense to try to talk me out of it. But that’s not what happened. Instead the responses I got included, “You should do it,” “sounds right up your alley,” and “hey, it’d be cheaper than paying rent.” Even from my mother: “I want you to do it if it’ll make you happy and give you perspective” (not in the Jewish mother handbook) and “I could even bring you chicken soup somewhere along the trail in Virginia” (definitely in the handbook). Well, then, it’s decided; I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.
I plan to begin on Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 12, 2013 (03/12/2013) because I like the repetition of numbers in the date. I’m a little superstitious, and I think it bodes well. OK, the real reason is that it’s my 30th birthday, but when a friend responded that it was very “Eat, Pray, Love” of me, I decided I had to come up with another reason. Seriously, though, I’m still not sure about my departure date because I hear it can be a wee bit chilly in the mountains that early in March, and I want to make sure I come out of the woods with all my fingers and toes.
I wasn’t raised in an outdoorsy family by any stretch. Growing up in Virginia Beach, VA, my idea of a mountain was the local park known as Mount Trashmore, literally an old landfill covered with dirt – I kid you not. When I started at the University of Virginia, I remember struggling to go up the hill from my dorm to the central part of campus. It couldn’t have been more than a 25 foot increase in elevation (I’m totally making that up…I really hope for the sake of my ego that it was 25 feet). I’ve come a long way since that first hill; now I enjoy hiking and camping. BUT I’m by no means a mountain woman (is that even a phrase?). I’ve just made up my mind that I’m going to do this; that’s all there is to it. I also recognize that 70% of people who begin a thru-hike do not finish it, so prepare I must (refer above to “being a planner”).
Over the next six months, I will be going from 0 to 60 in terms of preparedness. I am going to write about my preparations and concerns – both physically and emotionally – as I approach departure. And once I begin the journey, I plan to journal the experience as well. It’s my pleasure to share, and I hope you’ll join me along the way.