Rushing through anything is never good for me. I miss details, stop having fun, lose my focus and make mistakes. When I first got sober people with a lot more experience than me kept telling me to pause. Pause before making decisions. Pause before speaking – in meetings, to friends or just people in general! I was grumpy. Just pause in life and get it together.
This is one of those life skills I wanted to recapture out on the trail and boy did I get forced to learn it! Part of that lesson was trying to capture what I was seeing for later. Butterfly’s wouldn’t stop flitting away. Deer just pop out of the woods and I’m not camera ready. I am not able to pause time and have to simply soak in the moment, and then be frustrated when words don’t really capture the scene either.
Another part of the pausing lesson hasn’t been as pleasant. The section of the AT from Harpers Ferry to Southern PA isn’t hugely taxing but it does test a good range of skills. There good elevation changes both up and down and a variety of trail surfaces to ease you into the notorious rocks of PA. This includes a few small rock hopping sections that require balance. On a couple of occasions I didn’t stop to do simple things like put my phone in my pocket, enjoy the view or check how far behind I had gotten from a faster group – and fell. Dumb mistakes. Pause. Take time. It’s not a race. It’s a walk in a beautiful place.
On the final occasion I was crossing rocks and missed my balance. It was a very bad fall. I did manage to protect myself somewhat but I hit my head – hard – and my lower back below my pack.
Boone and I had spent the night in seperate places. He was with friends at a Hiker Feed 3 miles ahead and I had camped in a shelter on my own (well a nice young hiker joined me later) and my need to dust myself off and hike to meet him was greater than my desire to sit and cry. While I made my way to the meet up point and thought through my options – continue hiking, risk greater injury, work on improved balance as we go, force Boone to slow his pace for me or the dreaded head home – I came to a change in the forest. All around me were tall slender pines making a sort of open space and the floor was carpeted with ferns. On my head phones I could hear the beginning of The Crossing Chior’s Ivy and Holly. My late cousin Jeffery Dinsmore was a cofounder of this amazing group and I certainly did pause to take in this moment in this catheral like setting.
Jeff was very pragmatic. A no nonsense person he wouldn’t have had a whole lot of patience for messing about with stupid details. Have a problem with a solution? Fix it. Is your problem going to unconvience another person and spoil thier experience? No brainer. Do you have the luxury to regroup and attempt this again? Then what’s your problem? The song ended and I hiked on.
Taking a moment to stop a re-evaluate I what needed correct to reach my goal is essential. When I broke my L3 my rehab was great but without continued supervision my body got off line and I’m using other muscles to compensate. Better to learn that before the Whites and serious injury. I will be pausing to correct that and restarting from Springer in late March or early April – with the trail name I earned out on the trail this year. (Haven’t decided if I will tell yet)
Boone is hiking on – as Trivia!
Boone has long legs! This is hardly surprising since he is 6’2″ and would really have a hard time of it otherwise. As our trail legs have developed it has become clear that mine are never going to keep pace with his. This is kind of worrying because I hate it when he waits for me.
After an amazing thunderstorm in which we had to quickly make the – rain gear or no rain gear call – we rolled into Deer Lick Shelter. If I had known all the water from everywhere was going to fall from the sky maybe I would have opted for rain gear – but my clothes got rinsed out.
Into dry clothes, and a nap later, we woke to find that in the matching shelter we had company in the form of the coolest NOBO’s we had met thus far. That’s saying a lot. Maybe what makes them so cool is that we got our trail names from them – although I think I’m going to keep mine under wraps for a bit!
Panther and Overdrive shared stories, knowledge and tons of laughs. Boone was particularly impressed by Panter’s well above average fire building skills. He wants to learn at the foot of the master. I can’t believe I didn’t get pictures! I’m going to have to get better photo taking skills – because the people we are meeting are beyond interesting and I don’t want to forget them.
Morning comes early on the AT – especially for slower hikers. Boone and I planned an almost 11 mile day to the next shelter so off we went. Along the way meeting hikers going in either direction is always fun – even just a simple hello – but the most fun is running into people you know. Panther and Overdrive came with news of a hiker feed at a park three miles beyond our goal and Boone was stoked. People his age and food!! Off they went – I told them I would catch up. Dangerous words – hurrying isn’t good for me. I trip. Of course I face planted. Nothing serious but it’s getting old.
By the time I got to our original goal I was done. Tired, hot and hungry I texted I was staying at the shelter and to have a good time. Want to freak out your 18 year old? Tell him you are staying in the woods alone!
After talking him down – I’ve survived to 52! It’s ok! I headed down into Tumbling Run Shelter. The guides are’t joking that it’s steep and it’s a hike to the water source but it’s so pretty! I was so excited to be alone. A brand new bear box meant no bear bag to hang. A broom to sweep the shelter. The privy was tolerable. Nice. However I got joined by two guys, one that just stayed for dinner and hiked out and the other spent the night. They were super nice, smart, zero creep factor and had good stories. I wasn’t afraid, slept like a baby that actually sleeps and hiked out at a reasonable time! Success! I fell all adult and stuff!!
We’ve told our kids many times that nothing worth achieving comes easily. Work hard at what you want, you will see results and feel good about yourself. I learned that from my parents, so did Martin and it has certainly proved to be true in our lives.
This hike is once again proving this adage to be true. Each day Boone and I are getting stronger physically. Going a bit farther – like today pushing through the 11 mile mark. We’re getting used to the need to push through the ache and muscle fatigue to get to the top of the rocks. The sense of pride is so worth it! Knowing as well that we are surrounded by people who have been in the same position in the beginning of their hike is so reassuring. They pushed through and are so willing to share information and support. Plus stories of thier treks, reasons for hiking and past lives. Damn interesting people!
The other day I said this was the hardest thing I have ever done however I’ve have had time to reflect. Lots of time. This is probably the hardest physical endeavor attempted but not mental or emotional. Last year I was there to help my mom die, we had to help our middle child become well 18 months ago and in 2006 I got clean and sober. These things were by far harder. Most especially finally managing after to get into both substance and mental health recovery.
In day to day life I don’t think of that much but out here I am very aware of the gift I was given. I’ve had almost 11 years of bonus time and so many people just haven’t gotten that.
We checked into a hotel to rest and as we got there we noticed ( it was super obvious! ) police cars and an ambulance. They were in the parking lot
because a very drunk woman had to be removed from a room unconscious. Not the first time. Eleven years ago that could have been me – that last weekend I used.
The timing of seeing that wasn’t an accident. My reason for this hike is to reconnect with my serenity, support Shatterproof, appreciate my recovery and achieve something that doesn’t come easily.
Today on the way to Annapolis Rocks I looked at an up hill section a good 2 miles out and just wanted to sit down and cry. It was one of those elevation climbs that just goes on forever, divided up by logs you have to step up on. Frankly it sucked. It was the 3rd or 4th of those today and my feet are cooked. But there’s a blogger I watch on YouTube who has a very contagious upbeat attitude about life and her motto is “Do what you think you can’t do”. Mary’s words very much got me up that last hill today!
On the plus side – and there are of course many – today has been a day of so much wild life! White tailed deer sprung out on me because I was a bit too quiet and startled them. I just about got run over! I saw two black snakes that cared nothing about me at all. There seem to be villages of chipmunks everywhere. They like to watch as we pass. As if we are a rather sad parade with no bands or floats. We hear woodpeckers in the morning and I’ve seen several cardinals today.
Trail legs wise we are getting stronger but blisters are a thing. Doing all the right things to prevent them but it is what it is. We soaked our feet in a spring this evening and it was bliss!
In other news I fell yesterday and took a rock to the knee. Carelessness on my part. Hint: stop to put your phone away. The injury caused my knee to give way today, so fall number two. I’m less than thrilled. Boone and I are going to rest our injuries tomorrow. We are tough but not stupid.
Do what you think you can’t do applies to sitting tight when you don’t really want to. At least the view here is stunning and I have my comfy shoes!
Nothing could have prepared me for the AT. No amount of running stairs. Not walking – certainly not in very flat Houston. Squats helped. Stretching was good, and I don’t regret and of the preparation. What does prepare you for the trail? The trail!
This is only day two and there are some lessons I have learned. First be sure to ease in. Every NOBO thruhiker passing us so far has been so kind and generous with advice. Universally it has been go slow to avoid injury. People who don’t do this spiral down and drop out. Without fail.
Second the weight and fit of my pack is damn important. I have to take it seriously. Take what I need and coincider luxuries carefully.
Third – hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Powerade – yum.
Finally my feet are my best friend. Camp shoes are my favorite thing right now. More than food. Not more than water. That would be silly.
Oh…and hanging bear bags? Hysterical, hard and deeply satisfying when you hit your branch!!!
It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’ve got Eminem lyrics on repeat in my head.
If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture
Or just let it slip?
We leave in 4 short hours to drive to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for the beginning of our Appalachian Trail Flip Flop hike. I’m struggling to sleep because this has been a dream of mine since my middle teens and to finally be about to step out on that trail is a bit overwhelming. It kind of feels like that one shot or one opportunity. Certainly a self made condition. Plus my pack is heavier than I would like!
One of the common videos and/blogs most thru hikers do Is a pre trip gear rundown but I just didn’t have the time or inclination. Did I mention finished our move and had our last kid graduate in the last 7 days? Ok..yes…only obsessively!!
What I’m carrying is really same things as most. The lightest tent I could afford, a Big Agnes Cooper Spur UL2 – but a two man because ….. claustrophobic slightly and my husband plans to visit. Across the board from my self inflating sleeping pad to my darn tough socks I took advice and managed some good sales. At the half way mark I plan on doing a video on what was really useful and what was not! I do have a feeling some stuff will go home. Simply because I just don’t want to carry the weight.
As Boone and I take our first steps on the AT on the 11th we also begin the first official day of our fundraiser for Shatterproof. Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation that addiction causes families. It began as a fathers promise after he lost his son to the disease. This could have been our family, with myself and one of our children in recovery. Boone and I would like to raise $1 for each mile walked for a total of $2190 in the course of our adventure. We are walking to promote Prevention, that Treatment is effective and should be available and Long Term Recovery is possible.
If you wish to donate a link appears here on my blog. It can also be found on my Instagram page and on my Facebook page. Don’t forget to check and see if your employer matches donations!
Ok! Enough begging. It’s now time to rest my mind. I’m thrilled to take you all along for the ride. Just can’t wait to get going!