In my mid-fifties I was suffering the usual angst of women in mid-life crisis. I realized that the prime of my life had slipped away while I was busy raising children, working, etc. Nothing exciting seemed to be in my future as the last of my kids left home for good.
A casual discussion with my sister and her husband revealed that the Appalachian Trail didn’t involve ropes and harnesses, that anyone could walk a few miles and see the world. I did love being outdoors, but only to do yard work. My husband turned down an invitation to go on a picnic with me and I realized that I would have to find adventure on my own so I talked myself into declaring that I would hike the AT.
It was a totally crazy notion for someone like me, so unused to stepping out of my box. Starting off alone in 2004 I was quickly overwhelmed, terrified, discouraged, but determined to finish the trail miles through Georgia before I could go home with some dignity to face all those I had told that I was ready to leave everything safe, familiar and comfortable. Of course, at that time, I had no idea how many miles there were in Georgia, how long it would take me to walk them or how I was going to retrieve my resupply.
More than a decade has passed since that first miserable week and I have thousands of miles behind me, memories of fabulous hikes throughout the United States, encounters with wildlife, chance meetings with the most interesting characters, but the greatest return on my little investment of just walking away from Amicalola Falls is that I know what to do and where to go whenever I want to feel really alive. Now I can step away from the car, look around, breathe deeply and feel free.
I am proud of all the skills I have learned, the independence, the confidence that I can set my own goals and achieve them. I will be honest and admit that I still feel apprehensive about what might be around the next bend or over the next mountain, but now I embrace that fear because it means I’m really alive.
I would love to share some awesome stories of bad weather adventures, trail angels and critter encounters, but I think what really matters is that I have learned that a part of me is wild.