After six months, five million steps, and fourteen states I am preparing to climb the last mountain of my thru-hike. In seven days I will be starting the climb to the top of Katahdin. When I summit, my thru-hike will be complete and I will be headed home.
I have talked to so many hikers who say the hike has changed their lives. Some came looking for answers, some simply want to experience the challenge. Many want to cross it off their bucket list and a few want to complete a thru-hike before starting a career. I started out with the thought of completing something that my late husband and I talked about doing together when we retired but it has become so much more than that promise for me.
My thru-hike has been many things. The adventure of a life time. A six month process of making new friends that I am sure I would have never met if I had not hiked the trail.
A time to challenge myself physically and emotionally and six months of laughter, tears, self reflection and spiritual awareness, but through all of this I am asking myself if I have changed or have I just opened my eyes to what is real and important in life. My faith, family, friends, freedom and good health are more important to me than ever before, and it is those things that I think about everyday on the trail.
I have lived like a homeless person, carrying everything on my back. I have slept in a tent, in a shelter, in a hostel with twenty other people, in an old camper full of bugs, and in a motel so scary I actually pushed furniture against the door before I went to sleep.
I have been frightened, hungry, hot, cold, and usually exhausted but always happy!
There is something about the trail that I know I will miss. Maybe it’s the adventure. Maybe it’s the thought of getting up each day and knowing that this day will not be like the one before. Maybe it’s the smell of the forest and sound of the trees as they move with the wind. Maybe it’s the reality that thru-hikers fall in love with the trail and the towns and people along the trail.
Hiking the trail from Georgia to Maine is an awesome accomplishment but by the time I reached Maine my hike had taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not just about the hike! It’s about George, the sweet man that went out of his way to give me a ride to the trailhead after my resupply in Vermont. It’s about Gloria and Naomi, two wonderful ladies who promised to pick us up at Grafton Notch after we hiked 13 hours. They sat at the road waiting in the dark and were so happy to see our headlamps when we hiked off the mountain. I remember thinking that they looked like Angels! It’s about Guy and Donna Kipp who took me into their home and treated me like family! I cried the day they dropped me off and we said goodbye at the trailhead. It’s about the friends I have hiked with, the people I have met along the way and the friends that are coming all the way to Maine to give me a hug at the top of Katahdin.
I will not remember details about every step I took on the trail, but I will always remember the wonderful people along the trail. I thank God for putting all of them in my way.