Last week after I was finished with my call, I did something that had been a long time wish of mine, a bucket list kind of thing. I went hiking alone for a few days on the Appalachian Trail. Scott (husband) was calling it my “walkabout” because I wanted to go think about the past eight years, as well as what might be coming in the future. And I also wanted to go clear my head after a crazily emotional few weeks, ending my call.
Understatement of the year: it was a LOT harder than I thought it was going to be, and I’ve done a bit of hiking. It was a LOT more uphills and a lot more downhills, and the downhills weren’t necessarily easier than the ups. Okay, they were, a little, but two of my toes are still numb from the rocky downhill climbs.
I won’t lie…I was a little freaked as I started out by myself, southbound from Dick’s Creek Gap in Georgia. But it wasn’t 15 minutes into one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done (my out of shape 40 year old body wasn’t helping!) that I met a young woman who looked like every camp counselor ever. She was smiling and shiny in the early morning, and said to me, “How long to the road?” which i would learn is one of the most common question on the trail, second only to “how long to the top?” I told her it was only about 15 minutes and she said, “Glorious!”
I took that as a good omen, and relaxed into my hike. I had to stop frequently because the climbs were so intense (the first one was 2000 feet up in less than a mile!), but I tried to stop and look around at the trees, hear the birds, and the sunshine coming through the forest. I met lots of people coming the other way, and they all looked like either my stepdad or camp counselors. No one was middle-aged, except me, who was lucky enough to have this week to spend walking in the woods.
After walking all morning and into the afternoon, and seeing some amazing views, I was DONE. I had planned to do about 10 miles the first day, but that was not going to happen. I made it about seven miles, pitched my tent, did some reading, fetched my water, cooked dinner, and went to sleep. Alone. In the woods.
I have never felt so safe.
When I woke up there were two young sisters and a Labrador camped nearby, and they seemed as happy as any of us to be spending some time out there.
I hiked all day again and was very, very happy and very very sore and tired.
That night it rained, and then an hour later the wind began to blow. When I woke up the next morning, the temperature was 34 degrees. I was way too cold, but I got up, put away my tent with breaks because my hands started getting numb, and then got moving. The wind didn’t stop gusting all day.
I finally called my husband to bail a day or so early. As I was setting up a ride into the nearby town to wait, it began to HAIL. I took that as a sign that getting out before the fun stops was the right thing to do.
I came home talking about my next hike, and that makes it a success in my mind! It was cold, I was tired, I was sore, the uphills SUCKED, but there’s something about being in a green tunnel with mountain views for miles and miles that’s addictive.
I also came home with a clear head, grateful for my family, grateful for my job that I finished well, and for my warm house. Total success. And now, on to the next adventure! I’m not sure what it is yet, but I’m definitely ready (and I’m bringing gloves this time).