One day. That’s it. All my time left before the AT after months of preparation and waiting.
People keep telling me, “You must be so excited!” Honestly, I haven’t had too many butterflies yet. Not sure why. Maybe because it hasn’t really hit me. I don’t have a picture in my head of what my life is going to become. These last few weeks have been such a whirlwind of getting everything together and wrapping up odds and ends that I haven’t had time to anticipate.
I realize this has the potential to be really sad, but we’re embracing my hike as a good thing! Several of my mom’s friends have asked her how she is able to let me go off and do this. Yes, letting your kid fly to the deep South and hike 2180 miles home through the wilderness is a little nerve-wracking. But it’s also the adventure of a lifetime! I look at it like sending me off to college (again). No idea what to expect, imminent dangers, crazy people, amazing people, learning something new every day and discovering yourself.
If my parents had fought my goal of hiking the AT, I obviously would have done it anyway. But it would have been a lot more difficult. My mom has been extremely supportive and the best walking partner. Dad has been amazing throughout this process. He’s spent hours researching gear, food, distances and pouring over the Companion and maps with me. I can’t even count our trips to Farm-Way/EMS on both hands. Not a day has gone by that we haven’t discussed some detail of the trip, down to me bagging up toilet paper to save room/weight (his idea of course). I know this trip would become a short-lived reality, if it had happened at all, because of him. Thank you SO MUCH dad. I love you.
Then there is Dilan, who just yesterday thought to ask me my accommodation plans and how I’m going to go to the bathroom. Of course as a high school junior she’s got other things on her mind! There is no doubt I’m going to miss her immensely. Taking the semester off has definitely been worth it this far just to spend time with my family.
Obviously some little part of me is hiking the AT to “find myself.” I’m sure everyone out there lists that as one of their reasons. What almost-twenty-year-old isn’t looking for a little clarity? But I think it’s safe to say I’m setting out with a pretty strong sense of self. These last three months have really reminded me family comes first, to find a balance between work and play, know my real friends, and that I will always love myself more than any boy can.
The outreach of support I have received from people is truly touching and inspiring. Thank you all. People I hardly know have been wishing me well! How they know I’m hiking the AT is beyond me. I blame my gossiping Grandma but I guess we’ll never know! The phone calls, visits, text messages, emails, and prayers in the last several days make it hard to leave (I hate goodbyes like there is no tomorrow) but have given me the strength I need to make it to Katahdin! I can guarantee there will be days that I won’t want to crawl out of my thin sleeping pad/chilly sleeping bag in my little tent bed. Thinking of those at home who believe in me or are unable to be hiking themselves will definitely get me through.
The goal is 13.5 miles a day. Here’s to adventures and new experiences! Cheers!!