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How It All Began

2011 October 9
by Elizabeth

Appalachian Trail

We are frequently asked why we decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. We totally understand. I mean, who wants to leave the comforts of their home and live like a homeless person for 6 months? Well to answer that we’ll have to go back in time. Let me set the stage…

Circa 1994. Imagine Liz. Bad hair, flannel shirt and cargo pants. Nirvana playing loudly in the background….

Nirvana

At some point in high school, I heard about the Appalachian Trail. I don’t even remember where or from whom I heard about it, but I remember thinking, “Wow! A trail from Georgia to Maine? That’s pretty cool.” I really love trivia, so I tucked the information away in the back of my brain, where it apparently festered and grew. Every couple of years or so, I’d learn something else about the trail and eventually I couldn’t get it out of my head. I started thinking this is something I want to do. The funny thing is that while I really like the outdoors, I never spent that much time in it. My parents weren’t really into camping. My father hunted, so I spent some time roaming the woods with him, but overall, I really had very little outdoor experience until I was in my twenties.

While I was in graduate school I met a fellow student who had not only completed a thru-hike of the AT, but was gearing up to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs along the west cost from Mexico to Canada. It was at this point that I realized that REGULAR people do this. I could do this. So I went home and told my husband John and he immediately jumped on the idea. I’m a pretty cautious person and I like to gather as much information as possible, examine my options, talk about it, then talk about it some more and then possibly act on it. And that’s what I did for the next seven years. We viewed this adventure as something exciting that would stretch us, and something that would require a great deal of preparation. Most thru-hikers fall into two age groups: just graduated (high school or college), or just retired. We were neither of those, which makes leaving for six months pretty complicated. While we thought it would be great (and probably easier) to do the hike while we were young, we figured it would be less complicated to just wait until we were older. We spent a couple years just thinking, planning and learning to backpack.

It was John, my risk-taking, adventure-seeking husband who finally said, “Let’s stop talking about it and actually do this thing!” So we started buying backpacking gear and taking weekend trips, paying off debt and saving money. It took us a little over four years to do all that, but we finally made it!

We left Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 6, 2011. It was raining and only about 35 degrees outside as we hugged my sister, Shannon and my brother-in-law, Jeff, good bye. The whole thing felt a little anti-climactic really. We had been preparing for this moment for so long that it felt surreal. Was it really happening? Where were the streamers and confetti?

Appalachian Trail

We walked the 1.8 miles to the top of Springer Mountain where we took pictures and in the excitement (or perhaps due to the finger-numbing cold) unfortunately, forgot to sign the log book. Then we turned right back around and walked back down Springer Mountain so we could continue northward. The woods were eerily quiet as a freezing fog moved in and we started wondering, “What have we done? Are we ready for this?”

And the rest, as you know, is history.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. October 9, 2011

    Just sitting here tonight… wondering if you remembered this?

    • October 10, 2011

      HA! I had completely forgotten about that video! We just came into a shelter and this random guy said, “I think I know you, have we met?” But he was a southbounder, so obviously we hadn’t. He thought about it for a few minutes then said, “I know it! I’ve been following your videos on YouTube!”

      Too funny. We were just posting there as a place to host videos for our blog. Turns out, someone got some use out of that too! :)

    • Elizabeth permalink*
      October 10, 2011

      I totally forgot about that! I wonder how he is doing, if he finished?

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