Shortly after turning 40, I decided to do something that was w-a-y out of my comfort zone: Go with James Evans on a 47-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail. I have NO IDEA what possessed me to think I could attempt that, but I spoke with James about it and a plan was laid.
I wish I could tell you that I aced the hike; unfortunately, my knees began giving me trouble by the middle of the first afternoon and it was all downhill from there. Well, actually, it was uphill and downhill (but it was the downhill that hurt!!!). So I spent the bulk of Friday, Saturday and Sunday in pain, with no recourse but to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
But to this day, fourteen years later, those three days remain a zenith of my life’s experience. Not only did I attempt something that took me out of my comfort zone and I figured would be more difficult than anything I’d ever done in my life (it was!), but I got to experience things I never would have otherwise:
1. Hiking along fairly difficult trails and following blazes – who knew?
2. Packing in everything I would need for three days – clothes, bedding, food,
EVERYTHING! And carrying it on my own back.
3. Talking with my fellow hikers – hearing their stories, sharing the experience, making new friends and bonding for life!
4. Drinking water from ruts in the road, streams, ponds…and worrying if I’d remembered to put in the appropriate drops/pills to make it drinkable!
5. Cooking our food over the open fire after dark.
6. Listening to the rain on my tent, and hiking the next morning for hours in the rain (that truly was glorious because I love rainy days!).
7. Sleeping in my sleeping bag out under the stars, listening to the animals nearby.
8. Pushing through the pain and still finding ways to appreciate, sometimes even revel in, the reason for the pain.
9. Knowing that my family was going to be REALLY amazed and proud of my accomplishment.
10. And there’s nothing to compare with the beauty of the Appalachian Trail. I can still see those peaks, smell the earthy smells of the October woods, and marvel at all the plant and animal life we encountered along the way.
Would I do it again? You bet I would, if my knees would let me. Alas, I can’t.
But YOU can. And should! You won’t regret the experience, and you won’t trade it for anything!