Not thru*….yet.

After toying with it for about six years, it finally happened – a backpacking/camping trip. In late August i finally hiked in, camped, and hiked out of a wooded area, with no toilets and a lot of bugs.

Studley’s daughter, Pixie, is a supreme badass, hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail (AT) this year. She started walking northward from Georgia in mid-April. 2,190 miles – it takes from five to seven months to complete – and only about 20% of those who start a thru-hike complete it.

Her Dad was cheering madly, tracking her progress, and enjoying her adventure vicariously through intermittent phone calls.  Somewhere in those conversations, the prospect of the two of us joining her for a portion of the trail went from “notional” to “no shit”, and we started our own scaled-down preparations.

We started walking. Just on a flat track at the outset, but had to tackle hills. And we did. Added backpacks with some weight. Quickly realized that we were going to suffer, but just kept at it – while sorting gear lists, deciding which tent to use, meal planning.

In the meantime, Pixie kept walking. Every day, 15-20 miles. Knocking off the states – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut… As we’d bitch about being hot, sweaty and covered in bugs on our daily walks, we reminded each other that Pixie was doing 4-5 times our mileage, over mountains, and we needed to shutthefuckup and keep walking.

We met her in Massachusetts in late August. Parked the car at a trailhead, grabbed our packs and set out for a 7 mile hike, meeting Pixie at a shelter for the night. Our mantra – “We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!”

Only 7 miles. We’d been doing 3-5 miles, with loaded backpacks nearly every day for the prior two weeks, so how hard could it be? The first few miles we were completely fine – and then there were moments of “i have to adjust the strap, it’s wiggling funny on my shoulder” and calls for “rest stop” became a little more frequent. We had another hiker take this shot – for possible use on the cover of “Search and Rescue” magazine.

AT1

Pixie caught up with us about a mile short of our stop for the night. “I thought I was going to catch you a few miles back! You guys are moving right along!” Encouraging words for a couple of out of shape old farts…

Tucked into our tents shortly after dark, we were awakened to a bit of a rainstorm somewhere around 3am. The tent started leaking pretty hard. And we got seriously soaked…  But we packed up, hiked out, and — perhaps most surprisingly — didn’t die!

We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!” — continues as the mantra for damn near everything we’ve been doing for the past couple of months! We are stretching. We are well outside our comfort zone! And we still have no idea what we’re doing!

S'more you do it

*i am not a fan of this spelling, with a strong preference for proper spelling “through”. This spelling is the norm for “thru-hiking” the Appalachian Trail, so i decided to go that route.

 

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22 thoughts on “Not thru*….yet.

  1. I have had the idea of doing the AT ever since reading Bryson’s book, “A Walk In the Woods,” but even living here in GA, it’s never happened. If I start training now, maybe for my 70th birthday I could do it! xoxox

    P.S. Well done you and Studley! I love your motto!!

    • You could do it! Absolutely no doubt! The key thing seems to be that you really have to want to do it! We were on and off the trail with her, and lots of other hikers, over the course of the week. While the majority were in their 20’s-30’s, there were also a few elder hikers!

      What we learned? We don’t want to. There are too many other things we would rather do than spend 6 months walking, climbing, smelling funky, and scrambling for electrons every time we wander into a town…

    • There was a very cool moment – on our first day, we ran into two young men taking a break at a stream. They asked if we were section hiking part of the trail, and we couldn’t even claim that — “just here for a few days hiking with my daughter, who is thru-hiking.” They IMMEDIATELY lit up with “Hey! Cool! You’re Pixie’s parents!” Turns out, half of the people on that section of trail knew we were coming, and we were temporarily part of the Trail Family (“Tramily”). We did not earn our trail names – not out there long enough – but we learned a bit about the culture.

      Oddly enough, one of Pixie’s tramily members goes by “Tough Cookie”. She earned that name after a taking a tumble during her first week of hiking that dislocated her knee. She popped the knee back in place, and hiked out to hitch hike to a hospital. She got back on the trail a few weeks later, and finished at the top of Mt. Ketahdin with Pixie in early October. THAT is a badass!

    • She did it! She finished the hike in Maine in early October! i was not only impressed with her determination, but her ability to plan, organize, and adapt along the way. She’s a vegetarian, so getting enough protein was as bit of a challenge – she gained muscle, lost some weight, and is incredibly strong! i’m also in awe of her… and i can’t wait to see where she ends up from here!

  2. You guys are NUTS. It’s admirable, but you’re still nuts. This is the opposite of retirement, although I can imagine it was a gratifying experience. It’s not for me. If I’m ever sleeping in a leaking tent, it wasn’t on purpose. Something went wrong.

    Hope Blogdaddy is okay. He’s in the epicenter of the upcoming Spanish revolution.

    • Completely nuts, but you already knew that. We are doing a lot of the ‘fucking off’ that comes with retirement. Mondays no longer carry the darkness of the grind – but instead, open up the roads and stores so we can run errands with less congestion. We get up most mornings and go for hikes in local parks – bagged the gym membership for free cardio in the woods.

      Mostly what we took away from the week with Pixie is that we have NO interest in doing such a trek. i like beds. i do not like sleeping on dirt. i have no problem shitting in a cathole in the woods, but i do not like sleeping on the ground. And the rain? Once you’re soaked, you’re soaked. We were really lucky it was warm or i’d have said ‘fuck this shit’ at 3am and called medevac.

      Thinking that the blogfather will be fine. Hoping so, anyway. We are planning to spend at least 6 weeks in northern Spain next year, with a week or so on his sofa. Fingers crossed that there is a safe, diplomatic solution soon…

  3. Just keep going. I understand it’s good for the body and the mind to do new things. Which is why I’m trying to learn new knitting and painting techniques. Sometimes I wish my wheelchair would do hikes, but laws and manufacturers are more interested in keeping us close to home.

    • We often add the caveat “while we can…”, knowing that it’s only for now. Physical abilities can degrade over time, or disappear in the blink of an eye. That’s part of the driver. We need to do a few things NOW, since these will potentially be the healthiest and most fit years of the rest of our lives…

      But as you mention, there are other ways to stretch, and we’ve started learning Spanish (using Duolingo) – in part to keep the brains going, and in part because we’re planning to go to Spain for an extended period of time next year.

  4. Good grief. I enjoy country walks of up to fifteen minutes’ duration that end in the pub. I don’t know whether to congratulate you all or give the name of a good shrink 🙂

    • We’ve already decided that backpacking shall remain a limited endeavor. i need a bed. We’ll be undertaking a long walk next year in Europe – but there will be wine (and beds) along the way, so it’s far more civilized!

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