You may know that with both her little rocketts lifted off, my mom has finally gotten the chance to start on her big dream of thruhiking the Appalachian Trail. The trail runs about 2,200 miles from Springer Mtn in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. She’s been planning and dreaming and training since before I left for college (and I’m almost done now) so it’s very important to her. Because she expects to take until September or later to finish, she wanted to get as early a start as she could manage – the end of January.
Since Georgia usually doesn’t have much of a winter, this wasn’t going to be too much of a problem especially since it would give her time to outrun the mosquitos and black flies in the summer. Second Stage (her trail name, referring to the way a rocket drops the extra stages to make it all the way to outer space) is a pretty cautious hiker though, and all the ice and blown-down trees and snow (and temperatures cold enough to freeze her boots in the sleeping bag) in addition to steep mountain trails have worn down her nerves a lot.
She’s currently made it as far as the Smokey Mountains (her milestone of Fontana Dam at 164 miles), but since only thruhiking purists actually cover the entire trail in order, she’s decided to take some time off to go home to Illinois and take care of some things there. She’s mostly on track with where she expected to be, regardless of the bad weather. Once the stuff there is resolved, she’ll go back out to the Trail, because my mom is not one to give up just because something is in her way. Usually that sort of thing just makes her growl and grit her teeth and try harder until she’s beaten whatever obstacle it is into the ground. She’s smart enough to know that even people like Gandalf can be defeated by winter weather in the mountains though, so she plans to return to the trail north of the Smokeys and come back later.
This is a big goal – more constructive than your usual “midlife crisis” and a huge boost for her self-confidence. We’re all really supportive of her that she can overcome all the fears and discomforts to reach the top. Of course, hiking in winter is dangerous and we’re worried about her, but she’s smart and can do a good job taking care of herself, and all the trail community is amazingly supportive. She’s in good hands with them!