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You dream it for years, you plan it for months, then abruptly the time comes to undertake your goal and suddenly you don’t know how to feel.
I am currently in the car with my husband, Brew, driving to the base of Katahdin. We are going to spend the afternoon scouting out access roads in the 100 mile Wilderness and if we are able to confirm our meeting points today then I will start my 2,175 mile journey tomorrow, and at the latest Saturday.
I don’t know that I am anxious as much as expectant. There is a little bit of fear in me, but I can talk it down and out fairly quickly. I know failure is an option, but when failure is an option it also means that success is attainable. And that’s what this is, a dream; the opportunity to reach beyond my known limits and do something that no one of my sex has done before. Bluntly, it opens up the possibility of a women’s trail record and a world record, however, that doesn’t feel very personal. The intimate issue is that after a long period of preparation, all it’s really about now is just finding out what I’m made of… what’s inside.
There is nothing about this journey that does not feel natural, dare I say preordained. People talk about a “calling,” and whether or not I am called by destiny, the wilderness, or a sense of adventure; I know that above all I am called by a sense of belonging. As humans, we are all given an exclusive set of gifts and talents. I truly believe that I have a pain threshold, level of endurance, and love of the woods that makes me uniquely qualified to try to set a woman’s endurance record on the Appalachian Trail. It feels like my body and skills are best utilized in such an endeavor. When I am pushing my limits in nature there is a sense of home; granted, without the stereotypical comforts, but with a sense of meaning and purpose that calls up something innately rooted within my soul.
One of the first men to set an Appalachain Trail Endurance Record was David Horton, and then in 2005 he went to the Pacific Crest Trail and set an endurance record on the west coast. This summer he attempted a third record on the Continental Divide Trail, but on the first day he fell victim to extreme heat and conditions and was forced to give-up the attempt due to life-threatening circumstances. I look up to David Horton a great deal, and hearing of his attempt was a sound reminded of how courageous he is, and how powerful and dangerous the elements can be.
This summer, I am in no way planning of trying to fight or conquer the trail and it’s conditions. Instead, I want to live harmoniously within its boundaries in a way that I can freely flow down its path. I want to embrace its challenges and learn from every experience.
I want to hike the trail, and I am so excited that the time has come and I am able to take my first steps. Even if those ‘first steps’ will result in a hopeful 44 miles on my first day.