March 5, 2011 is a big day. Frankly, March 5th is a huge day. Though we’ve known about the plan for over a year, the date seemed rocket forward at warp speed. March 5th is the day my 18yr old niece is hitting the trail. More specifically, my niece is hitting the Appalachian Trail (AT) at the southern starting point, Springer Mountain, and heading north towards the ending point, Mount Katahdin. My niece is a Northbounder.
The commercial below always gets to me. My heart aches for the Dad, as he watches his daughter drive off in a car, alone, for her first time. With my niece stepping onto a trail of adventure, I can’t help but think of her Mom and Dad (my sister-in-law and brother), as they watch her disappear in the trees, quickly camouflaged by branches and leaves.
As one might expect and/or assume, Adventure Girl has trained for this long hike consisting of 2,181 miles. Assuming everything goes well, she’ll complete the ‘thru-hike” within 6 months, returning home in August. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, every year thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike, though only about one in four make it all the way. My money is on my niece completing the thru-hike. Interestingly enough, a cousin of mine completed the hike nine years ago. She, too, was a Northbounder. And now, she helps to train others attempting to thru-hike the AT. Though, Adventure Girl is intent on making this her own journey, so she hasn’t gone to our cousin for too much help. (However, the cousin will make an excellent ‘phone a friend’ life line!)
Our entire family is excited for Adventure Girl. I know I won’t be alone in living vicariously through her adventure. Nor will I be the only one enjoying her adventure without having to battle blistered feet and back pain. Well, I get the back pain, but that is because I am 42 yrs old and have not worked on my ‘core’. But, that’s not important right now. What is important is the fact that my niece is all packed and ready to experience life on foot and on the trail.
Come August, my niece will transition to either the University of Georgia or the University of Colorado. She will step off one path and step on to another path. Some kids choose to explore the world by traveling abroad. Some kids choose to stay home and explore their own backyard. Whatever the choice, exploration enables the kids to see there is more to life – and the world – than themselves. Come to think of it, this self-absorbed person should have taken time to explore her world a little before settling down. Nah. I like talking and writing about me too much.
As the sun sets on the eve of Adventure Girl’s journey, I see the sparkle of excitement in her eyes. I also see the sparkle of excitement in her Dad’s eyes (my brother). Adventure Girl’s Dad is going to accompany her for the first 67.5 miles, which will take about a week to complete. When they reach Dick’s Creek Gap, my brother will step off the trail and return home by car. Before he drives away, he will look back at his daughter – his oldest child – a Northbounder – continue her journey on the trail. I know my brother will be envious of his daughter’s experience; but mostly, my brother will summon all the strength he can to head home without her. And guess what – my brother will be driving home in their Subaru. Oh, I’m kidding. But, that would have been cool!
Happy trails, Adventure Girl! We love you!