My toenails are no longer purple and my heel blisters have resolved themselves, and I am beginning to feel ready to talk/write about the adventure I had with the kiddo in Northern Georgia back in June. We covered 52 miles on the Appalachian Trail over a week, a nice long stretch of camping and hiking that left us both wanting to see a bit more. (We skipped a 16-mile stretch that would have given us bragging rights if the goal of covering the entire AT in Georgia had been in the cards — one day we will claim those hard miles.)
Ever since we first camped along the AT in Shenandoah National Park several years ago, the notion of tackling a few mountain miles has been a regular feature in the vacation well. This year, with Ursula still game at age 16, we took our first shot. It was humbling, and gratifying to learn the true meaning of PUD — “pointless ups and downs” — and to be reminded that no amount of flatland training can prepare hikers for the hills along the crest of the AT, which runs 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Georgia isn’t even the hardest state, but it offered us a real shake out for sure.
Rather than lock horns about what was possible with Ursula, I let her determine the daily mileage. She came into the hike talking a big game, estimating 10 miles per day would be no problem. I was more modest, but if she was going to be stubborn, we were going to do whatever she said (full seasons of soccer have left her with quads that won’t quit). As noted, I was already hobbled by bruises and blisters. In the end, adolescent sleep patterns and long stretches of grinding out the miles, a few buggy nights, and a couple of rainy days would ansi take their toll. Daily, we typically notched 8-9 miles with some long and some shorter days mixed in for good measure. We saw flowers, snakes and great panoramas.
Our thru-hike, if you want to call it that, would never measure up to those backpackers who endeavor to conquer the entire AT. Just the same, agreeing to quit slightly ahead of schedule affirmed important lessons about respecting the limits and agency of our adventure partners — and let’s not forget I was the one who was more physically hobbled. This week when I read about the sad fate of Steady Eddie Kerker in Outside magazine — the 67-year-old hiker died in July struck down in the violent floods that hit Vermont, prompting the ATC and Green Mountain Club suggested staying away till a proper assessment could be made — it struck a deep chord with me. That could have been us.
Until next time, here’s a going away poll: How has your favorite activity been impacted by the weirding of weather due to climate change?