THE ACCIDENTAL THRU-HIKER: WALKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, PART FIVE

It’s difficult to keep on top of most things when hiking a long distance trail. Taxes, emails, bills, work…all these things and more get put on the shelf while obsessively focused on walking, sleeping, camping, water and food. Trying to find the time and energy to write has been a massive failure on my part. So here I am, hundreds of miles later, attempting to share more of the trip.

 

Last time I wrote it was on the subject of trail vernacular. I learned another term since: aqua blazing. Yes, that’s right, hopping in a boat or a tube and taking to a waterway in order to skip part of the trail. For me, the purist, I’ve stuck to walking. To be precise, I’ve walked another 869.1 miles since that last post. That makes 1371.1 miles total so far, and 813.9 miles remaining. In other words, damn far!

 

So here I am in New York State. New York! Virginia is done. West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, too. After New York there’s Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I think that’s all. Yikes!

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the New Jersey/New York border on the Appalachian Trail! 

 

I’m also on the trail alone. Windwalker aka Peter aka my lovely Husband ditched me (haha!) when I had to last leave the trail for another 3 1/2 weeks of work. He kept trucking north and I came back to real life. Or I left real life and he kept treking morth.

 

His hike was ending at the Hudson River, the exact spot on earth he ended a southbound hike he did from Mount Katahdan in 2002. I came back by myself after the usual whirlwind schedule of travel and events, a little stunned and ready to resume the walk April 17th. I stood there in the hot Virginia sun, pack ready and sunscreened up, wondering if it was real and true that I was a thru hiker on this long distance trail. A thru hiker!

 

Yes, it was true. And yes, I was alone. Redfeather was back on trail.

 

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But alone, not for long. Three days into my hike I literally walked into a small bubble of Northbounder thru hikers. I’d lucked into a rode into a small town to resupply with food to get through the Shenandoah National Park, called a trail angel named Angie who picked me up and dropped me back at the road junction, then met hiking kin.

 

Eddie Spinoza was the first and Ironman the Second. They were getting dropped off at the same spot by the proprietor, Adam, of a hostel I’m in town where Windwalker stayed. Adam said ‘your Windwalker wife! He’s awesome. I really liked him.’ I’d come across this statement often when people found out I was the wife on the legendary Windwalker. Kinda cool to be the sidekick to the star when it’s usually the other way because of all the sport stuff I’ve done in life.

 

Windwalker became legendary because he was the first Northbounder through all the Hiker stops and towns. That and he’s got about the best energy on tap outside of the Dali Lama himself.  I was proud to say ‘yes, that’s my husband!’ each and every time.

 

That’s the thing on the trail: you can be who you choose to be. If you’re a jerk, you will be very alone.  If you are open and remotely nice, you will have community.

 

My little community was with my new hiking friends I met just after Eddie and Ironman. YoYo (as in Joe Joe woth a Spanish ‘y’ i stead of ‘j’) and Tweet ( as in ‘Truite’ which is french for trout not as in Twitter) were to become as ubiquitous as the rocks in Pennsylvania during the next month of walking for me. Thankfully they were the antithesis of these rocks, too. These two young guys made me laugh and smile each day.

 

YoYo would rip out german opera on occasion and Tweet, though shy with it, speaks the most beautiful french. These guys are best friends from Scouts, school and college. They are the most wonderfully weird guys I’ve ever met and I was lucky they let me in their hiking bubble.

 

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YoYo

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Tweet

 

We’d hike solo all day then meet up at a shelter for camp. A few times they came hours late I knew they’d have devoured mutile burgers, fries, wings, beers, colas and who knows what else.

 

They started their hike like they were ‘in kindergarten, with everything to learn’ and turned into two lean, mean hiking machines fast. Not that these two guys from Kansas City, Missouri were not lean and mean before they started.

 

 

After walking in our own bubbkes of silence and sokace all dah long, at csmp we’d talk about public radio and how to live. We’d talk about people’s energy and the effect they had on us during interactions along the way. We’d talk about snakes and spiders and our individual fears of tick bites and limes disease. We’d talk about the legendary Windwalker and what he’d do in given situations. We’d talk about dreams and goals and slowing things town to enjoy the beautiful moments in between.

 

And here I thought I’d want to be all alone on the trail.

 

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Alas, I am alone again, with YoYo and Tweet off for a weekend of other world obligations. I’ll be ahead of my friends for a bit then have to go back to this other world myself for some obligations of my own. They will pass me back.

 

But that’s how the trail goes.  It ebs and flows with feelings and raw emotion. People come in and out of your hiking life, to be seen again or never seen again. The good ones leave fairy dust on you that fuels your steps; the bad ones leave toxic residue you cleanse and clear with each tender step ahead.

 

I have moments walking where I cry I feel so happy. I have intimate times in places looking at a beautiful little bird sing the prettiest song. I have out of body levels of happiness pouring through my veins that hardly seem real, but they are, and I live them with each breath.

 

This trip is one where I can invent myself in not being presented as what I’ve done or won, but by who i am and the energy I bring in. I am seriously stoked for everyone who’s out here no matter how far they walk. It’s a beautiful gift an individual can give oneself to walk through nature for a day, a week, a month or an entire trail. I just happen to be one of many who made the time for the whole thing.

 

Thankfully, there is still so far to go. Still so much I get to do. So much to experience.

 

Yes, I am Redfeather, one of many walking the Appalachian Trail this year. Nothing more nothing less. How cool is that.

 

 




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