It's Thru-Hiker Season! Yaaaayyyy!
March is the beginning of thru-hiker season, a time when aspiring hikers looking to walk all the miles of a long-distance trail in one shot, (the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails primarily), are busy preparing themselves for the long journey ahead. Every Spring since my 2,181-mile jaunt on the AT with my dad, when “trailversary” photos start filling my social feeds, I get all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic, remembering all of the work that went into the planning our 6-month trek and all the pondering I was doing about what kind of impact the trail would end up having on my life. I was an inexperienced backpacker, just having car-camped and day-hiked up until then, but I was excited and inspired to step out of the routine of city life, to live in the outdoors and to send back dispatches from the field. Somehow that was all the fuel I needed to make me believe our thru-hike was possible.
Back in pre-everyone-has-a-smart-phone 2011, when information about thru-hiking was not so easily accessible or abundant, (when Instagram was an infant, podcasts not so prolific and Messenger non-existent), my dad and I were keeping our friends and family informed about our journey via Mel and Mike Hike, a word-press blog with a pretty basic template. We posted to it via my iPhone 3 (when we had service and enough battery life), and otherwise uploaded photos to it via public computers in the libraries of the small towns we hiked through.
Looking back, I’m amazed that my reasons for wanting to get outside and for sharing my experiences with others still ring so true today. If not for the support and encouragement we got from our Mel and Mike Hike subscribers, Girl Gotta Hike, or at least the online and social bit, may never have come into being. To this day, nothing brings me more joy than introducing others to the beauty and serenity of time spent walking in the woods, in person or virtually.
Check out below for a little snippet of my 2011-self, “Urban Hike #3,” originally posted January 31st, 2011, on Melandmikehike.com.
Urban Hike #3
Another weekend, another trail preparation walk….a 9.8 mile walk with a 30 pound backpack that is! Hey, it is Brooklyn after all — go big or go home, right?
The fact that it is now just 6 weeks until trail-time was certainly weighing heavy on my mind (and my shoulders) this afternoon when I got to spend a relatively warm (35º!) few hours walking around town with my fiance at my side. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like to walk that far (or more) with that much weight (or more) everyday for 4 1/2 months (…or more).
It was especially hard to envision what it will look like to be immersed in nature day after day, when today I was surrounded by cars, buildings and 1/2 the population of Kings County. The imagined differences between an on-trail hike and an on-street walk became clearer as I maneuvered my way through the slushy, 19-inches-of-snow-and-no-where-to-put-it puddles on street corners, around the double-wide strollers of yuppified Park Slopers and past the European tourists snapping photos on the Brooklyn Bridge. It was made most apparent though, with all of the double takes and backward glances I got. Though they say anything goes in this city, I do suppose I was something of an enigma today. While everyone else was out for mimosas and Sunday brunch, I trekked through town laden with hiking poles, boots and an external frame backpack. When I head out on that footpath in the woods in a few weeks, no one, not even the trees, will think anything of it.
But I’ll take that enigma stigma and make it my own. I’ll be the city mouse and the country mouse. I can live happily in New York City, surrounded by culture, diversity, art and people. I can also envelop myself in fresh air, a pristine mountaintop vista and allow myself the time for quiet contemplation. Both environments can nourish the soul if you let them.
But before I head out on that trail, I won’t fuhgettabout where I am now. In lieu of trail mix or gorp, I’ll nourish my belly with a toasted bagel and cream cheese and a coffee to go for my mid-hike snack!