On a cold March morning in 2012, I found myself sitting in an airport, waiting for the plane that would carry me from Chicago back to New Hampshire, and on this morning where my story begins, I decided to pass the time by watching a movie. I pulled up my Netflix account on my phone and as fate would have it decided to browse the documentary section, and that’s when I found it – the movie that would influence my future: National Geographic’s documentary on the Appalachian Trail.
Until that moment, I had never heard of the Appalachian Trail, and definitely never dreamed of hiking it in its entirety one day. But as I sat in that airport, I had hiking on my mind: my friends and I had a trip to Greece planned in April, 2012, and decided to hike the Samaria Gorge while there and to say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement. Of everything we had planned to see and do while in Greece, the 10 mile hike was what I was most excited about (and the prospect of seeing some kri kri goats along the trail!) and as the trip approached, I couldn’t stop fantasizing about what it was going to be like to frolic through some Cretan mountains.
So, back to the airport. I decided to watch the documentary on the Appalachian Trail and couldn’t believe that there was a trail that ran from Georgia to Maine, practically through my backyard in New Hampshire, that people spent months walking along for no better reason than it was there and they could…and that I hadn’t heard of it sooner!
Some people excel at one or many sports, like my sister; I, on the other hand, am not very coordinated and growing up was never described as an athlete, but when it comes to walking, I’m a boss. I’m very good at putting one foot in front of the other and walking for a very long time with no particular destination in mind and enjoying every minute of it.
As I boarded my plane, I knew that hiking the AT was something I had to do – it was just a matter of figuring out the details and determining when.
My father was waiting for me in Boston when I got off the plane, and during our ride back to NH I brought the trail up to him. He had never heard of it either. I explained to him what little I knew of the trail: thousands of people attempt to hike the trail every year and only about a quarter finish, people from all over the world come to hike the AT, and that people roughly cover 15 to 20 miles a day.
“That’s it?” my dad wanted to know. “They hike all day and only cover 15 miles?”
“I thought that was strange, too. Just the other day I went for a 10-mile walk and it only took me about 2 hours.”
22-year-old RayLynn, how young and naive. Please, forgive her. 😉
“So,” I continued the conversation, “do you think I’d be able to do it?”
My dad shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Good, because I’m going to.” (I don’t think he took me seriously then. Two years and a bunch of purchased gear later, I think he’s realized I’m really going through with this, though I’m not quite sure he’s accepted it yet.)
Such a simple conversation, but as I explained to my father my intentions to hike this infamous trail, I fell in love with the idea and have never looked back, not even when, later in the car ride, I began to think of some of the dangers: “Dad, do you think people die on the trail?”
I crossed my arms, nodded, and looked out the window. “I’m still doing it.” And so I am.