For some my determination to hike AT is unfathomable. Most recently I was discussing the topic with a friend and his response to my statement “I am going to hike the Appalachian Trail when I graduate next year” was an immediate “you?” Now, he insists that he did not hear me when I said “I” and was seeking clarification, but I will take liberty to doubt this. I get it, I’m kind of chubby, I’m short, I have expressed only a limited interest in hiking within my friend group, I don’t seem like the type to take on such a task. However, what I found most important in the exchange was not his visceral doubt, but my response to it. Without hesitation, I laughed out loud. His doubt is not my doubt, and my ability to see humor in his negative response was reassuring to me, because it speaks to my own confidence in my ability.
Now, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you a bit about how some of the important people in my life reacted. Now, to avoid any strife or suspicion of favoritism, I have placed these in order of seniority, rather than the actual order I told them.
My mother asked my why, that was her first question. I explained that it was simply because I wanted to, and she said OK. Days later, after I published my first post, I called her and she told me, “I read your blog, I’m in.” She asked about how I was going to get my gear and what she could do to help. Her eagerness was very reassuring to me, as I was expecting more opposition. She did express worries about my safety but decided it was best not to dwell. Her desire to help was actually overwhelming as she began to ask a multitude of questions I had yet to consider.
For the sake of their privacy, I won’t name my sisters, but I have four. The eldest, C had a very similar response to that of my mom. She asked me why and accepted my response. She then told me about a man who was biking for charity and suggested I could do something similar. I jokingly mentioned that she would probably have me tagged before I leave and watch every step I take. In all seriousness she told me how our other sister doesn’t like to give her flight information anymore because C tracks her progress through the air. She spent the next few days sending me links about how to seek sponsorship and a GPS tracker she expects me to carry.
Next would be T, I spent three days and called her about 4000 times before I actually got to speak to her. When we finally talked (on my mother’s phone because I got lucky and called her when they happened to be together) her first response was, “so wait, you’re inviting me right?” This is the sister mentioned in my first post, who seems to share my passion for hiking. We then discussed gear and she immediately added me to a facebook flea market to find cheap gear. She took the further step of connecting me with a friend who put me in touch with a gentleman who has been immensely helpful in starting me on the path to collecting my gear.
L, I think, was the most concerned. Everyone who knows her will know exactly the tone she adopted when I told her about my plans. She said nothing for about 30 seconds before saying “Oh my God Jax” in a tone that was a mixture of fear and exasperation at the fact that she has been given such a ridiculous sister who loves to try her patience. I am sad to say it was not the first time I have heard this phrase and it is unlikely to be the last. I’m assuming she did some quick googling and this likely did nothing to assuage her fears. I expressed some concerns about how I would manage my bills while away and she said simply “that’s what you have me for.” More recently she has begun planning our trip to Maine this year to see how well I do in the 100 mile wilderness to better inform my decision to go NOBO or SOBO.
Finally, I, of all of my family, she accepted my decision with the least questions. I don’t have any anecdote for our exchange due to the circumstances at the time that I told her. We were both dealing with a rather tiresome individual who had been testing our courtesy and hospitality for nearly a week and I believe by the time I told her about my trip she was beyond the point of offering any sort of emotional reaction beyond acceptance. Yet, her support is no less important than that of any of my other sisters.
My cousin, J, has also been essential in the journey I’ve taken. She will be my practice partner all this summer as we both become more skilled hikers. She has promised to make fun of me when I carry my full pack on a day hike and she has been my constant companion on the trail. Honestly, none of this would have happened if not for her. Back on that first day we went hiking together, I began a path that will lead me to Springer Mountain.
The support of my family is absolutely vital to me in all my endeavors, but their desire to help me with this momentous task is so inspiring to me. I fully expect to see them at a variety of points during my hike. Whether dropping me off at the beginning, hiking alongside me in the middle states, or cheering me on at the finish line, I am certain I have a wonderful family who will be invaluable.
I do feel the need to offer one more anecdote so everyone can understand just what it is I’m working with. My step father, for whom I have lots of respect, but also a great deal of resentment, reacted in a slightly disheartening way. I discussed completing a thru hike with him prior to me actually committing to the endeavor, but his words have left me slightly apprehensive about actually telling him I plan to make the hike. He told me a story about a woman he had met during his travels who smelled very unpleasantly. Apparently she used her odor to deter sexual assault while completing her thru hike. He did not tell this story as a cautionary, rather as an interesting thing he had learned, and thought nothing of how this might impact me. He offered neither support nor objection and this has left me wondering about what he will think of my decision.
There are people I did not mention here and I want to say thank you to them as well. I have not and will not forget any support I have been provided. Overall, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. I don’t know what I would do without each and every one of you and all that you do to love and support me.