5. Hard Goodbyes

When I started to plan this adventure I was desperately unhappy.  I had lost my fight, my drive, my enthusiasm and love of life. I couldn’t wait to get home from work so that I could spend a solid 10 hours not seeing or speaking to anyone and although I had chosen the solitude,  I was horribly lonely. I knew things needed to change but couldn’t decipher which part of my life needed the revamp.  The more I reflected on it the more I realised every part of my life was interwoven,  changing one thing wasn’t an option- hence the Apalachain Trail idea was born. I could change so many things is one foul swoop, it was and still is the perfect plan.

As soon as I had a focus,  an end game and a plan my life began to change.  I felt proud when I talked to people,  I began spending time outdoors,  adventure seeking,  dragging friends along with me. I started dancing, something I never thought I would do again, which all started to mend the unhappiness. I laughed, cried and tapped my little feet more and more until now, a year on, I’m having to let it all go, leave it behind and it’s heartbreaking.  I know that without the Appalachian Trail there is no way I would of pushed myself in this way which is why I remain whole heartedly committed to the challenge,  but it does not make the farewells to family and friends, any easier.

The trail is bringing out the best in not just me but everyone around me. The kind words,  support,  new and old friendships I have formed feel rock solid,  thank you,  thank you,  thank you,  I am taking you all on the trail with me, like our or not!!

4. Hair today, gone tomorrow!!

I would like to start this post with saying how much I LOVE having long blonde hair. I’ve always had long blonde hair ever since I was young, it makes me feel like me! Guess what?? maintaining beautiful long and blonde hair on the trail is a near impossibility, my hair gets matted as it is, I often rate it on a scale of good to jack sparrow, let alone not washing or brushing it for days on end. I can hide twigs, food and pens in my hair now, what would happen in the 100 mile wilderness?

I decided over a year ago when I was planning this adventure that I would grow my hair as long as I could, then, right before I left I would have it all cut off and donate it to the Little Princess Trust who make real hair wigs for children who have lost their hair. So last week I walked in to my hairdressers and was proud as punch for her to lop of a whopping 12 inches off and walked out with a lush chocolate brown bob.

Check out the before and after pics and tell me what you think! I love my cool undercut, makes me feel bad ass!!!

 

 

 

3. ALL the questions…..

When I talk to people about my trip, at some point in the conversation people seem to get this unfocused look on their face, a squint in one eye or worse, deep frown lines and I can tell they have a burning question to ask but don’t know how to ask without sounding ridiculous. Well my answer is always, what could be more ridiculous than quitting my job to go for a walk! Here I have tried to answer the most common questions I get asked by people, but please, by all means leave a question in the comments section if I’ve missed something and I’ll get back to you.

  1. What exactly is the Appalachian Trail? The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest marked footpaths in the world, through, up, over, under and around the Appalachian Mountains on the eastern side of the USA. Fun facts about the trail can be found in in the About The Trail section at the top of the page.
  2. Are you crazy? YES!
  3. Where will you sleep? In short I will be sleeping for the majority of the time on the trail in my tent. There are very primitive 3 sided shelters around every 10-12 miles just off the trail but for me these will be a last resort. I have some really strange sleep phobias about sleeping near people I don’t know and sometimes even people I do know. Other peoples sleeping noises can literally drive me into a rage and I have been known to uncontrollably cry when someone asleep on the train is snoring. I also suffer from insomnia, once I literally stayed up all night because I couldn’t stop saying the words ‘peas and carrots’ over and over and over! (please see the answer to the question above, I think it will be helpful about now!) So, my incredibly light, thin tent will become my safe haven. I hope to spend one night every fortnight sleeping in a real bed in a town, I’m not going complete caveman!
  4. What will you eat? I will mainly be eating things with an many calories as I can find. I am planning on a typical day being along the lines of: Breakfast – Porridge, pop tarts, bagels, lunch – wraps, pitta breads with tuna, cheese, meats, Nutella, crisps, dinner – some sort of pasta or other carb type things that require hot water to prepare. I will be cooking on my camp stove and treating local water sources for beverage options. I plan on having to carry between 4-7 days of food on me and restocking in towns.
  5. Are you going on your own, have you got a guide? In short yes im going on my own and no I don’t have a guide. I have a few extremely dear friends who, like me have a love affair with adventure and have offered to join me for sections, including one of the very best people I know who will be starting the trail and completing the first few weeks with me. Guides are completely unnecessary, but man that would be a cool job!
  6. Are you taking…..  A GPS tracking device? NO. A gun? NO. Pepper Spray? NO. A knife? A small Swiss Army number, mainly for cutting cheese. Mobile phone? Yes, 2 actually, an American phone so I can make calls to America and my English phone so that I can make calls to England. If I have service you will all be able to contact me as usual, however I may have it switched off for battery saving purposes.
  7. Are you scared of bears? Well, I have a healthy respect of all animals that will maul my face off, but if you asked me what I’m scared of on the trail (see next question) bears aren’t really on the list. I do have some friends that might argue that point with me, considering the last time I saw a bear in the wild I booked it and ended up hiding in a strangers car!
  8. Are you scared? YES! terrified, like shit directly in my pants, want my mummy, thumb sucking scared. Mainly I’m scared of not completing it and letting myself down, the fear of failure weighs heavily on my mind deep into most nights recently. Second on the list are people, I’m far more scared of people than animals, I fear that my own social anxiety will isolate me or prevent me from building relationships, which in this environment can mean the difference between life and death. I find it overwhelmingly difficult to ask for help and am frightened of finding myself and not liking her! Thirdly I am scared of the dark, yes I will be taking a headlamp, but that oppressive can’t see you hand in front of you face, blinding darkness gives me the heebie jeebies. Followed closely by getting lost, rattle snakes, brown recluse spiders in my sleeping bag, being cold, falling over, lightning, trees falling on my tent in the night and ticks.
  9. Where will you use the toilet? In the woods, (even number 2’s) behind trees, behind bushes, behind rocks, behind anything that’s bigger than my arse! I cannot imagine a time when using the loo will be pure luxury, but that time is coming!!!
  10. Why are you doing this? I have purposely left this question until last, because the answer is I’m not really sure. On different days my answer varies depending on my anxiety level. When I’m feeling calm and on top of life, you will get a very Zen type answer about finding myself, pushing my body to the limits, conquering fears, learning about nature and surviving on simplicity not luxury. On days when I’m panicking you will get an adrenalin filled answer like, whooooo hooooo, adventure, camping, nature, everything I love!! In reality I would like to settle in the middle somewhere, yes I hope its a life changing experience, I hope to really understand what I am capable of, but most of all I just want to believe I am strong, in both body and mind.

 

 

2. The first, but not the last gear post….

So what have I been up to in the last year then? Well 2 things mainly: researching and buying gear and putting some miles under my boots, both of which are significantly more time consuming than you can imagine. I can spend an entire day on the internet on one web search, currently, squared shaped down sleeping bags is the most searched for thing on my internet history (FYI no one makes them!!), closely followed by best pooping in the woods technique. Last year I followed a lot of hiker’s blogs and am currently re reading them less for pleasure and more to extract useful information out of them. Most importantly their gear charts and the big question “how much does it weigh?” it has been a challenge being in the UK and acquiring gear, we are way behind in the ultra-light back packing stuff, I went to a well know outdoor shop and laughed in the sales assistants face when he told me his lightest tent was 2.2kg (oh yeah and not to mention every company uses a different measurement of weight!!!) I have been very lucky though and after shooting off a few emails I received discounts from major outdoor shops Mountain Warehouse and Cotswold Outdoor, which has really made a difference, I think from sending a few emails and spending several days (ahem weeks) researching I have saved at least £500. Some things are just considerably cheaper in the USA, like stoves and water filtration equipment so im taking a risk on leaving it until a week before my trip before buying them once I land stateside, it doesn’t give much time to learn how to use them but will save me money. Oh yeah and can someone give AWOL a nudge, I cant seem to get the guidebook shipped to the UK, I’ll have a lot of studying to do on my trip down to Atlanta. For the most current update of my gear buying saga, please see my Gear section. You will see I have a fair few things still to get, I’m a chronic over packer so im going to need some serious elimination help!

1. I dont know if you’ve heard but…..

I am Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t remember the day or the time that I decided to commit to thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, but it grew from an idea that I needed more adventure in my life. As I have got older, I have begun to understand what I want and it’s not always what others want for themselves or me. I want a collection of life experiences, a mind full of memories, bad being as important as good, I want to find ‘my people’ as well as find myself and the Appalachian Trail just fuelled my fire to want to live my life more vigorously. I remember being very selective with who I told first, mostly people who knew nothing about the trail, in fact had never heard of it, therefore not being able to judge whether I had the ability to do it. The closer to me the person was the harder it was to tell, from the outside I don’t look like a hiker or adventurer, chubby, girly and homey is what you see, but what you can’t see is the sheer stubbornness and determination in my heart: I don’t Quit!

I have been amazed at everyone’s responses, so far, not once has anyone questioned whether I can do it or not, most have been more supportive than I could have dreamed of. People’s reactions have been a mixture of thinking ‘you are simply out of your mind, but good on you’ to ‘I have this ridiculously large torch you can borrow’, both of which have often overwhelmingly warmed my heart. I know not everyone will ‘get it’ and I am under no illusion that everybody will think this is an adventure of a lifetime, some will think it’s a frivolous waste of money and time, others may think it’s irresponsible to abandon my career and perhaps if I had a do over I would have started this adventure much earlier in life, but I don’t have a do over, this is my life and this is what I need to do to make me a better person, family member, friend, and role model.