One month solo on the Appalachian Trail
Determination. Resignation. Acceptance. As I stand in the middle of the parking lot, posing for these last couple pre-hike photos with my parents, the lack of fear or nervousness surprises me. For weeks, I planned and prepared for this. For weeks, I agonized over details and struggled to embrace the uncertainties of hiking.
A red van parked next to our rental car sports a bumper sticker: Halfapp Trail Angels. A woman sits in the driver's seat, occasionally glancing up from her phone to scan the parking lot. My mind flashes back to stories I'd read about 'trail angels' helping stranded hikers and performing other random acts of kindness - 'trail magic' - along the Appalachian Trail. How reassuring to meet one on my first day!
As soon as we pop open the trunk, revealing my overstuffed pack, the woman in the van jumps out. She wanders around the parking lot, waiting for us to say our goodbyes before introducing herself.
"Hi, I'm Rhonda. I did the whole trail at 17."
She hands me a wristband with her number.
"If you ever need anything, we travel anywhere within 100 miles. Don't be afraid to call."
"You'll be fine. Once you're in there, your instincts will take over."
I am ready: as ready as I can be.
Within the first five minutes, a stray gust of wind steals my cap!
Within the first few miles, I cross from West Virginia into Virginia. Now that I've begun, my mind turns from the tingling of anxious anticipation to the reality of survival. Instinct. I'm counting on my instincts to adapt to whatever situations I encounter.
I am here for the challenge.