Monday, January 4, 2010

How I found the Trail Dames

I moved to Georgia in fall of 2008, not knowing anyone in the whole state. The first Saturday after I moved, I hiked up Blood Mountain with one women's hiking club. They were nice and I had a good time, but I could tell this wasn't the group for me. On my way home, I stopped at Mountain Crossing (at Neels Gap) and asked them if they knew about any hiking groups. The guy at the desk gave me a card for the Trail Dames and said he wasn't sure if I'd fit in with this group, but this group has the most fun and laughs the most and to give them a try. I went and looked at their website, and found out it was a hiking club for "curvy" women who hike slow. I'm average size but the thing is, I do hike fast. I put the card away.

In the next four months I hiked with nearly a dozen other hiking groups (and random people I met on the internet). I hiked with botanists, college kids, athletic guys who flew up mountains, a firefighter, a lady who talked nonstop, and many other wonderful, fascinating people. I learned to be open. I learned to look beyond superficial differences and connect with people from different backgrounds. I kept searching for my tribe. I was looking for people that would be more than just people to hike with. I wanted friendship and community.

When I showed up at Woody Gap on an early spring day for my first hike with the Trail Dames, I was filled with uncertainty. What would they think of me? Could I hike at my own pace? Would I be accepted? It turned out that I smiled and laughed the whole time and felt more relaxed with them than I had in a very long time. It wasn't my typical hiking pace, but I was eager to join them again.

View from Blood Mountain, my first AT hike in Georgia

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Dream

At the Grand Canyon.  Photo by P. Soukup
It has become my dream to do a long-distance hike.  I can't precisely pinpoint when this idea first came to me. It took hold in my mind gradually, and most likely had roots in a lifetime of hiking and camping.  I've spent the last five years hiking every weekend and I always realize that I never wanted to come home after a day on the trail.  I have become captivated with the idea of having a trail beneath my feet that stretches for thousands of miles and the freedom and time to travel along that path.

I've been inspired by meeting incredible women who hiked the AT.  But most importantly, my dream has taken shape after much self-reflection that what I love to do most is to hike, the movement, the connection with the natural world, the calming effect it has on me and how it brings out the very best in me.  I've found that the longer I spend outside, the greater the effect.  I want to discover what will happen, what transformations will take place within me if I hike for months at a time.