Monday, November 1, 2010

Same trail, a year and a half later

Milkweed along the AT (May 2009)
This weekend, I went on an overnight backpacking trip from Hogpen to Unicoi on the Appalachian Trail.  A year and a half ago, in May of 2009, I backpacked this section as a new Trail Dame and a beginner backpacker.  I recall struggling up the hills.  Thankfully it was spring and there were plenty of flowers in bloom to examine while I caught my breath.   I remember asking our trip leader a million questions about her gear, taking notes on everything she said.  She was one of the first people I'd met that was a solo hiker (how brave!) and had hiked long distances on the AT (how cool!).

Now, I scouted the trip as a trip co-leader, in preparation for taking a group out there next week.  Walking this same path, it struck me how much has changed-- not just the change of season with the wildflowers all gone to seed-- but how now the hills seem like a breeze, and I'm the one answering questions from the first-time backpackers as they email me about what to expect on this trip.  I sometimes feel like a fraud-- I'm still learning myself-- until I realize that I can help since I remember vividly what it was like to be a beginner myself.

Milkweed pod and seeds in fall
What hasn't change is how much I plan for the hike (and, I'll admit, how I still get butterflies the night before a big trip).  But now, I try to figure out how to provide directions and explain the features of the trail and think through what to do in case of emergency.  I wonder how I can be as welcoming, respectful, and supportive to them as everyone was to me a year and a half ago.

As I walked along, I thought about what makes the Trail Dames a unique group.  Like I said before, I've hiked with dozens of other hiking clubs, so I know there's something special about the Dames.  Is it the caring nature of the group that brings everyone together?  How does this happen?  How can such a diverse group of women get along?  How can we laugh so much?  When I hike with the Dames, I try to keep my ears open to catch incredible conversations-- inspirational stories of challenges faced with courage.  And there is something about being outdoors that allows the conversations to just flow.   I take in this wisdom, and make mental notes about how I want to live my life.

I watch the way everyone looks out for one another- not condescending at all-- and how folks are understanding if someone is having trouble, because everyone else has struggled at one time or another, so we all know what it's like.  (One Dame describes it this way-- "There's No Shame With the Trail Dames!")  I really appreciate this because I've hiked with other groups that are competitive, and I've noticed that this attitude prevents people from coming together as a team, and connecting with one another.   I see these things, but all of these parts don't fully explain to me the incredible things that happen on the trail with the Dames.

1 comment:

  1. What do you get when you put together a Punk Rocker, Sorority Chick, Jock, Housewife/Mom, and Southern Girl? A great hiking group of ladies! haha! Love this post, great job Hemlock.