maarmie's musings

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hiking the AT (aka Conquering all Fear)

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Smokies - photo/maarmie

Tomorrow, I set out on my four-day adventure. A colleague of mine who grew up in North Carolina and knows a lot of the Appalachian Trail like the back of her hand is graciously dragging me on an AT adventure to make me less of a chickenshit and to make me prove to myself that my balls are bigger than a pair of peas.

My first experience with the AT came a couple of months ago when I traveled to Hot Springs, N.C., on a solo adventure that involved whitewater rafting (level 1-4 rapids!), horseback riding, a 90-minute massage, a dip in natural hot springs, and days of driving hundreds of miles through the Smoky Mountain National Forest and along the part of the Blue Ridge Parkway that starts at the northern end of the SMNF (in Tennessee) and runs southeast until it goes northeast to Asheville, which sits 37 miles southeast of Hot Springs.

I found a part of the trail that runs through Hot Springs (one of the few downtowns through which the AT actually runs) and followed it into the woods at the edge of town. I wanted to go the 1.6 miles to Lover's Leap, a high ridge that is good for the scenery and taking pictures. I sat at the foot of that trail and decided that NO. WAY. IN. HELL. was I ever going to attempt it. I cried. I bargained. I pleaded to whatever god may exist for the courage to attempt it alone. You're not understanding me correctly, I'm presuming. This wasn't just any trail. It was a footpath that was wide enough for exactly one foot which ran straight up over this stream into THE THICKEST WOODS I HAVE EVER SEEN. Bears? Snakes? Crazy mountain men with hatchets and penchants for young girls who are dumb enough to venture into the wilderness alone? I don't think so.

So, I sat at the foot of this trail and yelled at myself and berated myself into such a tizzy that I had to take a shit. I walked over to the edge of the woods, took down my pants and proved to myself that I could, indeed, shit in the woods. It was exhilerating and is something I will, no doubt, need to do sometime during these three days and two nights on the trail.

I finally convinced myself to take one step, then another, then another, until I was deep in the woods. With every step, I yelled out "helllooooo!" in an effort to scare off any black bears that may have been waiting just around each turn. The steps became more and more painful the further away from the clearing and parking lot I got. After I had gone about a quarter of a mile, I realized enough was enough, and I turned around and practically ran back to my car. I sat there for an hour longer and bargained and pleaded and yelled at myself and subjected myself to torture. All I wanted was that 1.6 miles. I never got it.

Now I will.

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