Hey everyone! I am so excited to start bringing you some stories from women who are part of the Backcountry Women movement. Today I'd like to share a post with you written by Meg who is starting her 2,200 mile/3500 km journey of the Appalachian Trail next week. If anyone would like to follow her journey, find her at wildly_divine on Instagram.
Take it away, Meg:
As I quickly approach the start date to my biggest and most exciting journey yet- the Appalachian Trail - I have found myself reflecting a great deal on my ‘why’. ‘Why do I have my heart set on hiking the Appalachian Trail? Why do I want to hike almost 3500kms by myself?’ To be honest, I can’t even remember how I heard of the trail in the first place but I do know that I have wanted to attempt a thru-hike of the AT for a very long time, though I had set that dream on the back burner and basically forgot about it for years - getting married, buying a house, going through a couple years of extreme illness, healing myself, and then following that up with a couple years of deep depression and terrible anxiety. It has been quite a ride, to say the least. Out of this crazy ‘mess’ though has emerged a strong sense of self-awareness and a deep passion for what makes me feel good and by golly-gosh-darn-it, I’m not holding myself back anymore! I changed my dreams into goals and started taking action.
So let’s back it up to my first hiking trip:
My first real hiking trip was a week hiking a small section of the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park with my husband a couple years ago. I laugh when I think back on this trip and realize it was what got me hooked on actual hiking. Not only did I carry a pack that wasn’t meant for hiking more than a day trip, I also loaded it up with just over 50lbs, about half my weight ...
So we drive to the closest gate, park the car and register, and then head up the short road to the trail head - I felt like I was going to die before we even reached the trail! But I am very determined and this trip was my idea and I had planned it to death so we were doing it. The trail is not used very much and we soon found that it was hardly a trail at all in most parts and had not been maintained well in seemingly years. My husband is a surveyor so I felt confident in his navigation skills and though we took a few wrong turns here and there, we were doing it. It was the most amazing torture ... my body hurt so bad and I was so exhausted. My feet were destroyed to put it lightly (I’ll spare you the nasty details) and I lost feeling in my chest and arm that still to this day isn’t back 100%, but it’s getting there! We ended up hitchhiking a boat ride out of one of the backcountry camping sites due to a somewhat aggressive bear. And I’m still a little embarrassed to report that we brought home about 13lbs of trail mix and I still shudder at the words ‘trail mix’! One would think, after a trip like we had, we would have been done with hiking, but it was the exact opposite. I became obsessed! Even though the trip was hard, and didn’t go at all as planned, I had never in my life felt so human, and so whole. I had to do it again. And so we did.
Our second trip to the Boreal Trail went better, and more lessons were learned. I still carried way too heavy of a pack, and this time, not enough food. We ended up cutting our hike a week short though due to my husband getting so many bug bites he was physically ill! It was an amazing trip though and again, I felt so human and amazing. Though I was pushing my body beyond its limits, it had never felt so good, and so right.
So then I found myself back in my home in Southeastern Saskatchewan, falling back into my depression and anxiety and just feeling so stuck and trapped in my life. Missing and yearning to feel alive - like I had had a taste of while hiking and on day hikes in the Black Hills with my Dad. Then back into my head popped the Appalachian Trail and I started researching it extensively and watching hiking videos and vlogs. An excitement and passion began to bubble up in me and eventually overflowed into me announcing that I’m going to go after my dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and I’m just going to dive right in and do it in 2018! I have never felt so sure of a decision in my life, and that hasn’t wavered at all in the prepping process.
This hike is about reconnecting with myself and with nature and living the human experience. I’m not scared, but excited to go alone, as and for myself. Bit by bit, as I prepare for this journey, I shed the layers of social conditioning and the stories I’ve been telling myself and have been told throughout my life of why I can’t, especially as a woman. I even cut my beautiful dreadlocks off, shedding yet another layer of ego and am truly going as myself, no outer image to stand behind. I haven’t even begun my actual hike yet but have already gained so much from it. Aside from the immense personal growth I have already experienced, I have garnered an amazing tribe of support and connections and am so proud of myself for boldly going for what I want and making my life into one that makes me look forward to and be excited about the future. Our lives are a result of our choices, and I am choosing me. I am choosing to pursue my dream of the Appalachian Trail and I know it is going to be life changing and so rewarding, and I hope by sharing my journey I'll inspire others to live fully and turn their dreams into goals and make them happen, or at least reap the rewards of pursuing what sets their heart on fire. As Les Brown says, “shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Your journey is so inspiring Meg, and we will all be following you and cheering you on! Happy trails.