Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: This was NOT the plan!
As I’ve mentioned previously I have undertaken planning to do a thru-hike next year on the Appalachian Trail (AT). My hope is that I will walk all 2,200 miles of the AT from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Kathadin, Maine starting in late February or early March, 2015. This is my trail journal where I hope to take you from my decision to do this, through my preparation and then notes from the trail and hopefully all the way to Maine. All of this in my journey and process to live happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane
As I’ve laid out here before I was leisurely rolling east out of my former home in California. I had done a few days in Anza-Borrego State Park and was starting to roll east across the middle of the country. In the mood for mountains, hiking and camping opportunities there wasn’t any place I was excited about exploring until I got to Arkansas. I was considering a stay in Hot Springs, but the weather was getting worse and so I mapped out a fairly direct route to Knoxville, Tennessee. My old college town was a place I expected to stay for a couple of days, catch up with some dear friends and perhaps take a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains out to the AT and walk a few white blazes. From there I would head east and drive parallel to the AT, stopping in some trail towns and doing a little bit of hiking on the trail as both a warm-up and a teaser for my journey before arriving in NY in late January.
As I got to Albuquerque, NM however my sister informed me that my mom who had gone into the hospital due to a sodium imbalance was having some severe stomach pains and the doctors were concerned. The next day she would be taken in for stomach surgery for a lacerated ulcer. My sister, who had transformed herself into superwoman, working full-time, taking care of 3 kids and my mother in the hospital deserved help. So I put the pedal to the medal and hustled across a large chunk of the US in about two and a half days.
I did have the good fortune of stopping in the Knoxville and spending three glorious hours with the woman who is likely the love of my life and equally likely someone I’ll never be with. But we have an incredible and deep connection and quickly slip into conversation and a comfort level that other couples only have after years together. She’s someone I could talk to non-stop for months, but also someone who I could sit quietly with for hours with no need for words from either of us. I needed that night, that time, the emotional cushion it provided as the reports coming from the hospital in New York were increasingly worse.
The stomach surgery went well, but my mother now also had pneumonia and was very weak. When I arrived at the hospital she was not in good shape and deteriorating. For the next two days I sat by her bed and watched my mother literally slipping away, physical and mentally. It was incredibly hard to look at her laying there, she was uncomfortable, terrified and physically didn’t even resemble herself. After two days, the conversations I was having with the doctors and nurses led to a paperwork hunt. We needed her health proxy and power of attorney documents as well as her will. My oldest sister and I had a difficult late night discussion about things that truly seemed inevitable and discussed the hard decisions we expected to have to shortly make. For several days neither of us slept well wondering if the phone would ring at night to tell us our mother was dead. It was equally hard on my brother, not in town, having to get the information via phone. He’d been able to visit the day before I arrived and understood the nature of the situation.
Then, the next morning I come in and my mother is sitting up in a chair! Over the next 4 days we would ride a roller coaster of improvement and despair. As I write this she’s much stronger, she’s back on real food, her sodium levels are good. She’s still got issues, some of her numbers are low, she’s fighting pneumonia and has picked up a C-Diff infection. We’re not out of the woods but we feel much better about where we are at today than we did last week, we are much more hopeful she’ll fully recover.
This was NOT the plan. But the plan for the end of February is to start at Springer Mt. and walk to Maine, to pop off and visit some folks and finish by September 1st. Sounds pretty straight forward, but much like this plan I know, there will be equally difficult days on the trail. There will be physically difficult and emotionally fragile moments where the plan will seem horribly lost, the trip ridiculous folly. I will remember this past week, the way my mother has, and my grandmother has, several times literally stormed back from deaths door when all seemed lost. I joke that my grandmother, who grew up on the Ohio River on the KY/OH border, who qualifies as solid hillbilly stock, is damn near impossible to kill. I have come to believe that hillbilly blood is the strongest substance on earth. My mother has 50% and it seems to have served her well, I hope that the 25% I possess, particularly walking the hills of Appalachia, will see me through my own Appalachian Trials on the trail.
So, to steal from the US Marines, we improvise, adapt and overcome. Hopefully I’m back in the gym this week, walking hills for a few weeks after and off to Georgia in a mere 52 days! Hoping for myself as I hope for you, to have many happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane