A Week with Mom on the Trail

Day 63-69 – May 20-26, 2017

For a whole week, I had the privilege of sharing the trail with my mom. It was an eyeopening experience for her, but also for me.

In order to hike easier terrain, I was picked up at mile 750, to then jump ahead to the start of Shenandoah National Park at mile 860. (I returned to mile 750 after the week with my mom to complete the section that I had skipped over.) As my grandpa dropped us off at the trailhead to the park, he reminded us one last time to stay safe, have a good time, and most importantly, remember that he was just a short drive away if we needed anything. Being stubborn, just like my mom, we both knew that we were going to finish the entire week.

The first day we hiked 7 miles into the park, making it in just before the rain. All of the novelties and fun of learning how to backpack had long since worn off on me- it had become just a routine. With my mom on the trail, I was reminded of the learning curve that I experienced when I first started. Upon arriving at camp, we set-up our tent, then crawled in just as the light rain started to fall. It was 6pm. She looked at me and said, “Okay, so now what do we do?”

IMG_9057I responded, “Ha, well normally I don’t get to camp until 7 or 8 pm, so this “free time” is foreign to me. Now I usually blow up my air pad, so we can start with that?”

The rest of the evening was spent cooking dinner in the shelter with the other hikers. I didn’t notice right away, but she quickly pointed out that we were the only females at campsite, out of over a dozen people. I had gotten so used to being in the minority, but she was right– females are underrepresented on the trail (Ladies- get out and enjoy the trail!).

The next day we went 13 miles, while trying to beat a supposed evening storm (that never ended up coming). It was fun to catch up and chat with my mom while hiking. When we got to camp, we were the only women again. Not awful, but we were stuck with a group of immature and obnoxious thru hikers. Our wishes for them to put in more mileage that day didn’t come true, but such is the trail. Not every thru hiker is pleasant to be around (The large majority is great, don’t get me wrong.). The saving grace of our stay at Blackrock Hut was that we slept well and there were some kind, older men to conversate with.

On Tuesday, my mom was feeling tired and only had 7 miles in her to get to the campsite. I wanted to get in more miles, so I hiked 6 more, and she hitched up Skyline Drive to the access trail to the shelter. It had poured at the shelter before we arrived, so our evening entertainment was 3 guys trying to start a fire for over an hour.

Day 4 was spent hiking in and out of the clouds for 10 miles before we needed to find a ride to Elkton, VA to get our resupply box. Near the end of our hike, we met a day-hiker named Alex, who gave us a ride to the post office, went to lunch with us, and dropped us back off at the lodge for the night. He was a true trail angel!

Day 5 was our big mileage day. We left our packs at the Big Meadows Lodge, and planned on hitching back down where we got off for the post office and slackpacked the whole 18.5 miles back to the Lodge. The best way to sum up the day is that rain, cold, and wind sucks, but we did it! I’m super proud of my mom– what a big mileage day! She’s a
super trooper.IMG_9058

The day ended with doing laundry and frantically setting up our tent at 9pm in the rain and dark. A 2016 SOBO hiker, Slip’n Slide, let us share their tent site with them at Big Meadows for free.

Thursday was pleasant weather, and an easy 7 miles to then hang out at Skyland Lodge. Great food and comfy beds! Friday was an 11 mile hike to meet my grandpa at 2pm for my ride back to mile 750. The weather finally cleared up for some good views. A great way to end the week with my mom!

Hidden behind the miles I spent with my mom was a lot of reflection and emotions of my own journey thus far on the AT. The first half of the week with her was unexpectedly frustrating due to lower mileage and a slower pace. The week before I had just started to pick up my mileage, averaging 18 miles a day. I had the freedom to leave camp when I was ready, hike as fast as I pleased, and take breaks when my stomach told me to eat more. The freedom of independence on the trail that I had gained became glaringly obvious and underappreciated when my mom joined. I wouldn’t trade the week with her for anything in the world, but it made me realize that visitors completely change my
personal hike on the trail. It is hard, challenging, and frustrating to coordinate logistics, hike with, and entertain guests on the trail. That said, having my mom on the trail was worth it all. Her presence opened my eyes again to the awe-inspiring views I had grown accustomed to glancing at or just walking by. I loved having her there.

(I apologize for the lack of postings recently. I’ve been busy putting in miles and haven’t had much access to a computer. In addition, Kyle, my trusty helper in updating the blog, has been travelling the world.)IMG_9059

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