This is the story of how I made the decision to attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. Every great story has similar elements: conflict, resolution, epic love, unforeseen heartbreak… and death. This story has it all and much like every great story, it starts with a good idea. I wish I could say this good idea was mine but it wasn’t. It was my ex-husband’s. He suggested I apply for a job.
The role of charming protagonist will be played by myself, of course.
After graduating with a degree in medical radiography in 2008, Hurricane Ike decided to swoop in and take away almost everything I’d worked so hard for. All the rad techs from UTMB in Galveston were laid off and looking for jobs. You bet they, and their stupid experience, got every job I applied for. My mother’s house, the house my brothers and I grew up in, had been under six feet of water and the entire thing had to be torn down. My wedding venue, the historic Balinese Room, was completely destroyed. I stood on the Seawall, looking out at the gulf at nothing but stilts and salty sea air where the building used to be… a month before my wedding date… after everything was paid for in advance.
When mother nature tells you not to marry a man, you should listen.
I didn’t listen and I married him anyway. It was the best decision of my life. He found a posting for a job at the Medical Examiner’s Office. Experience with x-rays a plus! I enthusiastically applied to be an autopsy assistant, got an interview, and totally rocked it. They gave the job to someone else. I would say that I hate that person with a fiery passion but it just so happens that he ended up not only being one of my best friends but my best man at my next wedding. I applied for another opening 4 months later and rocked it … again … and got the job.
I’m hoping this stubbornness helps me out on the trail.
If it wasn’t for my ex, I wouldn’t have applied for that job, met the most amazing people I have ever met in my entire life, realized my ex-husband was a complete douche bag that needed divorcing, met my current husband, and most importantly, gone camping for the first time. My first camping trip was with a co-worker who would soon become my husband. Mike took me to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and it was like everything in the world just made sense finally. When we reached the top of the rock, it was the most quiet I had ever heard in my entire life. I wanted to cry. I think I may have. Words cannot describe it … neither can pictures because we forgot to take any. I have taken pictures on every camping trip since but in some ways I’m glad we forgot to that time. It is a memory that only the two of us share. It feels beautifully selfish. I fell in love with him that weekend… in love with him and in love with camping. So much so that we were married at Bastrop State Park on February 23, 2013.
Like most married couples, we toyed with the idea of having a baby together. Unlike most women, I have chosen to hike the Appalachian Trail instead. (I already have the most amazing son!) In many ways, the process has been similar. I have gotten the okay from my husband and son. I have started reading books that probably won’t actually prepare me for the real thing but have been a damn good place to start: Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the heart on the Appalachian Trail by Dennis R. Blanchard and Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis. I am starting to save money. I have been looking at expensive toys on the internet that I probably don’t need but are really cool. I am making a mental list of (trail) names. I have already had people try to talk me into and out of it.
On July 13, 2013, I will have been at the Medical Examiner’s Office for four years. Four years doesn’t sound like a very long time until you take into account that I’ve seen a minimum of one dead body 5 out of 7 days for the last four years. I could say something cliché about how being that close to death on a daily basis makes one appreciate life more and while there’s some truth to that, the real kicker is time. It made me impulsive… because, well, ya know … fuck it.
On any given day in the morgue, someone will say, “It is what it is.”
The only thing that’s certain is that you have no idea how much time you have left. I will never cure cancer. You know what I can do? Divorce the hell out of this d-bag ex-husband of mine. I will never be President. Know what I can do? Marry the pants off the hottie at work. I will never hug every cat (yes, I put this up there with curing cancer and being PRESIDENT). What can I do?
I have never been alone. I have always had someone. Hiking the AT is my version of getting a sweet bachelorette pad. My plan is to get to know me. It is going to be amazing. It is going to be rough. Only 1 in 4 people who set out to accomplish this succeed. It is going to be a lot of things but it is going to be mine. I am lucky enough to be married to the most amazing man I could ever imagine. I may never get another opportunity to do this so it has to be NOW … or in 2015 because that’s the earliest my husband’s girly feelings will allow him to let go of me for approximately six months.
I have a long way between now and my first steps on Springer Mountain, GA. In the meantime, I’d like to share with everyone all the camping trips I’ve had so far that led me to the point where this insane idea seems magical. I’d also like to share the journey of preparing myself to make this dream a reality.
Ask me questions. Give me advice. I am going to need all the help I can get.