Hike Your Own Hike

14 08 2011

In the last month, as I’ve been on a breakneck pace to read more books in a single year than I have in the last 3, I got a little stalled and a little sidetracked. It was the darn Appalachian Trail that did it to me. Or maybe it was Amazon. I’m not entirely sure. I just know that during the July Kindle sale at Amazon, I picked up a book “The Things You Find on the Appalachian Trail: A Memoir of Discover, Endurance and a Lazy Dog, ” by Kevin Runolfson. Not exactly a snappy title that one can remember off the top of one’s head. So I liked to call it “That Appalachian Trail Book”. (Now I call it “The First AT Book.”)

I’m a fickle reader, admittedly. My ereaders have brought that out in me. Over the months I have accumulated so many books, that I hope from one to the next trying to find one I can dig into. I’m so annoying that way – mostly to myself. I had charged through the first 8 or 9 books of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich in a two week time period, and felt that call – MEMOIR. Because honestly, I love stories about real people. I don’t mind the fantasy and the crazy chick lit detective type stories. They are fun, but it is the memoirs, the non fiction, the historical fiction that grab my heart, that effect me deeply.

This book had that word in the title “Memoir”. And after Stephanie and Joe went off again, I was ready for real life – not the work of a serial author toying with her audience. I wanted someone like me – struggling to overcome. Now Kevin (trailname: Fruit Pie) told a story I could disappear in – days and nights in the woods. Hiking and sleeping in shelters with strangers. Hitching to town to gourge on food. The kindness of strangers. It was all great stuff. I almost felt like the read took me personally to the heights of Mount Katadin (sure I’ve spelled that one wrong). There was something so simple and primitive about it. I wanted more.

And so I got more. First it was a “Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson – no he didn’t finish the trail, didn’t take a trail name, and really was “above” all those other hikers in some sort of elitist way. Yet, he shared a history of the trail that further stirred me. Next I found myself purging my library of AT related memoirs and also pulling out one more for the Kindle. My list includes

“As Far As the Eye Can See” by David Brill
“Three Hundred Zeros” by Dennis Blanchard
“Walking the Appalachian Trail” by Larry Luxenberg
“Walking Home” by Kelly Winter
“A Walk for Sunshine” by Jeff Alt

Now some I liked better than others. “Three Hundred Zeros” was an awesome read. “Walking Home” not so much. But each one filled my brain with bits and pieces on the trail, a sense of what it was like, and a realization that I would live vicariously through these types of books because although I have and will hike on the AT, I will never hike the AT.

And it gave me something else – an epiphany of sorts. There are many ways to hike the AT. You can bee a purist, following the white blazes that mark the trail all the way through. Or you can follow some of the blue blaze trail along the way, easier paths at times and alternate routes. You might “yellow blaze” – drive a vehicle between two points on the trail. You can hike it end to end, or in sections. But no matter what, hikers say “hike your own hike.” Do it your way.

This is the mantra I want to shout from the rooftops. For every person who has told me I’m crazy for homeschooling my kids. For all the people who scoffed at me during my marathon training days. For everyone who has attempted to micro manage my life and tell me what to do. I say, “Hike Your Own Hike.” You don’t like my hike? That is your problem, not mine. Stop sucking my joy away. I love the choices I am making in my life. Sometimes the terrain is rough (like the white mountains), sometimes it’s flat and lush (like Shenandoah) and sometimes it’s downright rocky (like Pennsylvania.) But I’ll never make it to Katadin with you hanging on my pack!

There it is -the true freedom of the trail. I walk it today, tomorrow and forever!




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