How to Start Your Appalachian Trail Walk

I’ve walked the Appalachian Trail twice, plus another 2,000 miles working as an Appalachian Trail Conservancy ridgerunner for seven seasons.. How did I start all this? By locating the nearest trailhead to my home and setting foot on the trail. That one hour greeting let me hear my call to the trail “If I just keep walking, I can get all the way to Maine!”

Next step: a half day walk with my husband, exchanging the car key in the middle as we walked in opposite directions. Over the next four years, we built up to a full month on the trail, two trips per year, from over night to three nights, a week, two weeks. There are landmark steps, I think:

  • Connect to the trail.
  • Stay out overnight.
  • Do a resupply and go out again.
  • Walk 100 miles.

I would focus on training on the trail, itself. What I discovered by talking with thousands of hikers is that those who have a connection with their Inner Journey more than the physical athletic accomplishment of the trail feel fulfilled by their walks. In addition, those having a true connection and an enjoyment of Nature seem happier and more fulfilled.

So much to talk about! Oh! One thing that makes a big difference is having a method for easily climbing mountains – a breathing technique. Contrary to a familiar saying, which I will not repeat here – “Virginia is not flat!”

Here’s the method I came up with:

forgivenesswalks.com/reginameetsmountains

Getting Started on the Appalachian Trail

“I think I want to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. How should I prepare for that?”

Here’s my answer:

Go out for a day, then a night, then three or four nights. Go out for short walks in all four seasons to test your gear. One landmark in preparation is to go out long enough to have a resupply or maildrop, say 8-10 days. With the experience of finishing a 3-5 day section, taking a townstop, then going back out, you’ll have the basic idea of a long distance walk, which is really a long string of 4-day walks without going home in between! That’s the best part of long distance journeys. Resupply, rest, cleaning up and going back out!!

After 10,000 miles of long-distance walking, I’ve realized that creating a fulfilling walk relies on addressing 5 essential areas:

  • Know your trail,
  • Consider your timing,
  • Love your gear,
  • Magnetize your support network, and
  • Nourish your Inner Journey with specific
  • Bonus: Above all, know your “why” for choosing the AT.

Read my complimentary report:

Call for an Inner Journey

November 16, 2019

I read this in a women’s hiking blog.

“Can I just rant for a moment?I’ve posted before about having to come off SOBO due to my knee this year. Also mentioned I had surgery in Sept for it. They did a couple things and I was excited that I’d get another go at it next June.Well.. nearly 2.5 months later, the original pain I was having is gone, but now I’m having more pain, just in different spots. When I stand straight I get a sharp pain at the bottom of my knee. Feels like bone on bone. Best way to describe it. Then also when I go from having a straight leg to bend it.. it gets stuck, a lot and it hurts.Saw the ortho again this morning and they gave me a steroid shot. From the sounds of it, the effects are supposed to be pretty immediate. Not for me! Still having pain and just before I decided to make this post, my knee got stuck and hurt so bad trying to unlock it.

Gaaaahhhh!!! I’m leaving June 1st next year regardless of this problem. I will hike until I’m in tears. I don’t care. Ok. End of rant. I’m just so upset.

Hiking is a huge passion of mine. Without it, I’m empty. The longer I’m out there, the happier I am. A thru hike has been a dream of mine for a while. I thought I could give it up and just section hike (only to realize my knee gave me problems then too) but I couldn’t. I felt so depressed giving up on a dream of mine.”

This piece speaks loudly and clearly to me of a call to pursue an Inner Journey! What I see is a genuine reason to feel sad, disappointed, betrayed, and downright defeated!!! No doubt about that! I support her in ranting, feeling those feelings and getting that story witnessed and validated. Telling the story and feeling the feelings are a crucial beginning to any transformational journey.

Get out the rant!

And then…step along into an Inner Journey. How?

By being open that there may be a path to fulfillment that could be different in a physical sense to the one she originally planned. I’d love to guide her in a Walk for a Singing Heart! She’s already taken the first steps in telling her story and feeling her feelings.

The next step is to be open to the idea that there’s a healing message contained in the situation. Just the tiniest bit of willingness to be open to this idea, even if the contents of that message are not known at this time. I’d ask her, “Are you willing to be open to the idea that your soul created this situation for you to heal and grow?”  Hopefully, she says, “Yes!”

And that, my friend, is the beginning of what could be a surprising and wonderful journey. What if?

  • Her logistics on the trail could be different?
  • She loved her body just as it is and embraced rehabilitation eagerly?
  • She became an expert in knee issues and helped others?
  • She looked at the trail as a blank canvas with no particular required way to be on it?

These are just four “reframes” of what seems like an intractable situation. There are many more that could be her own best fulfillment. Her radiantly fulfilling journey calls!

Blessings on all of our Inner Journeys

 

 

Thruhiker Celebrity?

“Thruhikers are celebrities!” I read that in a women’s hiking group and chuckled. I don’t feel special! I walked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia within a year’s time, so I am a thruhiker.

As a thruhiker, how I know about myself is that I fulfilled my dream of being able to say, “I walked the AT”. I feel true to myself, that I listened to my heart and did what it took to walk one day at a time – and keep walking! So, if doing that makes me a celebrity, great. More than fame, however, what I want to do is entice others to create their own walks wherever they are, on the Appalachian Trail or in the neighborhood park! I want to help you discern what your equivalent of the Appalachian Trail is and step into fulfilling that dream!

I also had the good fortune to work as a ridgerunner, a Leave-No-Trace educator encouraging stewardship on the trail, for seven seasons so I talked with hundreds of hikers on their thruhikes. I got some really good ideas about what character and strategies support hikers who eventually complete the trail. Sadly, I met many, many hikers who thought they wanted to thruhike the Appalachian Trail, but found out that wasn’t what made their heart sing! I was sad that their true dream wasn’t apparent.  Hiking the AT really isn’t for everyone, but everyone does have something that makes their heart sing!  I want to help people do that! There are many ways to have a fulfilling walk of any length – a few miles to thousands! They all have similar qualities, which start with one’s reason for choosing to walk a trail, or sail a boat, or paint a picture, write a book, sew a garment, whatever is true to you!

Studying my own story and listening to thousands of AT hikers, helped me discern five essential aspects of a long-distance walk to consider in planning and fulfilling a walk.

  • Know your trail
  • Consider your timing
  • Get support
  • Love your gear
  • Methodically transform challenges

My report, Five Essentials to Creating a Radiantly Fulfilling Walk of Any Length elaborates on all five. If you read it you’ll get a good feeling for getting started on your own walk – or dream!

Get your complementary copy here!

https://forgivenesswalks.com/RadiantWalk5

You could be a celebrity too!

Job Advice Please

January 21, 2018

Summer is coming! Every year for the past seven years, the ATC offers me a ridgerunning job!  I love that job! It’s work I enjoy doing and feel good at, and the venue is the absolute best for me. It’s in the dream job category of getting paid to do something I love doing. Here’s the catch, though. As the years go on, I want to add another description to the “what I love doing” category.  I want to add, “supporting, inspiring, coaching others to create radiantly fulfilling walks” to my list of job duties.

Ridgerunning doesn’t include that as one of my duties, although many hikers have received emotional support and coaching for their journey by talking with the me as the ridgerunner.  When I have those kinds of conversations with hikers, it would be sooo easy to go beyond the scope of my representation of the ATC and into my Forgiveness Walks role.  I’m very careful about steering clear of that, and have kept the handful of summer coaching sessions and classes to my days off.  No question about that.

Each year, I have more conversations that urge me to entice hikers to focus on their Inner Journey. I am convinced that Inner Journey work is needed in the hiking community.  I walk up favorite mountains imagining retreats, meditations, 13-Steps processes with guidance for hikers in using tools for introspection, charging their energy, clearing out old emotional baggage, meeting each mountain with balanced energy and choice.  I have a job mapped out in my head, with pages of notes describing my programs. I have been working with a business coach to learn systems and habits of successful entrepreneurs. In my mind, Forgiveness Walks could be my fulltime job.  I even talked about doing that a couple of years ago when I took a summer off ridgerunning.  I started out on my hiking summer with John promoting a group coaching program. I gave it up when we didn’t see eye to eye (or foot to foot, I suppose for hikers!) about how to adapt our pace to my “walk in service” vision.

But, the call to “walk in service” is still calling!  With Facebook, especially in a women’s hiking group of over ten thousand members, the conversations continue, in greater numbers, and with more clarity about how transformative and strengthening women’s walks could be when they have tools for turning their troubles into blessings.  I can help with that!

The question is, is that NOW?  Is it time to open the doors to Forgiveness Walks NOW (as in summer 2018)?  Instead of working another season at Ridgerunning?  In addition to Ridgerunning?  In another fashion altogether?  (I’m always open to at least three choices!)

When January ends, I will have chosen.  I know it. I have chosen clearly for the past seven years.

I am open to your suggestions and comments!

Hit reply and let ’em fly!

Thanks!

Celebrate on a Mountaintop!

Ridgerunning provided the model for my logo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imperfection Accepted

December 15, 2017

What if I have a project for watching the sunrise every day, or sending a weekly blogpost, or painting every day for thirty days, or walking the Appalachian Trail?

What if I miss a day of sun watching or painting or skip a week of posting or take a day off walking? 

Does that negate my success or mean that I failed? 

Does it matter if I have a valid excuse for skipping a turn? How about if I had set up the project with parameters for skipping? 

So, I went outside and watched the sunrise for 60 consecutive days, and on Day 61,  I slept through it. My reason, my excuse, my choice was that I had traveled east to a different time zone, so sunrise was three hours earlier than my body’s rhythm had developed. I needed the rest.  I did feel a little sad, a little diminished in accomplishment. Then, I decided to let myself off my made up hook. I decided that I could love myself anyway and accept this imperfection in my plan. 

What if I let myself off the hook for other imperfect accomplishments in my life, like days of rest on a long distance walk, days with no painting in my thirty-Day project, a blog free week in five months of weekly posts. That seems just fine. I can accept myself having done that. 

Now, I’m wondering if letting myself off the hook of self-hate could be done for even egregious inconsistencies like skipping a day of my marriage, or taking a day off work, or a day off breathing? Well, the breathing one is taken care of, right? But, suppose I could let go of self-hate for my divorce. Maybe even that project could be ongoing yet inconsistent.

I’ll ponder that!

What are your thoughts and wisdom about this?

2000 Miler Anniversary

November 15, 2017

What would I feel when I crossed that road, meeting the spot where I had left the trail two years before? When I got there I could celebrate having walked all 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The spot lacked the drama of Mt. Katahdin or Springer Mountain, the geographic endpoints of the trail. My completion point was the crossing of VA state route 624, near Catawba. There’s no sign or plaque, no natural landmark or feature. Just white blazes on both sides indicating that the trail continues in both directions.

What did I do?

I cried. I burst into tears, saying “I’ve walked all of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve completed something that seemed really big. Now I can say, yes, I’ve walked the AT, in one short sentence.” 

They were the kind of tears that well up unawares, like when my Dad showed up to pick me up from camp when I thought my friend’s dad would be there. Underneath was the belief that he would be too busy and I wasn’t important enough since there were so many other kids. This was like that too, only this time it was myself trying to stuff down the importance of this accomplishment, like there were so many other worthy accomplishments, why did this matter so much? Well, because it did, that’s all.
John, my hiking partner, took my picture. It’s a good thing it’s blurry because my face was all squeezed with crying, so my victory pose steals the show. It was dusk on a cold day and we needed to find our tentsite for the night, just like other nights on the trail. 

In the morning we would continue south – toward John’s completion spot about 250 miles further at Damascus. I would keep walking with him, adding miles to my second traverse of the AT, ulimately going all 693 miles to Springer Mountain. For the night though, I could rest on my laurels of being an Appalachian Trail 2000 miler. 

Today marks the tenth anniversary of that moment. I’m still walking trails with Hiker John, whose presence with me that day signifies one of the most dramatic changes my Thruhike initiated. My husband John had left the trail just two days before, having aborted his three-week time with me after just ten days. Hiker John had jumped back to walk with me again, planning to retrace the 180 miles he had covered while I had been walking with John.

Although I had thought I would finish the trail and then go back home to resume my life with John, in our hearts we had already taken separate paths. Stumbling along to our divorce is another chapter in our Inner Journey.

Today, I can remember and celebrate a completion along my way – becoming an Appalachian Trail 2000 Miler.

2000 miler

Late Bloomers

August 27, 2017

This week’s walk took me and John on a traverse of our entire ridgerunning seciton. We walked from Partnership Shelter to Damascus, VA on the Appalachian Trail. This is the section that we have taken turns walking since April 24th. The flowers have made a noticeable transition from spring to late summer species! I captured just a few of the crisp, colorful blooms that delighted me this week.

Here’s a link to the album of Late Bloomers:

https://goo.gl/photos/tVyNDMczKUk5TJ2S6

 

Majesty Transforming

August 24, 2017

What caught my eye on my walk this week through the Grayson Highlands, VA in the Mount Rogers Reccreation Area were decomposing tree trunks. I first noticed one on my ascent up Balsam Mountain, the actual mountain one climbs to reach Mt Rogers, the high point of Virginia. I took a photo of an array of wood planks that reminded me of a hand of cards, spread out on a table.

As I walked, many more trunks stood out, each with a story to tell of a once majestic tree melting into the soil. Their patterns, colors, and shapes were mesmerizing.  The closer I looked, the more intricacies I saw. Soon, I had a collection of photos, which, of course, only suggest the complicated, delicate, yet rugged transformation of these forest creatures. Enjoy my photo album – then go out and find majesty transforming on your own walks!

Here’s the link to the album:

https://goo.gl/photos/PPzgyAbLHSxqGVox8

High Country Week

Notice and Wonder
August 3, 2017

 

My Ridgerunning walk this week focused on what’s called the High Country of the Mt Rogers Recreation Area in Virginia.  My first night out on Thursday, I camped at a spot I’ve had my eye on while I walked through there other weeks. It’s on Stone Mountain, just south of “The Scales”, an open, grassy field where cattle ranchers would weigh and sell their cattle before driving them down the mountain. The story goes that they realized that the cattle weighed more before they made the descent to town! Now, The Scales is a favorite car camping spot.  I prefer to walk a mile south on the Appalachian Trail, up Stone Mountain, to camp.  There, the grassy, and bushy bald stretches for a mile with expansive views. The low vegetation is broken by groups of short trees, bonsai-like stands of beech trees, just 5″ in diameter and fifteen feet tall. They create inviting rooms of shade, where the wild ponies can cool off.  I walked away from the trail a couple hundred yards and set up my tarp under a sprawling oak tree in a patch of grass.  In the morning, the view across The Scales and the valley below inspired me to take time to do a quick watercolor sketch of  the distant Wilburn Ridge, where the trail would wind its way south.

One of the programs I do during my winters at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is called Notice and Wonder.  It’s based on the three prompts that naturalist, John Muir Laws teaches. He encourages teachers to take their students outside and practice journaling in Nature, making notes and drawings of what they notice, what they wonder, and what their object reminds them of.  This past winter, I used my weekly program to motivate my own regular journaling. On Friday morning, this week, that Wilburn Ridge scene caught my attention for a session of Notice and Wonder!  Here’s what I came up with:20170804_075955

Notice and Wonder is not so much about making a beautiful picture but about spending time with a scene to integrate the shapes, colors, and details of something I observe in Nature!  I noticed that the coniferous trees stood out individually on the skyline. I noticed the various shades of green. I noticed the unique and specific shape of the ridgeline. Recording it would help me remember and internalize the shape of that mountain!  I wondered if I would be able to recognize each of the points I observed when I walked there later that day.

Paying attention to the mountain in that way did, indeed, make it become a more deeply experienced and memorable relationship! Now, in my mind’s eye, I can see the Wilburn Ridge, even after I’ve left it!

Crew Work
August 5, 2017

Today, I joined the volunteer trail crew from the Mt Rogers Appalachian Trail Club to build a fence. Stephen, from the Forest Service, the partner agency for this section, had brought the needed supplies and tools up in a truck. In three hours our crew of nine, with no boss, just cooperation – and luck – tore down the dilapidated fence and replaced it with a new wooden fence and metal gate. I had a fun and satisfying time of volunteerism and cooperation. That’s how the Appalachian Trail works!20170805_131944

Resonance on the Trail
August 7, 2017

On Monday, my last day of the week on trail left me a few hours to walk alone – in the rain! I reveled in the beauty of the trail and let my thoughts drift to imagining a fully developed and full-time Forgiveness Walks fantasy.

The business is thriving, with a team of assistants to help with online marketing, program implementation, and logistics. Women come regularly for custom coaching throughout the year, and on-trail programs, including a walk of the Appalachian Trail, uniquely focusing on creating fulfilling walks for each client. What’s unique and wonderful about Forgiveness Walks is that our focus on fulfillment in deference to accomplishment provides the creative space for each woman to delve deeply into her own heart’s singing. This listening shapes her relationship with Nature, the Appalachian Trail, and whatever venue provides the best canvas for her personal creation.

I walked for a couple of hours in this revery, reaching Old Orchard Shelter just as the rain let loose in perfect time to take a break in the dry shelter. Two women were there as well. One greeted me with “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” And she was serious!

Over the next hour the three of us chatted, getting to know each other – easily like hikers do! Amy’s story resonated with mine as soul sisters choosing fulfillment over expectation, letting go of unfulfilling relationships during the course of our thru-hikes. April, too, has divorced and teaches young children to recognize, acknowledge, and move through their feelings. These women understand Forgiveness Walks! Amy, too, knows her walking and breathing rhythm that makes climbing mountains easy! April talks about giving children space to “have their feelings” without rancor, special attention, or admonition.

The rain abates, we exchange contacts, and I walk on to my car parked a mile and a half away, my week’s walk complete. Affirmation that Forgiveness Walks resonates in the world lightens my steps. Its timing is guided by the Universe, allowing me to hold it gently with trust in its unfolding.

 

 

Solo Time Wanes
August 8, 2017

Next week marks my last solo week at the Ridgerunning job. John, having completed his project of climbing four state high points out west, bagging him all 48 of the lower-48 state high points, is on his way back. The ones he did between July 11 and August 7 were Mt. Hood in Oregon, Ganett Peak in Wyoming, Mt. Rainier in Washington, and Granite Peak in Montana.  It was a major accomplishment and scheduling surprise for him to get to do all four of them during the month!  I am very excited for him, knowing that he really wanted to complete this project.  I have mixed feelings about getting back together, though!  I’ve realized over the past year, now that we’re actually living together and not just hiking, that I tend to discount my personal preferences, defer my passions, and take a back seat to his choices when we are together. Being solo this month gave me unfettered opportunity and space to pay attention to my own choices without interference from someone else. For the month, anyway, I really enjoyed it!

I noticed that I’ve been making up a S.T.O.R.Y. (my acronym from Radical Forgiveness for a Sustained Tale of Repressed Yearning) about my assumptions about how my relationship with John has to be!  What’s really bothering me is that I see some of the same characteristics that I developed in my marriage with John Reiter!  First of all, this makes me see clearly that I am the one who is creating this as my reality, so I’m the one who needs to change it. In fact, what I now know about relationships is that none of this has much to do with him. The troubles originate with me!  That means that it’s my responsibility and my opportunity to choose a different way of being!  But what options do I have???

Satori Means Awakening

That’s the quandary that woke me up this morning!  I decided to start my day off with a game of Satori, the Radical Forgiveness board game, to give me new vocabulary and ideas to address that question.  As always, the game was a perfect fit for the story I was acting out!

Before I drew any of the cards to start the game, I wrote out the S.T.O.R.Y. that I was bringing to this game.  Here are the basics:

My story is that I fear John’s return. I have thoroughly enjoyed my solo time, being at Konnarock Trail Camp and on the trail solo. I have enjoyed doing my choices of activities – resting, watching the political scene, writing posts, working on forgivenesswalks, playing Satori. I believe that when John is with  me I must choose to do those things solo or drop my interests and do his choices. So, then I wonder what partnering provides except an inconvenient unpleasant choice! What do we have to do together that outweighs or includes my personal choices? Can I have both?  Can I feel ok with separate interests?  I assume that partnering means relinquishing my interests and choosing his. Is there another way?

Here’s what the game brought!

First, the Event card I picked read Someone betrayed you big time.
“How 
perfect for the story I was telling!” I thought.

Second, the Context card I picked read: Career!
“Perfect, again! I want to choose my career with my partner!”
I laughed.

The game unfolded, as usual, with cards and moves that helped give language and possibilities to a different view of the situation that I could choose if I wanted.  Here are the cards I picked as I moved my piece through the transformational spiral:

Beliefs:

  •  I am invisible and hardly ever noticed.
  • I am not worthy of money.
  • I just don’t look good.
  • I simply cannot trust myself.

These beliefs certainly fed my S.T.O.R.Y.  Then, the turns took me to the New Story gateway.

My New Stories:

  • I have everything I want now.  I am a powerful manifester.
  • I am the luckiest person alive. I am so grateful.

I could certainly see, as I reached Satori, the place of Awakening to a New Story, that there could be other ways of seeing my situation. I affirmed in the Gateway to Surrender that I have released my attachment to my Old Story and I refuse to put any more energy into it.  The game helped me get words for new possibilities that I can focus on if I choose!


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