June 22, 2016
A big question arose from my visit to the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace. Where is Mildred Norman Ryder, the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail? Yep. Another woman did it before the famous Grandma Gatewood.
When I first learned of Mildred, it was while reading Peace Pilgrim, a biography of the woman who walked across the U.S. numerous times advocating for peace.
I was stunned to read that she had her vision of what to do with her life while walking the Appalachian Trail! “What?!” I thought. “She walked the trail in 1952?! Why, Grandma Gatewood’s famed thruhike was in 1956?!”
I had asked Laurie Potteiger, public relations manager at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, why there’s no mention of Mildred Ryder as the first woman to hike the whole trail. Do you know what she said? “Well, at the time she completed her walk, it wasn’t acceptable to be with a man and not be married to him, so she was not recognized.”
Well, dang! Seems that it might be time to recognize Mildred! In MY view, her walk expressed what I believe walks could be, if we really pay attention. What she got from her walk was her life’s mission. She had walked to simplify, to go to Nature for her inspiration.
Usually, hikers take on a “Trail Name” as they become something on the trail different than in the “real world.” Well, Mildred left behind who she had been AFTER her walk, becoming Peace Pilgrim. Her walk bridged her past to her future.
Maybe I like Mildred’s story because she reminds me of my own story. My thruhike gave me a glimpse of who I could be, of how a relationship could be. Out there on the trail, in Nature, I saw something for myself that I couldn’t see at home. After my walk, I redesigned my life – and came back for more!
The Appalachian Trail Museum is a fine expression of ONE view of the AT. In my heart, I see a different view that I invite you to consider. The trail is a blank canvas on which we can express our unique walks, receiving, giving, learning, becoming who we can be!
What do you think YOUR walk could be? Please respond by email and let me know!
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Summer azaleas in PA!