When people take on challenges like a thru-hike, it’s often the result of many seemingly random events. One after another these events occur, silently weaving themselves together in your subconscious, until they take on a form you recognize. And can’t resist.
Back in 2007, a running buddy, Jason Dorgan, ran the Ice Age Trail. He completed it in an astonishing 22 days, setting a thru-hike record. That was the first random event that lodged itself in the back of my mind, although I didn’t know it at the time.
In 2009, I ran part of the Vía de la Plata, a 1,000-kilometer (621-mi) ancient pilgrimage trail in Spain, so I could write some travel stories about it. The trail was confusing, and there were no English-language guidebooks to help hikers, so I often got lost. After I wrote my travel articles about the trail, I returned and ran the whole thing, then created a guidebook app about it. Thread #2 in my subconscious Ice Age tapestry.
Another Thru-Hike Nudge
Next, a publisher sent me a copy of a soon-to-be-released book for review — Becoming Odyssa. I’m sent books occasionally, and almost never read them, because I don’t write book reviews. But for some reason I read this one. The story is about a young woman who walks the Appalachian Trail, then returns to run it, setting the women’s thru-hike record in the process.
With Odyssa’s story fresh in my mind, I learned my older daughter’s friend would be hiking the Appalachian Trail shortly. And then I was assigned a story on tips for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Suddenly, long-distance hiking and hikers were everywhere I turned.
In early 2012, Jason was reminiscing about his IAT adventure while on a group run. I asked a few questions, and was surprised to learn only about 70 people had thru-hiked the trail to date. A little more research at home revealed only three of those 70-some folks were women. Just three!
Setting a Goal
All of these random events, woven together over the last few years, now formed a message that muscled its way into the forefront of my conscious thoughts. Run the Ice Age Trail. I loved the idea and knew I was destined to do it. Still, I hesitated to set a date. It would take me four to five weeks. Who can afford to leave home and work that long?
Then, sadly, several relatives and friends succumbed to serious illnesses. One died. It was time to plan my thru-hike adventure. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Or, as kids say today, YOLO. So I set the date: August 31, 2013.
And that’s how I got here.