In the summer before I left for college, I did a lot of preparation. I was about to move from suburban Chicago to the foothills of Colorado, and come the end of summer I knew everything would get crazy. So I was reading a summer book assigned by a professor (freshman fear tactic, I’m sure), riding my bike (growing up as somewhat of a suburbian bookworm, I had this fear of being the least fit person ever to move to Colorado), packing (more on that later), and saying goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. And since my family was moving to Wisconsin at the same time I was going to Colorado, I couldn’t say for sure when I’d see my friends again.
I’ve moved many times since then and gained and, in a sense, lost many friends. But I can say with certainty that this move—or, to put it better, this life shift—leading up to our hike has been the most exhausting of any of them. These last few weeks, I’ve been falling asleep to visions of trail walking and waking up to heart-palpitating zaps of thoughts on all the things I still needed to do before leaving my job, moving out of our rental house, driving to Wisconsin, and finally starting our hike. There were nights when my brain felt so leaden with thought it seemed there must be something must be sitting on my head (snickering too, I’m sure). Perhaps ironically, this is exactly the sort of emotional exhaustion that I want so fervently to escape on the trail. After putting everything I had into a day of teaching, I would come home and fall into this leaden-brain stupor and wonder, vaguely, how I might possibly make time go fast enough to bring me back to life yet slow enough to be able to do all of the packing and things needed to make this trip possible.
And now, perhaps by magic, the time is nearly here. Tomorrow we fly to Maine, and the next day will be our hike up Katahdin to begin our Appalachian adventure.
A lot of people have been asking me if I’m excited, but the answer in my head is a lot more complicated than what they’re looking for. I’ve been excited for this ever since we started planning last spring, pumping all spare energy into plans and preparations. In a sense, this adventure has already been underway throughout all of that. After so much thinking and dreaming and a half million trips to REI, the start of our hike is so close and the only word I can conjure is… surreal. Even more so, I would say, since while I’m typing this I’m sitting on a cozy couch at my parents’ house, listening to my younger brother play the guitar. Outside, I can hear Andy, my older brother, and his girlfriend talking and laughing. It’s a rare and comforting thing to have the whole family together, and the idea that in a couple of days Andy and I will be out in the middle of nowhere Maine is an odd contrast to wrap my mind around.
We’re two very lucky individuals with so many incredible people in our lives, and I want to say thank you to everyone who gathered to wish us well. We were so grateful for the goodbye parties thrown for us, giving us a chance to see our friends and family before heading out—Zach, Nikki, Sue & Ray, MPHS staff, Grandma & Grandpa K, thanks for being wonderful hosts J! And gigantic thank yous Grandma & Grandpa K for driving us to a distant airport and to Mom and Sue for being up for sending us crazy huge mail drops along our hike!