by Joan Delano

Three Miles and a Forever Love

Let’s take a hike

My love affair with the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) began in October 2015. I had heard about the A.T. and I had read about it. In fact, I had just recently read about Grandma Gatewood who had walked the entire Appalachian Trail more than once! I had also heard about it from a friend who is an avid hiker and had hiked portions of the A.T. herself.

My friend and her husband own a home not far from the A.T. near the Tye River. When she invited me to spend a few days there I was thrilled and excited. I love the mountains, you see. However, my love was not a hands-on type, for, unlike my friend, I had never hiked before. She had plans to change that. We were going to take a hike on the Appalachian Trail!

It rained the first two days and although I truly couldn’t picture me, a then 75-year-old woman, hiking anywhere, much less the A.T., I was excited. Our last day in the mountains was lovely. We were going hiking!

We drove to the area of the suspension bridge over the Tye River, parked the car, and with perhaps slight trepidation, I walked over the hanging bridge. Not any thought of fear touched me though, for you see I was going to walk on the A.T.

It was October and leaves covered the trail. Wet leaves covered it! Was I a bit fearful of the wet leaves? Yes, quite a bit. However, I had chosen a walking stick from my friend’s collection and walked on bravely.

While walking, we heard the sound of dogs barking in the distance. I asked if she thought they were running a deer. My mind was praying that if they were running anything, it would be a deer rather than a bear. The sound moved farther away so we never knew the answer to that question.

We had snacks and a drink and ate sitting on rocks and stumps off the Trail. We walked a little farther and my friend suggested that perhaps we should start back. She didn’t want us to get too tired on my first hike. She’s a good friend, for she could have gone for many more miles and the “us” whom she didn’t want to get too tired was in fact – me. We did hike back. We swayed across the bridge again, and I went back smiling. I smiled often for the next few months as I told everyone I met that I walked three miles on the Appalachian Trail!

I surely hope your learning that my hike was only three miles of the almost 2,200 miles of the Trail doesn’t make you think my hike was less grand. You see I fell in love that day. I didn’t just hear about it or read about it; I met the Appalachian Trail for myself, and the meeting was wonderful. Whether you’re 25 or 75 or 105 – whatever age, I hope you’ll get a chance to meet the A.T. for yourself too! It’s more than worth the trip.