Having 42 things on my to-do list for the week before I left on my halfway thru hike of the North Country Trail meant that a frenzy of activity distracted me from my nerves.
I focused on getting my will done, a list of my passwords for online accounts, so my family doesn’t have logistical headaches on top of their grief if the worst comes to pass during my journey. I tested my InReach Delorme with GEOS. I made several disorganized trips to area stores, and took over my mother’s living room for two full days, an explosion of gear and dehydrated food.
As fast as I scrambled, I still left town 36 hours later than planned. Driving though Wisconsin and Michigan, through the Upper Peninsula, I studied the landscape for when I’d be hiking through the area again a month later. I slept in my car, then arrived just minutes before the Long-Distance Hiking workshop at the North Country Trail Association’s 2019 Trail Celebration in Bellaire, Michigan.
I met up with Lisa LaPorte Light, my first trail angel of the trip, who hosted me at her cabin for the weekend. She’d done a 13-mile hike that day. Both exhausted, we headed back to the cabin to get into pajamas and talk all things trail late into the night. It was the best sleepover ever.
The next morning, I went on a 10-mile hike in the Sands Lake Quiet Area and proceeded to get really excited about starting my journey. I was exhausted to the bone, but one walk along the beautiful Boardman River reminded me why I’d been working so hard.
Getting to meet other NCT hikers, including Joan Young, one of only five women to complete an end-to-end trip, made me realize that although I’m hiking solo, I am not alone. I was overwhelmed with offers of assistance by everyone around me, and requests to meet up to hike with me along the trail. Gratitude was the emotion of the day.
Pleased by how my body stood up to its first long-distance hike of the season, I stuffed my face with pizza and then returned to the cabin with Lisa and hit my first tech roadblock. I’d shot so much video, my phone’s memory was full. I’d arranged to interview Joan, Luke Jordan, a 2013 thru-hiker, and Derrick Passe, a board member and maintainer of two wilderness sections of trail in Minnesota. Instead of heading back to the celebration, I was trapped beneath a gorgeous white pine at Lisa’s frantically trying to figure out how to transfer video to a memory card. Due to my late arrival, I’d also missed connecting with some trail chapters to discuss trail conditions. I felt like I was messing everything up already.
Finally, I rushed back to the celebration, got my interviews, and drove back to the cabin to collapse into a deep sleep.
It wasn’t until I was driving further south to my starting point near Croton Dam on Sunday that the fear and nerves started to set in. Hundreds of miles from home in territory completely unfamiliar to me, I started to fixate on all the unknowns, the dangers.
But having met so many people, having received so many offers of help, my fears and nerves were banished from knowing I’m not really alone out here.
Time to start this hike. I can’t wait to meet you, North Country Trail. Let’s make some Wild Stories together.