Before we get started lets talk about trail magic. The term “Trail Magic” can mean many different things to someone thru-hiking. Generally speaking it can be as simple as finding what you need when you least expect, seeing something inspiring in nature or encountering unexpected acts of kindness and generousity from strangers, aka “Trail Angels“.
Phew, that’s out of the way.
I am not a person to boast or brag about my life. I do not feel like I have been given an easy path nor do I feel like I have taken the easy path. I have worked hard for many years, living. Living however I thought made sense. Taking each day for what it is and learning lessons along the way. Growing and learning to grow.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling challenged by 2020. It has been the ultimate year of adaptation and change. I have changed. I have grown. I have reflected. I have had the time to think, to breathe, to dream again. Despite the negativity that pervaded throughout this year I chose to take this time as an opportunity to reconnect with myself and to seek more from life. I listened and life spoke.
Okay… so what’s this got to do with the AT?
I actually had no intentions of hiking the AT this year. In fact, I was planning on hiking the Long Trail with my partner, Ryan. Obviously, things changed. Around Thanks Giving I asked the Green Mountain Club facebook group about Appalachian Trail maps and books. I was looking to start researching and reading about the AT in my free time.
If you know me you probably know that I am not a big “technology” person. Though I do have social media I rarely use it in the way most people my age do. During the pandemic I nerded out on the Long Trail facebook groups. I was baffled by how helpful the hiking community in Vermont is. Everyone is SO kind, especially when I was being a total noob. I was able to ask so many questions and not get bombarded by people being total a**holes. Thank you all for that!
Through that online social sphere I got connected with a hiker named “Bird Feeder”. He sent me a link to the Black Friday deal that Guthook Guides had for their Appalachian Trail maps. Now, I can’t turn down a good deal, thanks for that mom. So, I bought them. On a limb, I just bought the darn things. I didn’t really have the money at the time but I figured I would use them someday in the future. I just didn’t know that future was going to be 4 1/2 months later.
10 Days after buying the maps I was fired.
Was this a sign?
What did it mean?
I felt like the universe was screaming at me! GO. Go to the mountains.
I reached out to Bird Feeder in excitement about being able to now use these maps. I began to tell him about being fired and what had happened. He kindly listened to my story. At this point I had no income and a chance of not receiving un-employement (thats a long story in itself). I was excited at the thought of thru-hiking but in reality it was not a possibility without a job and no prior savings due to my loss of income during the pandemic.
Bird Feeder helped me find a job. Not only did he help me find a job. He got me a job and is my boss, for now. I was baffled by his excitement for my adventure. He offered me a place to get on my feet and hit the reset button financially while I figured out if I could really do this. There are not a lot of people who would hire someone knowing that in less than four months they would be leaving. Without that grace I would not be going. Thank you, seriously.
I didn’t know this at the time but the “off trail” magic is just as important as the magic that happens while on the trail. I was beginning to see it all over in my life. My gut feeling of purchasing the maps, a random connection leading to a job that got me on my feet and it just kept coming.
It was all coming together, finally.
I thought I had it all figured out. Right?
I had a job.
I had maps.
I had some gear.
I was good to go, right?
I was in for a treat. I knew that thru-hiking is a big deal. I knew I needed to research, prepare, read everything I could find about the trail. I knew all of this. I just hadn’t thought about the obvious.
How do I get to the trailhead…?
As I started getting more and more serious about my hike. I reached out to friends and family to find out who I knew in Georgia. I was looking at every available option presented to see what made the most sense. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people that offered to help in any way they could. I have never received such genuine excitement from people I barely knew.
And then I got “Spamcake-ed”.
Insert off the trail magic button here! Erin, aka Spamcake, is an local friend of mine and an inspiration to me in many ways. I have had the opportunity to follow her adventures on the Long Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Colorado Trail. She is a badass.
Thanks to this lovely human I have a ride to the south to start my adventure! She is heading out west for an adventure of her own and offered to bring me as far as made sense. Now I get to enjoy an epic mini road trip with a friend. Wow, life is good.
Better yet, I have a way to the southern terminus.
As I made more intentions in my life to get on the trail the more things just seemed to work themselves out. Funny how that happens…
Friends, Family & Loved Ones
I couldn’t do this without all of you.
The magic has continued. As I became comfortable with telling the world what I was doing my friends, family and loved ones got excited for me too. I made my hike public knowledge and was astonished by the support I received. Thank you to everyone who sent me encouraging messages, purchased me gear or provided money for hiker hostels and snickers. You are all a part of the success of my adventure.
A big shoutout to my boyfriend, Ryan, for buying me my dream tent: Dan Durstons X-Mid 2p. He is literally providing me my home for the next half a year. When’s the last time your partner paid for half a year rent for you! hah! If it wasn’t for his constant support, his constant kind words and patience I would not be going on this trip. Thank you for listening to me talk about gear for hours, for letting me cry and freak out for no reason, for getting excited with me and for being willing to learn to love me from afar. This will be hard but I know, like you said, it will only make us stronger. Thank you, so much. Oh, and make sure Jack (one of my cats) is alive when I get back!
Shoutout to my parents. Thank you Mom and Dad. Without you guys I wouldn’t be able to do this. I would’t be able to have some chicken pot pie or piri piri wings to look forward to in VT. Thank you for getting me a GPS device so I can check-in so you know I’m alive. Thank you for supporting my dream instead of crushing it. Thank you for seeing the adventurer in me and setting aside your own fears so I can face mine. Also, thanks for watching Porky (my other sidekick cat)!
Thank you Stu. Thank you for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Thank you for telling me it is not crazy to sell my car. Thank you for saying “Is having a car in six months more important than your dream?”. Thank you for making me think, making me realize what it means to make sacrifices. Thank you for encouraging me to reach my goal and for helping me realize I can do it.
Okay, I’m done with all the sappy crap now.
The long story short is that thanks to all these wildly random things happening I am able to go get my feet dirty.
Stay tuned for more “Series of FortunATe Events” throughout my journey! I’m sure there will be a lot more!
Oh and if you haven’t already be sure to follow me on Instagram: @artistsrukus
You won’t be disappointed!