A few years ago, I traded my mountain bike and running shoes for hiking boots and trekking poles..and, a brand new world!
I began hiking with a friend. We went everywhere!! We hiked short trails and we hiked "long" trails...at least long to us at the time. Our very first backpacking trip was in the Great Smoky Mountains along the Appalachian Trail from Clingman's Dome to Silers Bald to Derrick Knob and back down Greenbrier Ridge to Middle Prong and to our car parked in Tremont...a grand total of 26 miles! What a welcome site...the car sitting patiently awaiting our arrival. I have a photo of my hiking partner kissing the license plate when we finally got there! But, the obsession was born...the passion for the wilderness and the serenity of the mountain trails.
Then, we met a "legend" and became the Three Amigos. We hiked more and longer. We hiked in several states and we fueled our love for the Appalachian Trail. In July of that summer, we headed off on a backpacking adventure that would change, not only my view of hiking, but, more importantly, my own self-awareness. We hiked the 72 mile section of the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!
Jumping forward in years, in 2016, I got the 'nod' to become the first woman Appalachian Trail Champlain, sanctioned by the Holston Conference. My journey would begin in the spring of 2017. My challenge, at the age of 70...to walk the entire 2185 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Mt. Katadhin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia in support and assistance to hikers "in need" along the way. But, as the moment arrived to make my final decision and commitment, I chose to decline. My heart was broken - but, my head knew that something wasn't right. In late February of 2017, I went for my annual mammogram and by March had been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Had I accepted the Chaplaincy, I would have missed my mammogram and the silent killer would have remained hidden for possibly another year. Without hesitation, I knew that my chosen path had to be a double (bilateral) mastectomy with NO reconstruction. The surgery took place on April 17, 2017.
I truly believe that it doesn't matter how many trails I hiked or how many miles I accumulated over the years, what is of value is what I learned...the lessons that were transformed from my life as I knew it to my life as my "new beginning"! One of the greatest joys and blessings derived from trail time and experience is being able to share the "stories of the trail"...the magical healing energy of the mountains, the lessons of survival...the confidence of depending on myself and the strength and courage to trust and ACCEPT the SUPPORT of others. And, yes, the wisdom to learn to RECEIVE.
From the passion to share what I had "learned from the trail"...the things that transferred from the challenges of the trail to the new challenges that faced me in finding a New Normal after Breast Cancer...was born Hiking for Healing...Bridging the Gap to a New Beginning.
Hiking for Healing is designed for women cancer survivors and their caregivers to experience the positive healing effect of nature, exercise and laughter. Together, we can "Bridge the Gap to a New Normal".
The following is a short reflection of "Why I love to hike!"
Yes, hiking can be strenuous, sometimes dangerous, treacherous, the terrain can be rocky, slippery, perhaps knee deep in snow, the weather blistery hot or extremely cold, rainy, snowy, stormy...but, when, from the interstate while driving home, I look back at the mountains I have just hiked...the feeling of accomplishment is unmatched by anything else I have ever done! And, it is the memories of the challenge, the trail's funny little stories, the friends and comrades, the sound of walking through fallen leaves or the crunch of icy snow beneath my feet, the beauty of nature at its best, the panoramas, the macro photos allowing me to enter the inner world of the subject, the oneness with the forest critters...and so much more. Yes, that's why I love the challenge of the hike. Yes, that's exactly why!