Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gut Check & Decision Time ...

I've been somewhat dreading the composition of this post.  I took some actions yesterday that will change my journey completely ...

Flexibility is important ... in fact it's vital, in business, in life and especially on the Appalachian Trail.  I had grand plans to start this journey in Georgia and end in Maine but as the miles and months have passed it became evident ... that to ensure my safety I might have to insert some "flexibility" into my plan. 
For the past few weeks I've been painfully aware that I'm a little over two weeks behind my well planned schedule.  As I get further north the mountains will grow higher and the terrain more and more difficult. Without a doubt my daily mileage will again fall, from the 20-something mile days I've been able to do lately, into the expected 14-17 mile range.  At that pace, on a northbound track, I would enter the White Mountains of New Hampshire, pass over Mt. Washington, walk through the 100 mile wilderness and summit Maine's Mt. Katahdin as the weather began to change from fall into winter.  To some, that doesn't mean much, but to those who understand the conditions those mountains can produce ... it can be dangerous, if not deadly.  So ... as the reality of the timeline and situation weighed heavily upon me I had a little talk with my ego and it went something like this...

Me - "So, Ego ... what's the problem with being safe and doing a flip flop thru hike?  A lot of SUCCESSFUL thru hikers do it!
Ego - "Well, Yahtzee ... that wasn't your plan!  Can't you get anything right?  Can't you just hike faster and harder and just get it done?  That's what a REAL thru hiker would do!"
Me - "Not true!" A real thru hiker is someone who makes safe choices which enables them to complete this grueling, multi-month adventure.  A REAL thru hiker is someone who recognizes their limits and finds a way to work within them!"
Ego - "Hummm... but a "flip flop" is so lame!"
Me - "Why? I'll still be completing the trail ... just half of it will be northbound (from GA to PA) and the other half will be southbound (from ME back to where I left the trail PA)."
Ego - "But where's the glory in finishing in Duncannon, PA?" There's no mountain summit ... no excitement ... no BIG FINISH!"
Me - "True, but there will still be a finish ... there will still be an accomplishment. Do I need glory? Do I need more than just the personal satisfaction of completing my goal?
Ego - "But what will other people say? What will they think? I know ... they'll think you failed."
Me - "I don't care.  This is MY hike, my goal ... my dream ... my vision ... my journey.  Plus, I don't think my friends and family will think that I've failed."
Ego - "Whatever ... it's still lame!"
Me - "Ego, you can leave now.  I have no purpose for you ... no room in my head space ... no place in my thoughts.  I'm making the best choice for my success and, for that I'm proud of myself."

So ... with that ... I made the decision to abandon the heat, humidity and 20+ mile days that I've been enduring through northern Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and about half of Pennsylvania.  I joined my friends Koopa and Big Ooh (who've been enduring similar internal struggles and having conversations with each other and themselves).  While we may not have started this trail together we've made it further than thousands of others have and we plan to finish it ... hopefully together.  While the Kodak Mt. Katahdin moment may come early (in fact, it will come tomorrow -July 30th- if the weather is good and the park service allows us on the mountain for a summit attempt). The "glory" will be in the personal satisfaction that I will embrace on the day I step foot back onto a dingy street in Duncannon, Pennsylvania.  I will have arrived at my journey's finish line and although I'll be standing at street level, in front of the Doyal hotel, I'll be on top of the world.  Until then ... I will continue to hike ... and blog ... and experience all of the joys, tribulations and lessons that this trail so fruitfully delivers each day. 

In a way, this is one of it's biggest lessons so far.  It seems that it's not the major summits that make our journeys exciting ... it's the average, everyday places that can serve as our finish lines ... as our points of major accomplishments ... as our destinations.  I look forward to seeing Duncannon again.  It may not be Katahdin but when I stand again at the place where I left the trail two days ago ... I will have completed one of the largest personal and physical challenges of my life.  I will raise my hands in the air and people may stare, unaware of the purpose for my excitement, but it's not about them ... or where I finish ... or what the "final" photo looks like.   It's about MY A.T. JOURNEY ... and thankfully that journey continues...

Rolling on,


  1. I am so proud of you!!!! THAT'S what you call problem solving! I think July 30 seems like a fabulous day for climbing a mountain! You will be in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. Dylan will be swimming in his first Junior Olympic meet tomorrow as well, so you will both be experiencing personal achievement. I think it's a good sign. I love you!!! Hike the good hike, xo Bonnie

  2. I am very happy and relieved that you are making this choice. It's a smart, strategic one in which you recognize that ONE WAY is not the only way to complete a journey. There is no glory in endangering anyone including yourself.

    I just asked Nixon and he agrees 110% by wagging his tail with a resounding "YES"


  3. This is smart. The ego is not always smart! The ego does not always help you make good decisions. And listening to your "gut" will always keep you on the right track. What a lesson! And a total affirmation that the universe does work in your favor (even though it might not seem like it sometimes). So what if you are hiking "backwards" are still hiking!!! You go girl!

  4. So, you're done tomorrow? No matter what, I'm so proud of you right now! You are amazing & an inspiration to me. Can't wait until you're back in NorCal to celebrate!

  5. Will be thinking of you today. Look forward to hearing when you are off the mountain and hiking back down to PA:) Good luck.

  6. Good for you to go with your 'gut' feelings rather than your ego. You will still finish the trail, just differently than you planned. I look forward to reading the rest of your journey.

    Enjoy each day and tell your ego to 'take a hike', in a different direction than the one you are on.

    You're on an amazing adventure.


  7. Yahtzee gal, great post my friend ! I'm glad YOU put your ego to rest, and have made a logical, safe decision !! You're still my hero, and there's not a chance in hell that anyone is gonna think you failed... what nonsense ! This is YOUR adventure and you can roll anyway you want to !!! You continue to inspire us all !!
    Now, get to "blazin'" !! ♥

  8. WaHoo my cuz did good! Were so proud of you here. You've done something very few are even willing to entertain in their thoughts much less in the physical sense. The dream is still yours as are your accomplishments which are many. Stand tall be proud you made your goal.Love you Connie and Auntie

  9. You are truly an inspiration to us novice hikers! To achieve what you have is absolutely incredible. I have followed your journey, felt as if I were walking along with you and even limped when I saw the brace on your knee, but you continued on. You have not failed at anything, you have achieved much. When (and if) I grow up, I hope to go as far and see as much as you have. Travel on and stay safe. Susan, OCAC

  10. Awesome, and very smart decision Lori. Your personal safety is not worth being stubborn about changing plans...finishing your goal in a different order is so much better than not finishing at all over a foolish decision. I think most people would (and should) admire you for approaching this wisely rather than cuff you for changing the original plan.

  11. Actually by making the finish line at the Doyle you will be real close to a cold beer!! It takes a couple of hours to get to a cold beer from Baxter Peak, only a couple of steps from the trail to the Doyle! Congrats on making it this far and good luck on the rest.


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