It’s not official – at least not yet. But it’s a good idea, don’t you think?
Taking your mom for a hike in the woods is a great way to include three of your favorite things in one event. Of course, I’m assuming you enjoy spending time with your mom, which is one of the three things – the other two being exercise and your love for the outdoors.
To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than being on the trail. When I’m not hiking, it seems like I’m talking about it or showing people my photographs from the trail. My whole purpose is to enroll others to join me because there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing the AT with someone else.
So, you can imagine my excitement when my mother asked me to take her out on the Appalachian Trail one evening.
I turned and looked at her smiling face. “Are you serious?” I thought, but, of course, I didn’t say it out loud.
I was tickled that she even considered this a possibility. We talked about schedules, picked a day and penned it on the calendar.
And that’s when I got nervous. About what, I wasn’t sure.
A Little Background
My mother’s fit and healthy – even without qualifying this with her age. She’s been an exercise walker for a long time and has always eaten right and taken care of her health.
During the ‘70s, my parents lived in New York City. They didn’t own a car. They walked everywhere; to movies, to shops, to restaurants, to work and around Central Park just for fun. It was their life. It was their exercise.
Once they left NYC for Atlanta, they still walked. Sure they owned a car and used it for most of their errands, but living only a few blocks from Piedmont Park it became a daily ritual to walk their Australian Shepherd through the neighborhood and around the park.
Even in the foot hills of the Smokies, where she lives now, she’s had a nice public green space to perambulate.
I guess my concern was could Mom handle the terrain of the trail; you know the ups and downs, the roots and rocks, the unevenness of the foot path?
It wasn’t her fitness level that concerned me. She’s certainly as fit as most of the hikers I see hitting the trail every spring – if not in better shape. How well could she adapt to the unpredictable trail after years of paved, smooth, even walkways?
I know I shouldn’t be concerned. She wouldn’t have asked to go if she didn’t think she could do it. After all, she’s seen umpteen photographs of the trail. She went to camp as a young girl. It’s not like she’s never been in the woods.
And it’s not like people her age never hike the AT. There’s Grandma Gatewood, for example; the first woman to thru-hike the AT in 1955. Solo. Wearing a pair of Keds. When she was 67 years old. And then repeating this feat at age 72 and 75, becoming the first person to hike the trail three times. Pshaw! If she can do it, my mom can certainly handle an evening hike through the long green tunnel.
There are plenty of other septuagenarians and octogenarians who thru-hike and section hike the trail every year. I don’t mean to leave any of them out – I’d list them all here if I could. The point is there are no limits on what you can do unless you decide yourself you can’t.
So, I’m going to get over it. Mom can handle this! But that doesn’t mean I won’t be right behind her the whole way, watching every foot fall she makes. C’mon, I want the first time to be a perfect experience for her. I want her to want to go back on the trail.
Hitting the Trail
The big day finally arrived. I had put a lot of thought into the local sections of the AT and picked what I thought would be a fairly easy, interesting and pretty section for her to walk.
We drove to Winding Stair Gap, about 15 minutes east of Franklin, NC. I was like a kid on a field trip as we headed north on the trail. The plan? We were going to walk for an hour; half hour out and back.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sky was sunny and blue. The temperature was a perfect 72 with a slight breeze and the trail was dry. I called ahead and asked all the tics and chiggers to stay off the trail that day. I didn’t want to take any chances.
And I’m happy to report Mom had a great walk. She loved the waterfall, the back woods campsite, all the switchbacks and stairs cut into the trail. She loved how the trail seemed to meander aimlessly through the woods instead of a straight line from point A to point B.
She never fell, which was my biggest concern, but I was right there the time or two she caught her foot on a root. I had offered he my trekking poles but she wasn’t interested.
Her impression? She liked it but it was more back woods than she expected and the trail was narrower than she thought it would be. She seemed impressed that the trail was over 2100 miles long and tickled that she was on such a famous foot path.
It was a good experience. Will she do it again? I don’t know. Time will tell. But I do think she has a greater appreciation for my love of the trail; an understanding of why it means so much to me. I’m thrilled I got to share this with her – even if it turns out to be a once in a lifetime evening hike.
I invite you to share the trail with your mom or someone else you love – especially someone you wouldn’t expect to go hiking. Who knows what doors it’ll open for them and how it might impact your relationship. Just put some thought and planning into it so the experience will be as perfect as it can be for both of you.
See ya’ on the trail!