I'm a nomad by nature. Maybe it's because I grew up sliding through towns like a slow moving river, carrying a little from each place with me but never resting. Each time a place began to feel like home, I found myself surrounded by boxes and moving trucks, off to the next big adventure.
This house we bought just over a year ago, which I love, has already begin to press in. I'm restless. The itch to be in motion is just beyond my reach, not a thing that can be scratched. While most people I know seem at peace right where they are, I ache to pick up and wander off wherever my feet take me. To see everything this wide world has to offer.
A couple of years ago I read Jennifer Pharr Davis' Becoming Odyssa, her memoir of the time just after college she spent on a solo hike along the Appalachian Trail (AT). Just barely in her twenties, she walked over 2,000 miles completely on her own with only the contents of her backpack to provide for all her needs.
I was captivated. Smitten. Ready to sell everything and find my own answers on the trail.
I've had Appalachian dreams ever since.
Last week, for the research paper I've been working on, I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A much different story, but similar setting. At age 26, Strayed spent three months on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) during a solo hike she began in hopes of healing her ruptured life.
Once again, I felt the call to wander out into the world and get lost. Get found. Just get out. Only this time the call was a roar, not a whisper.
I don't have six months to dedicate to the AT, or even three. Although the school year is wrapping up, I'm already registered for a summer session in June. August will be filled with back to school planning days, and a very important 18th birthday party for my Dos.
But I do have a couple of weeks in July.
I did a little searching online to find places I can reach in a day so that the majority of my trip isn't spent in the car. Just a little more than five hours from me is a 218 mile trail in northwest Arkansas called the Ozark Highland Trail (OHT). Backpacker magazine recently spotlighted a section of this trail as one of the nation's best kept hiking secrets.
|I'm a hiker!|
|How ridiculous are these guys?|
My goal is to cover as much ground as possible each day, hoping that my target of ten miles a day isn't completely unreachable for someone who, since childhood, has never done anything more than easy campground tent pitching and marshmallow roasting.
We'll see. For now, I keep planning. Collecting gear. Pretending I'm not terrified by the idea of walking into a den of crazed black bears or stepping on a bed of rattlesnakes. Stomping around my neighborhood in my new boots in an attempt to break them in and not spend my trail days crying over my blistered feet.
It feels good to have this adventure on the horizon. It's not a solo hike. It's not months and months away from civilization.
But it's a start.
The wild has been calling, and I'm finally ready to respond.