Monday, June 19, 2006

As Promised: My Failure Baggage

I scrounged through some of my old things and found the journal entry for the failure day in question. Unfortunately, dating the entry would have been too difficult and I didn't. I suppose it was about 15 years ago. One day, I will get over it. Maybe.

I will give a bit of background and then start the entry. I was teaching in Chicago and had this particular summer free. I spent the entire winter planning a section hike of the Appalachian Trail. I packed boxes to be sent. I hiked the Illinois Michigan Canal Trail in the snow. I hiked and stair climbed and hiked and stair climbed and packed and weighed, unpacked, repacked, weighed and planned. By the time school was out I was completely ready. My hubby (whose AT name is Stinger) took me to Springer Mountain, GA. Actually, we had to shuttle back to Springer because he was going to hike with me for a week. We hiked about 60 miles in that week and made it back to the car, even though a tropical depression blew in and stopped over us and everything we owned was wet and heavy - Oh, so heavy. Stinger felt I should come back to Chicago and I had to agree with him. Hiking in pouring rain for weeks on end is not the vacation I was seeking. But . . .
7/6 We slept kind of late, but when I awoke I decided I was ready to go on. My feet still hurt, but once you get into the rhythm of hiking you just want to go on. We got up and started washing all the wet, stinking clothes and drying the tent and pack. I went through and scrutinized everything in my pack to see if I could possibly do without it. I got rid of about 5 pounds in food, clothes, candles, sunblock. I also lost the extra weight of the wet tent and clothes. We stopped and got a good lunch and headed back to the trail.

As soon as we got to the parking lot I got scared but was convinced that I could do it - besides if I backed out what would everyone say. My first day would be 3 - 1,000 foot climbs within the first 5 miles. Tough, but doable even with fear and emotional turmoil. I marched up the hill after a couple of tearful embraces. I called down to Stinger crying and he came part of the way up the trail and we said goodbye for the fourth time. I kept going then realized that something was wrong. I had not passed a white blaze and I was going down hill. I retraced my steps and happened to see a sign about 100 Ft straight up the side of the mountain. I decided to go straight for that and I got off the trail and bush whacked up to the blaze. Sure enough, I had been on the wrong trail the whole time. Somewhat discouraging and in my emotional state I took it for a bad omen. I kept trudging ahead - still convinced this was what I wanted to do. I knew I could do it physically, now the psychological battle began - going solo in the wilderness is a tough thing and I was scared, not necessarily of the animals but spooky people I might meet.

At this moment Stinger hollers from the bottom of the mountain, "I love you." Then, "The forest is your friend." I started wailing. In that moment I knew that I wanted nothing more in life than to be with my overly romantic and supportive husband. I turned and started running - screaming my head off. "Don't leave me, don't leave." I knew that he was ready to go back to Chicago when he yelled and I was scared that I would get to the bottom and he would be gone. He was not yelling back. It was raining, again, and with all the rain before, the trail was so slick. I fell on a rock slide and my wrist -- Ouch!

I was undeterred. I got up and started running and screaming. Picture a hysterical, soaking wet woman carrying a 60 lb pack strapped to her back running and flailing arms while screaming, "Don't leave me. I don't want to do this." Pretty funny - huh! As scared and upset as I was I could still visualize and laugh at myself even while crying.

Stinger had the car running and was ready to pull out of the parking lot when he heard something and backed up. He got out and realized what was happening. I went back to Chicago with a wrist and hand the size of a water-filled surgical glove and a sense of embarrassment and failure that has not left me - even today.

I went back to the AT the following year with my sisters for a week. In fact, I went back for the next few years. Then, I had children. I took my son for two years, then was 8+ months pregnant the next year and couldn't go. The following year, my husband and I took both of the children. After that, I have not been able to go back.

Herein lies the problem and why I haven't been able lay aside that failure after all these years. I missed my opportunity. It was something I was capable of doing and I quit. I will go back - some day, but the gift of hiking a few months at a time are gone.

This is why I pushed my son beyond his comfort level to stay at camp. I realized before I completely ruined scouting for him, that I was placing too much value on finishing because I didn't and I regret it. You know, he has no such regret. I should have trusted him more.

8 comments:

mull-berry said...

I'm thinking ... what a woman! The closest I got to doing something like that is reading Peter Jenkins' book, A Walk Across America ... in this volume he walks throught that area. Are you familiar with it?

I really enjoy your blog and thought of your stories as we drove through Mississippi ... twice. : )

wisteria said...

I hadn't heard of that book, though I have seen a few other books about the AT and surrounding area. I will look for A Walk Across America at the library. Maybe it will motivate me to get back out there.

mull-berry said...

http://opac.tulsalibrary.org/search/twalk+across+america/twalk+across+america/1%2C2%2C3%2CB/webfrombib0~1074235&FF=twalk+across+america&1%2C1

I think I'll re-read it. : )

Susan said...

I am SO glad you came back. We would have all worried and worried so give up the regret. You did it for your family who worries and calls out the Highway Patrol if people are 30 minutes late or can't reach someone by cell phone after two calls. I am sorry though that I laugh hysterically every time I hear that story... I guess I know the characters...

wisteria said...

Susan, I was laughing at myself while I was crying because I knew how ridiculous I must have looked. I'm glad no one else saw me. You could go with me, again?

mull-berry, I should get the book next Thursday from the library.

Susan said...

Don't forget that I came home from that church camp one time - of course I waited until after the Sadie Hawkins? race. I think I was trying to catch the boy with the tweety bird t-shirt. NOW it is your turn to laugh hysterically! Also, I did not and do not like communal showers.

wisteria said...

Mother reminded me. I'm glad you didn't catch him. It could have been for keeps at that camp.

Frankie said...

Oh, I read A Walk Across America, too, and The Walk West, the sequel. Good books!

I'm with Mull-berry, never come close to even thinking about doing something like that!