Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Roughing It

Just this past weekend I had the honor of doing an interview with a vibrant, interesting woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. (The article will appear in the July/August edition of Heart of Ohio Magazine.) She completed the over 2,000 mile hike and has been sharing her story with groups and in articles written by wimpy people like me who enjoy spending a couple of hours living vicariously through her experiences. Talking with her about her four and a half month meander through the wilderness made me think seriously about what it would take to do something like that.

In truth I think I'm roughing it if I find I've arrived at the grocery store without my cell phone. The thought of hiking over rocks, up mountains and down into ravines...of traversing narrow trails and watching for bears without a weapon (or an armed guard) is more than a little unnerving. As the story of this woman's adventure unfolded I realized I will am much better off staying in my comfortable seat and be part of the admiring audience. I'm just a city girl.

Think for just a moment of four and a half months without a chair to sit in, a bed to sleep in or a refrigerator to rummage through. Ten days between showers, wearing the same clothes for days on end and knowing everything you have with you fits into your back pack requires a self confidence I can't seem to muster. I carry more stuff in my handbag when I go to the movies than this woman carried into the wilderness; the more she talked the more I felt like Private Benjamin. (Goldie Hawn: “I wanted to join the other army, the one with the condos”)

Don't get me wrong, I'm not helpless. I can fix a kitchen sink with a nail file...but if I break a nail in the process I'm down for the count. Four and a half months without a hairdresser is cruel and inhuman punishment and, while I don't consider myself to be high maintenance, I think all that time without a facial would be pretty rough. After a day of walking twenty miles through the hill country, munching on beef jerky and trying to avoid being downwind of your companions, I would need more than a sleeping bag in a three sided shelter or a pup tent to prepare me for the next day.

I really was mesmerized by her story, and I listened intently as she spoke about the beauty of the countryside, the joy of discovering the great outdoors and the feeling of self sufficiency that was so satisfying. I am totally in awe of her tenacity and fortitude and, for just a little while, I felt inadequate when I measured myself against the yardstick of her courage and strength. Fortunately, that didn't last long.....

There is a place in this world for each of us. Her place is the brave female explorer who seeks to understand what she is made of. Mine is the bespectacled writer who takes her story to people who will also enjoy hearing about her adventure. I admit it, I'm a woosie whose biggest energy expenditure occurs on the stationary bike at the gym while listening to an audio book. At the end of the day I look forward to a glass of wine and a memory foam mattress...snap on the ceiling fan and life gets even better. Most of my enjoyment of the great outdoors comes from watching the Smithsonian Channel; it's likely to be the closest I'll ever get to a mountain trail or an ancient ruin. So be it.

Thank you Patty Stechschulte for sharing your story with me and allowing me to put it on paper to share with our readers. You keep exploring and I'll keep writing...your personal rewards will be great, but I get to wear prettier shoes.

                                                                Life is Good