Parents of AT thru-hikers - I want you to know you are not alone. When I dropped my son off on April 7th at the start of the AT, I was excited and thrilled for him. I have ultimate confidence in him as a man who knows the outdoors and nature, and one who has gone off for hikes of 80 miles or more.
And then he waved good by. On the way home, I held myself together and attempted to drive serenely through the countryside while my granddaughter fell happily into a Dramamine doze. For three hours. Finally, I couldn't hold it together anymore. I couldn't maintain serene. Too many thoughts raced through my head quicker than the rapids on the Nantahala River. Thinking. Realizing. My son is gone for four to five months in the American wilderness!
I started wigging out and did so the entire next week. On my solo drives during work to see my clients, volume of cascaded down my cheeks, enough to rival Amicalola Falls.
Where was he? Would I ever see him again? Is he hurt? Were his socks wet? His feet cold? Did he have blisters? Did he bring band aids? Did his knee and ankle hurt? Did he have enough food in that ridiculously tiny backpack?
I wanted to picture what he was doing. Where did he sleep - hammock or shelter? Who did he meet? What are their trail names? Has he met any Trail Angels? Has he met any crazy people? Did a herd of wild boars block the path so he couldn't see the first great mountaintop vista on the trail? Did a a momma bear and her two laughing cubs chase him down a rocky slope calculatingly slathered with tree roots by some cruel act of nature to trip him up and send him rolling down the equivalent of the combined heights of every skyscraper in downtown Greenville, SC x5? Whew! Time to take a breath.
Zach Davis (Class of 2011 AT Thru-hiker) The Good Badger's blog and got many hours of free therapy! Let me tell you, this guy can make you laugh. And then I started writing this blog.
With the manic rush of the thought of Zach's book, Appalachian Trials, winging its way to me from Amazon, I got bold and begged The Good Badger (Zach Davis) to let me crash his list of AT Thru-Hikers on the blog list on his website so all those frantic parents, brothers, sisters, kids out there could feel they are not alone and maybe even get a little comfort.
My daughter, Beth would call me "Cheeky mom," my granddaughter would applaud and so I took the risk.
Here's my email to Zach but with the typos fixed because in my nervousness and near panic for aid from someone who had to counsel his own mom over and over, I couldn't type straight.
My son, Jeff Gray, aka Loner, started the AT Trail on April 7, 2012 from Georgia. So of course, I've been reading blog after blog to extinguish my angst (you can take the woman out of the goth world- but can't take the angst out of the woman) and lo and behold, by some serendipitous form of synchronicity, I stumbled (as in my technique for hiking up only 1/8 of a mile up the Amicalola Falls Trail) on your wonderful, funny, irreverent, honest, yet amazingly most reassuring blog on the AT I've read.
Reading your blog is like watching my son race when he was a dirt track race car driver. I sit there white-knuckled, my heart beating in panic, my lungs refusing to suck in air - but I keep reading or watching (as in the case of your videos) because I have to know what happens. Sure you scare the hell out of me - (your poor, saintly mother! - throwing your poles up rock slopes near the Lehigh River in PA, (how you must have made your mother suffer, not knowing the outcome when you posted that photo on Rolling Rocks) sleeping with bear breath outside your shelter, watching Whoop nearly buy a water-logged ticket to Nirvana in that river ford that didn't even lead to the Captain's!
But you made it - you freakin' made it. And that's what keeps me sane.
I've spent the past 20 odds hours with massively huge eye balls reading faster than the ping pong balls on the Chinese Olympic team to take in every word of your adventure, and then glutton that I am, I had to have your book, ASAP and begged Amazon to send it post haste before I succumb to the South Carolina vapors with worry about my eldest child.
I need your book for my survival, which now may be more at risk than my son's due to mental fragmentation and nightmares.
Yes, sorry, you are now being smothered by yet another frantic mother, as if one wasn't enough, but at least you know the score from the outside in.
What got me was your psychological approach. Yeah,. I've read stuff on the the facts, the heights, the miles, all the numbers, and while I admit I dumbed out on the expedition gear reports, I am devouring your psych approach. Since I have worked in the psych business 18 out of my 46 year working life and currently work as a rehab support specialist with individuals with traumatic brain injuries, you blog and book are just the prescription for mental health I need. As it will also help my daughter, Beth, Jeff''s 32 year old sister, who works as a nurse on a floor for head and spinal cord injuries and has been having panic attacks.
I'm a Jungian and interested in the inner psyche so I get your drift, big time. Your post on the sensory deprivation tank brought back memories, as I was once the woman who put people in the tank, at a New Age type psychiatrist's office who hired me because I was a professional astrologer part time. Our tank was ivory colored and round so we called it "The Egg" and found it was therapeutic for schizophrenics. Also, thanks so much for your post on Good Badger, "Bears and Bullshit" - luckily Jeff agreed with all of your concepts before he left. But we need to hear it over and over so as not to be sucked in by the system, the Matrix, whatever you call it.
We, as a family, need this book - as I imagine most families do. So I will plan to write a review on my blog for other AT families who go through the roller coaster ride (albeit at lower heights and with less vertigo) than their AT progeny.
I'll keep this brief and leave all the remarks and glowing compliments of Appalachian Trials (brilliant title, by the way - you'll get sales just from folks who mistype trails ) ) for the review.
And guess what else you've done? In my post dropping off son on AT Trail misery, you've given me the therapeutic answer to all my nightmares, suffering and crying jags - writing! It is you I have to thank for the idea of writing a blog and thus exorcising or exercising all the demons let loose in my brain by the many photos and stories of BEARs and MURDER and thru and section hikers alike just lying down to DIE on the trial after being incapacitated by heat exhaustion, hypothermia, or that one last horrid little rolling rock which planted them head first on another larger and not rolling rock - thus causing traumatic brain injury - about which I know way too much.
So I wondered would it be out of place to add an AT blog on your 2012 Appalachian Trail Hiker page from the perspective of the mom? I will be cataloging a lot of my son's trip as well, since at the moment he has hundreds of photos ad lots videos despite being 6 days into his hike, but he is a minimalist, no phone, no computer, no editing programs (he's an indie film maker). Here's my blog so far - I'm going to review Bill Bryson's book, "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" hopefully this weekend, so that might give you a clue as to my reviewing skills. Over the years, as an author and photojournalist, I've written hundreds of book reviews, most recently a slew of books about Carl Jung on my personal blog, The Shaman Papers. http://theshamanpapers.
By the way, I'm an author, small press publisher and editor as well. Less now, than before the recession when I had to put my small press on hiatus and get a real world working job.
Let me know if I can be added to the list without treading on AT thru-hiker and section-hiker toes, which I know are already painfully assaulted by rocks and climbing. And maybe when you're not too slammed there in San Diego with work, I can get to do an interview with you from your author's perspective as well.
So far, I've limited my hysteria to this single email to you - knowing you can handle it with aplomb and healthy witty sarcasm, but I'm sure suppressed aspects of hysteria will creep up like that bear in your shelter throughout my blog, or maybe just erupt, like the first time you opened your wonderfully full and downy, snug and warm sleeping bag, only to discover, this capability is OFFERED for a once and only one time trail-side experience.
I even forgot to sign the e-mail. How imbecilic is that? I'll claim Sometimer's disease. I refuse to admit to Alzheimer's just yet.