Maybe it was because I was no good at regular stuff, but I always have had this real need to conquer something, anything big would do. Most likely something long, canoeing the length of the Mississippi? I became obsessed by the Appalachian Trail (AT): a single track, skipping along the mountaintops from Georgia to Maine, 2,170 miles of straight up paradise. And it came within miles of where I lived! Had to do be done. I had played around with part of it, a couple hours here and there, a few miles, maybe. I knew that it had to get bigger.
Though I am practical: I would not go crazy and do the whole whack at once (although if I had any idea of what was coming, I surely should have), rather I’d break it down into easy to chew chunks of 3-7 days, each. The first year, olde Wayne (Wayne E. Jacobsen, my good friend and stepfather) and I set off from Penmar, Pennsylvania (straddled, the eastern Pennsylvania/Maryland border) and headed Southwest. We intended to cross all of Maryland and take a bite out of West Virginia. Now, it started out rough: the first thing that I had to do was get up on a fallen log and walk across it, a makeshift bridge: no hand rails This was probably the most that you could get out of my balance. I made it, barely. I wasn’t sure why, but it was a lot harder than it should have been. I quickly forgot about it. All in all it went quite well.
We were an unmatched team, the down slopes were pretty rough, falling forward was unpleasant, but I was pure hell uphill! Wayne (probably like most middle-aged folks) was the opposite- huffing and puffing up the hills, but enjoying things much more on the way down.
It got ugly when we had to cross this huge field of boulders. There really was no flat ground to put your feet on, instead you needed to step from one pointy rock top to another. Then there was the famed “power line hill.” This was a clear-cut right of way for high tension electric wires. We needed to move up it, and it was steep. I am sure that I am exaggerating when I say it stood 45 degrees, nonetheless, it pushed my limits. By the time we got to the top, we were both crawling and crippled, though not in the same way, it now seems.
I don’t remember any real scary tumbles, but it was rough, there was a lot more falling than there ought to have been. No doubt about that. I am no quitter, though, on we went. By no means was I normal, but I was good enough, to get it done, I just fell down a lot. And olde Wayne, laughed. I laughed too. Best I could tell, it was a good thing to entertain olde Wayne. Problem was, I had no idea what I was getting into. But it was great. For whatever reason I got the biggest kick out of getting my drinking water out of one hole, and peeing in another. Clearly a highlight of my life. Retrospectively, I guess that you could call it my peak effort. If I had to go, it was at this point in my life, that I should do it. I cherish that trip with olde Wayne, and he knows that.