Milestones

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The official halfway point of the AT

This week marked the completion of a big milestone in the hike: I reached the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. Reactions to this accomplishment among thru-hikers are mixed. Some seem rather dispirited to know that despite all of the work they’ve done so far they still have 1,095 miles to go, while others are jubilant and cannot believe they are already halfway done. Regardless, reaching the midpoint in a long journey is often a time for reflection. For me, my time of greatest reflection came about 25 miles later, near the town of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania

This past December I had just about made up my mind to pursue a hike of the Appalachian Trail. Having no backpacking experience whatsoever, I decided it would be wise to test out my gear and do what is known as a “shakedown hike”. And so I gathered up all the supplies I had thus far accumulated for the trip, drove out to Boiling Springs, parked my car, and hiked out to a shelter four miles south of town along the trail. I can vividly remember the mixture of excitement and anxiety I felt as I took my first steps into the woods that bright winter afternoon. As there were no other hikers out that day, I had the shelter to myself, which I was grateful for as I fumbled around trying to set up my tent, like the novice I was. I remember sitting in my tent as the darkness of the night enveloped the valley, my imagination going wild with every little rustle of dead leaves or snap of twigs. Yet despite my fears, I managed to survive the night, and I knew as I hiked out the next morning that I could do this.

The shelter where I did my “shakedown hike” last December.

When I reached the same shelter this past week, a wave of emotion hit me suddenly. For a brief moment, I was transported back to that December, unsure if I could take on something so imposing as the Appalachian Trail, and yet so eager to attempt it. Now over halfway through the trail, I am still amazed and grateful to be here. Despite the difficulties and challenges the trail has thrown my way (i.e. blisters, chaffing, hail storms, frigid cold, days of continuous rain, biting insects, wildlife encounters, twisted ankles, swollen feet, sore and aching muscles, etc.), it is truly an honor and a blessing to be out here, pursuing one of my wildest dreams.

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My trail register entries from Alex Kennedy Shelter, then (top) and now (bottom).

Dreaming is fun, but it’s in taking that leap and bringing that dream to fruition where we find real joy and fulfillment in life. So go ahead and take the leap! You’ll be happy you did.

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Until our paths cross again,

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      Ashley Sylvan

One thought on “Milestones

  1. Congratulations on making it half way. You!ve done amazingly well for not having any previous backpacking experience!! You’ve definitely made it through some very challenging times! I’m very happy for you and very excited to hear more of your adventure!!

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