We haven’t had much hiking news to post in a while, but that changed in November when Chief and I took our 9-year old granddaughter on her first overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. Picking her own trail name, “Bear” decided that she was fierce and ready for a hike in the roller coaster section of Northern Virginia.
Bear packed her backpack, as we did ours, and we set out on the A.T. on a sunny afternoon. The hiking was slow as Bear stopped frequently to analyze leaves, rocks, sticks, and any noise she heard. Since Chief and I were out of hiking shape, the many stops were good to allow us to catch our breath. Bear also wanted frequent snacks and wrote pages in her journal about her observations on the A.T.. After three miles, we decided to stop at a shelter for the night and because it was beginning to get dark. Bear went to check out the privy but stopped short of entering once she got a whiff. She did learn to filter our drinking water and was only an inch short of hanging the bear bag for the night. She was also fascinated with the shelter log book and wrote her own page.
Our two-person hiking tent was crowded that night with the three of us, especially since Bear took one sleeping mat and Chief and I shared the other. We chuckled as she commented how uncomfortable the tent was, but she was well rested in the morning while Chief and I hauled our aching bodies out of the tent. “Are we getting too old for this?” I thought to myself many times.
Because of a prior commitment, Bear had to get back home so we headed back up the trail. We met two thru-hikers who were south-bounding to Georgia. Bear proudly shared that this was her second day on the A.T. and the hikers were kind enough to stop and chat with her, giving some good advice about hiking. She included that information in her journal and reminded us how hungry she was, asking if we could stop at Chick-fil-A after we got back to the car. Hiker hunger is real! Bear did say she was glad we had only hiked three miles out as the trip back was tiring. Back at her home there was lots to share with her family, including the 150 photos she asked us to take of her.
I’m not sure who really enjoyed that two-day hike more, but Bear did ask for her own hiking sticks for Christmas. We happily obliged! She’s now asking when we can hike again on the Appalachian Trail this year. We will take her and maybe her little brother next time. Our other two grandchildren hiked with us up to Dragon’s Tooth a couple years ago. What a joy to see one’s family share the same love and appreciation of God’s creation that we have experienced. It’s a legacy we can certainly pass down.