Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"Spoons" and the Appalachian Trail


This blog post is a bit unusual. It does not simply report on our travels across the US in our coach, my misadventures, or other daily travails. Rather, it celebrates a young woman who recently completed one of the most strenuous and iconic backpacking trails in the world. "Spoons" (also known as "Amanda" to her family and friends), is the granddaughter of one of our dear friends, Colette Sasina, back in The Villages. Back in April, Colette alerted me to Amanda's decision to hike the Appalachian Trail ("the AT"), a 2,189 mile trail that runs through 14 states from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. 













Needless to say, I was jealous, because it's an adventure I have long wanted to attempt. It's also one that my daughter Susan, who was struck and killed by lightning in 2006, wanted to do, as a daughter and dad team. Regrettably, we were unable to make it happen before she died. A post written by one of Spoons' friends, "Defib", took my breath away... "A Reminder of Life. I came upon a live tree in the middle of nowhere decorated for Christmas. Ornaments adorned the tree. As I looked closer I found an ornament with the picture of a child... a child who had passed away too soon. The tree was dedicated to a child named Max. On the ground was a book in a large Ziplock bag. I opened it. It was filled with messages to Max from those who passed this spot. Spoons, Ghost, Rhodo, Sunshine... they were all in there. Gone were the normal humorous comments, the off-color remarks. They were replaced by sincere reflections of hikers affected by the loss of this unknown child." It was especially poignant to me, having lost a child, and reminds us all that no matter how different we all are, we are brought together by personal tragedy and love.




When Colette first told me about Amanda, I thought that this may have been a recent (perhaps even "rash"?) decision; she is now 20, and many college-age thru-hikers do the AT on the spur of the moment. I was astounded to see a photo of "Spoons" at an AT signpost at 12 and 20, side by side, which proves she had been planning this for years! How many people can say that they have followed their dreams as did Amanda?

















For those who are unfamiliar with how hard this hike is, a few statistics are in order. In the AT Thru-hikers Class of 2018, approximately 2,800 hikers registered but only 20% or so will complete the distance (there are still a few weeks left, but the season is almost over). Only 25% on average are women. By the way, Spoons completed the hike in less than 5 months, an average of about 15 miles per day, inclusive of time off-trail for injuries, finding food in remote locations, helping injured friends, etc. Most AT through-hikers take 6 months, and wear out 4-5 pair of hiking shoes/boots. As to sleeping arrangements, the choices are either a tent, tarp or 3-sided wood shelter that may be populated by more mice than snoring hikers.  


  


















An AT hiker consumes about 5,500 calories per day (that's 11 Big Macs), and still has a calorie deficiency, and loses about 30 lbs during the five to six months it takes. It's no wonder that kale and quinoa are not the most favored foods... but ice cream, pizza and Lil Debbies Cakes are!




















Having hiked part of the AT, I envy Spoons' perseverance. The heavily forested parts of the Trail are often called the Green Tunnel, because viewpoints are few and far between, especially down South. But the occasional vistas are rewarding. 





















In July, Spoons reached Mt. Katahdin, in Baxter State Park, Maine. A remote location, it's one of those places that even some Mainers say, "Ya' can't get thea' from hea'." I'm sure she was glad to have good weather - it can snow almost any time on Katahdin - but because she was hiking FAST, Amanda got there before the snows arrived. Does she look happy, or what?


















Such an accomplishment is best shared with family and friends, and Amanda/Spoons was joined on Mt. Katahdin by many of those, including "One-T", her trail team partner. He summited the same day within minutes of her, filmed her arrival at the summit, and is in the picture with his dad... a very happy ending for a long, arduous summer. Now back at William and Mary, you have to let us know... Amanda, what's on for your next challenge???









5 comments:

  1. Wow, what an adventure and achievement! Thanks for sharing this with us, Ty.

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  2. Thanks for bringing this one forward. If I were in position I would hire this lady today. Someone like that is the employee I want!!!!

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  3. What a remarkable young woman. Thank you for sharing her story. That bit about the tree and the child gave me truth shivers. Beautiful story.

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  4. Heartfelt appreciation for celebrating and sharing "Spoons' " Appalachian Trail Thru Hike adventure. Blog beautiful; a treasure, just like "Spoons."

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  5. Great story of perseverance! Brings back fond memories of working as a Wilderness Ranger in Oregon when first starting my career. If she can be that motivated, there is a bright future ahead for her!

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