Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August 15, 2017

I just realized I did not post this on my blog last fall after I wrote it.

The Hike of 2016

As many of you know, it has been a dream of mine to hike the whole 2176 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The goal was to do it during the summer of 2017 when I turned 65 so I could be on Medicare and the government could pay the bill if I broke a hip. 

But when I found a friend who said she would do a section hike with me in the spring of 2016, I couldn’t pass that up because I didn’t know If I’d ever find someone to do the whole thing with me in 2017, and Ed said I couldn’t go alone (he is pretty smart). So, in January of 2016, Peggy and I began to plan and prepare for a section hike of the trail. We decided to do the 540 miles in Virginia, starting on May 15 in Damascus. We heard it was the easiest part and were sure we could do it in forty days.

When Ed and I were coming home from Florida on the 1st of April that year, I talked him into stopping at Amicalola Falls in Georgia where you get on the approach trail that goes to Springer Mt (the southern trailhead of the AT). I got to walk a little bit and talk to a few hikers who were starting their through hikes. Their excitement was contagious. But since only 1 out of 10 actually finishes, I wondered which ones would be in Maine in the fall. It usually takes about six months to do it all.

On May 15, as planned, Peggy and I met in Damascus, VA for the start of our hike. It just happened to be the weekend of the huge trail days celebration that is held there every year. There were hundreds of hikers there, and once again, the excitement rubbed off.

But it didn’t take too long on the trail before the excitement wore off. The evening of the second day, when I was exhausted and cold after climbing two mountains, I slipped while crossing a stream and hurt my leg. But what choice did I have but to go on. Once you’ve committed to hiking that green tunnel, you just don’t want to get off it. What an adventure those 40 days on the trail were. We did not get to backpack all 540 miles because of my old feet and tired knees, but we did do 430 miles, shuttling through the miles we missed.

When we arrived in Harpers Ferry, W.Va we were both physically exhausted and down 20 pounds. They say you burn 5000 calories a day hiking up and down mountains, and there is no way you can eat that many calories a day, especially since you have to carry your food on your back, getting off just once a week to resupply.

But it wasn’t the physical change in me that counted. It was what I brought off that trail in my heart and in my mind. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those people who was always planning for tomorrow and failing to enjoy the day I was living in. I remember living in the moment as a child, and the trail taught me to do that again.

I came away with a renewed adoration for my God too. The splendor He created for us to enjoy is so varied. We see it, not just in nature but in our fellow human beings. There were only a few nights when I couldn’t sleep in my tent on the trail and had to sleep in a shelter with strangers from all over the country. One night it was me and Peggy, a lawyer, a laid off coal miner, a kid who was going to medical school in the fall, an 18 year old girl who was hiking the trail alone and a young married couple on their honeymoon. Talk about diversity and beauty! I was reminded often that we are not to judge others because we have not walked in their shoes and we don’t know where they have come from.

In September, I talked my husband into taking me to Baxter State Park in Maine so I could climb the mountain and the northern terminus of that magnificent trail. I had been to the start of the trail in April, hiked the middle for 40 days and I needed to put the finish on this experience.
On a clear beautiful day, I hiked 5 ½ miles to Baxter Peak on Katahdin Mountain in Maine. They say if you can climb it, you can climb any mountain on the trail. It’s probably true, I could barely walk the day after that climb. It was excrutiating! But, having been through childbirth, I can say it was a little like that. When you go through it, you feel like you are going to die, but when it’s all over, you know it’s been worth it. From the summit of Katahdin Mountain, I had a 360 degree view. From that point on earth I could see other mountains and valleys around me and beautiful lakes at my feet. I’ve never experience anything so breathtaking (except my own newborn babies).

But what made it especially moving for me was a young couple who joined me there. They had started in Georgia in April, hiked the same 430 miles in the middle that I hiked, and now they were here at the end with me. I did not hike all 2176 miles with them, but I got to celebrate the end of their trip with them. And it felt like I was at the end of my journey too. 

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.” - Henry Van Dyke 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I'm Not Where I Planned to be Today

April 18, 2017 12:30 P.M.

 I had planned on sleeping at Tray Mountain Shelter (mile marker 58.6) on the Appalachian trail last night and should be climbing Powell Mountain right about now. 

But life doesn’t always turn out like we plan, does it? Instead of sumiting Powell Mountain today, I am sitting in the most comfortable chair in my living room. Not because I want to be here, it’s because I have no choice. 

After almost two years of planning a through hike on the Appalachian trail this year, I am now planning to have surgery on my back in a few weeks. 

Since a fall in December, I’ve known I would not be hiking today. I spent the winter in Florida and was not able to do my favorite thing there…walk the beautiful beaches. I could get as far as the car to the water’s edge and the pain in my back, left hip and leg would stop me. At first I thought it would go away with some rest, but that didn’t happen. 

The emotional struggle of this has been as real as the physical pain. I am one of those fortunate women who has not had to deal with much physical pain in my life.  I have tried to maintain a healthy life style and walking has been a huge part of that. So, in the past four months I’ve questioned God many times about this. Why? Why now? Is there some reason why you wanted me home this year, instead of on the trail? 

I don’t have the complete answer yet, but I think I have part of it. First, it’s given me some insight into the lives of those who have or are suffering from chronic pain. My heart goes out to them as I realize how it can consume their lives, and many times it keeps them trapped in bodies that do not work as they should. 

But even more important…God is giving me a lesson in submission.  The act of yielding to and accepting the will of a superior authority is not easy for many of us. (especially when it involves physical pain) But, I’m beginning to see that there is something else God wants me to do in the next six months when I thought I would be hiking. Now I pray for wisdom and His leading as I tackle the job He has set before me. If you think of me in the months ahead, will you also pray that I not only heal quickly but that I continue to follow in the path that God has directed me to follow…and that isn’t the Appalachian Trail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A New Reason to Sing

posted originally on 11/7/13

Grandbaby number nine finally arrived. Naomi Adelle is healthy, weighing in at ten pounds and one ounce. Mommy is fine, too. but very tired.

Gramma is on cloud nine with another baby to love and cuddle. I've been told by my three girls that this will be my last grandbaby, (they've each given me three) so I intend to cuddle this one as much as possible. Not that I didn't cuddle the other ones at every opportunity.

As I sat and held Naomi last evening, I cried. But then, that's nothing new either. I cried the first time I held the other ones as infants. They are always tears of joy. Part of the joy I feel is because my daughter has come safely through a pregnancy and delivery. As a nurse, I am well aware that it doesn't always happen that way. I'm grateful for God's goodness.

I cried because I know this little girl is joining a wonderful family. She has a strong, generous dad, a loving, sensitive mom, and an older brother and sister who are going to be her forever playmates. Most important, she is part of a family that will teach her about God and His love for her. She will be taken to church and be taught that being good is the only way to happiness.

Selfishly, some of the tears of joy are for me. I have loved babies for as long as I can remember. I don't remember when my first two brothers were born, I was only fourteen months and three and half, but I do remember when my mom put my third brother in my arms. I was seven at the time, and can still remember the sense of wonder I felt as I held him, and fell in love with him. A year later, when I held my baby sister, I was overjoyed. She was my very own little doll. Yes, I do love babies. They make me happy.

The other tears of joy I cried last evening were for Naomi. I cried because she is healthy and beautiful. And I cried because I know she's a special child of God, and He has a plan for her life. As long as I'm her Gramma, I will pray that God will bless her, and that she will choose to stay close to the One who created her.

But I didn't cry for very long last night, because the joy in my heart also brought laughter to my lips. As I watched her make her funny baby faces, I had to smile. Once she puckered, and another time she opened one eye, as if she was just looking to see who the funny old woman was who was crying and laughing intermittently.

Then, just as I was getting ready to sing her my "You are my sunshine" song, I realized I was too late. There were other people in her life who had reason to sing. The big sister who had expressed her hesitance at giving up her "baby" position in her family, broke out in song. It was a song that welcomed this new little one into all our lives.

Our baby Naomi, who gives her Gramma a reason to cry, also gives her, and others a reason to laugh and sing.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Wow! It's been a long time since I've posted anything on here. Perhaps this entry will help explain why.

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with journeys. The very first journey I remember was going to Grandma’s house. She lived far enough away that it was always an overnight trip. At the time, it was the destination(Grandma’s arms) rather than the travel that appealed to me, probably because I had to share the back seat of the car with my three brothers. Baby sister was in the front seat.

When I was old enough to read, my favorite books usually involved someone going somewhere. Little Heidi took a trip to see her grandfather in Switzerland and was in awe of where he lived and his simple lifestyle. Then I discovered the books about families going west in the 1800’s to find new homes. Their journeys were difficult ones and I marveled that their dreams and goals were so important that they faced many dangers to reach them. Many of them walked all the way across the country with limited resources and fewer comforts. Their courage inspired me.

My parents were not rich, but they made sure our family took a few journeys. We went camping in Kentucky for several years, living in a pop-up camper and living on fried potatoes and the fish we caught. It was the simple life…the kind that minimalist now days only dream about.

As a young mom, I loved to watch “Little House on the Prairie” with my kids and was amazed at the courage of the Ingalls family as they lived with only the bare necessities of life after they traveled to their dream.

Then it was my turn to start taking trips with my family. We did the camping thing too, then graduated to condos, hotels and even a cruise. Those journeys took us to some interesting destinations and family time I will never forget.

Then there was the trip of a lifetime when my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. We climbed on his Harley and went all the way to the Pacific Ocean, taking with us again, only the the bare essentials. Now that trip was more about the journey than the destination.

There are emotional journeys too. There are those paths that take us through bad times like grief, disappointment and financial stress. And, some that take us to the very pinnacle of happiness.
There are journeys through the phases of our lives. Marriage, parenthood and retirement are just a few.

Probably the most meaningful journey throughout my life has been my spiritual one. I’ve learned that if I’m not moving closer to God, I’m drifting away from Him. There doesn’t seem to be a holding pattern in that journey.

In the past couple of years, I’ve journeyed through a difficult time. It’s been a time of transition and there have been major losses that resulted in intense grief. There has been disillusionment and what felt like betrayal. The transition from a career I loved to being retired was unexpectantly difficult. 
Fear and anxiety from a combination of situations pushed me to the edge of clinical depression that resulted in a lack of pleasure in life, and the disappearance of the creativity that had always helped to define who I was.

But there were slivers of unbelievable joy that shone on me through that difficult time and they helped to save me. Watching my children become successful, not only in their careers but in their personal lives as wives and mothers brought a sense of satisfaction and pride. Just being a grandparent brought me indescribable joy and the patience of my lifelong companion brought a sense of security. The support and prayer of some special friends and family was invaluable. Most of all, it was the unfailing faithfulness of my Shepherd who has walked through every valley with me that helped me through the darkness.

As I come out of that dark time, I am planning a journey that I never thought I would be able to take. Because I’m a lover of natural beauty and simplicity, and because my enjoyment of walking (that has helped to keep me healthy at the age of 64), I am going to endeavor to do what those inspiring pioneers of old once did. I’m going to walk across part of our beautiful country. On May 15, I’m going to begin a section hike of the Appalachian trail. A friend with a mutual desire will go with me on my forty days in the wilderness. If you know your Bible, you know that 40 days in the wilderness can result in some drastic changes in a life. I am open to whatever lies ahead.

If you’d like to follow me on this journey, you can do so by reading my Appalachian Trail journal at the following website.I would suggest you read the "about" section first and then start at my first entry on the prehike part of the journal.

© Brenda J. Young