And Suddenly…9 States Down

Last April when Will and I were hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee, we met two thru-hikers named Stoat and Poppins. We didn’t talk to them for very long, but it was my first introduction to these interesting creatures with backpacks and trail names, so it stuck with me. What these girls were doing sounded crazy to me. After spending one night in the woods and pushing through a hard hike that day, I couldn’t wait to get home to rest, eat, and shower. The idea that their hike wouldn’t end for another five MONTHS was unfathomable to me.


Later that year, maybe in September, I thought about Stoat and Poppins again and wondered if they had finished the trail. A quick Google search showed that they had! The hiker gals had made it to Maine and were giving a talk at their church about the experience. I immediately thought back on my life over the past five months… and how long ago that Tennessee hike felt. I could not believe that while everything else was happening in my own life and in the world that spring, through the summer, and into the fall, they were just waking up every day and hiking. Every day for five months.

As I prepare to visit Will up north this coming weekend, it’s hard to believe he has been away for so long. In some ways the time has passed quickly, but when I think back to February 27th, it seems ages away. A thousand things have happened since then, big and small. I got a flat tire. I got a new job. I graduated from Leadership Winston-Salem, a program I started last October. My sister Kati lived with me for a while, and then moved out into her own (her very first!) apartment. I took on a new freelance job as editor of a magazine. Three friends got married (and another couple will get married before Will returns). One of my friends gave birth to her second child; another to her first.

Life moves fast! A lot has happened with Will too, as you can probably imagine. He’s traveled through 9 states and is in the 10th – Connecticut – right now. He’ll be in Massachusetts by the time I get there on Thursday. Check out the photos here for a peek into his everyday life!

1,483 miles down, 705 to go!




The Middle Days of Virginia

When you’re not “just getting started,” you’re not “almost finished,” and you’re not technically “half way” either, you’re just in the middle.

That’s where Will is… somewhere in Virginia, somewhere in the middle of his journey.

va ridge

These are the days I thought about in February when Will got serious about this idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I thought the middle days would drain him, bore him, and leave him thinking that it wasn’t worth the effort. I knew he would still be running on adrenaline in the beginning, with lots of visits from family and friends and the thrill of something new pushing him forward. But the middle (cue Jimmy Eat World early 2000s) would kill his motivation.

I was sure of this…

…and I was wrong. I have learned from watching Will that the middle isn’t all bad, in hiking and in life. Here’s why:

1) You learn as you go. Will has learned so much through trial and error and is able to put that knowledge to use now. He’s got this backpacking thing down to a science, which makes things easier and more enjoyable than they were in the beginning.

2) It grows on you. Over time, being an AT hiker has become Will’s “new normal.” He enjoys his routine and the hiking community he has embraced. He’s used to trail living now and when he breaks in a town, something feels “off” until he gets back into his natural habitat.

3) You’ve got more to lose. Will would have a lot to lose by quitting at this point. All of the work he’s put in thus far, all of the people who are rooting for him… simple math proves that you’ve got more to lose in the middle than you do in the beginning. That’s strong motivation.

Of course there are days that are challenging for him, and there is a reason hikers have coined the term “the Virginia Blues.” There are times of frustration, boredom, and all of the things I imagined there would be. But I thought Will would want to quit after three weeks, and he hasn’t even had the thought of quitting yet, over two months in. I think sometimes we can get caught up in our thoughts about how we think something is, or might be, or should be- but the only way to actually know is to get outside of your thoughts and experience it. Thinking is helpful only up to a point… and I’m not always right. That’s both humbling and freeing to me. That’s what I’ve learned in the middle.


Will/Root Beard is at mile 800-something. He is headed for Waynesboro, VA where he will take a day off on Monday to rest his feet and dry out his gear after a long week of downpours and thunderstorms. After that he will head into the second (and final) National Park on the AT, Shenandoah National Park.

I’ll keep you posted! More photos and updates are on Instagram: @thetreelogs. Also, if you’re in the Forsyth County, NC area, check out the May issue of Forsyth Woman magazine for our story (it’s right smack dab in the middle)!