Twice Blessed by the Appalachian Trail

Hiking at least part of the Appalachian Trail has been on my Life-list for at least 30 years although I still don’t have anything close to the stamina (or muscles) a trek like that would require.  Over the years, I stopped by a couple times just to taste it but it was more like a walk than a hike.

Last summer as I limped along on my arthritic knee, I vicariously hiked the AT along with Leslie Mass in her captivating book, In Beauty May She Walk (Appalachian Trail Conservatory, 2009).  Leslie details her experience hiking the whole trail (2200 miles) at age 60.   Reading her story  inspired, entertained, and challenged me to expand my comfort zones.

Shortly after finishing the book, Tom and I were on our way to Gettsyburg, PA when we saw this sign.  I practically jumped out of the car.  “There it is!  Right in front of me!  PULL OVER!”

With no place to park on this country two lane highway, my dear husband responded to my begging by dropping me off at the trail marker along with my cell phone and cute pink cane.  Like stumbling into Narnia, I was immediately enchanted and tearing up with joy; after all my longing, here I was on the Appalachian Trail.

I walked as far as I could with a cane on a rough trail then turned around and walked back to my drop off point.  I loved every minute and tried my best to lock in the sights, sounds, smells, and picked up a pinecone which still sits in my office.

The trail in front of me.  The white marker on the tree designates the AT

I switched out my knee in November and brought along the picture from the hike that day to remind me of the fun possibilities waiting on the other side of surgery.   I made small cards with verses/quotes written on them to inspire me and included one with Leslie’s name.  If she could do it, maybe I could do it…someday.

I wanted to tell Leslie how her story shaped my story but I couldn’t find her.  She doesn’t Tweet, have a web page, and seems to manage just fine without a Facebook page.  I thought about writing her in care of the publisher but that seemed so impersonal.  Sigh.

I really don’t remember if I prayed to meet her but it surely was a desire of my heart.  Imagine my delight when I discovered Leslie Mass was coming to my local public library last week to talk about her new book, Back to Pakistan: A Fifty-Year Journey.  In my excitement to meet her, I forgot my camera and my phone so no Kodak moments.

Better than a photo, we had a ten minute conversation. I gave her my gratitude, she gave me her influence… autographed my book and gave me a hug.

Thank you, Leslie, for following through on your own intentionality.  The ripple spreads.

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10 Responses to “Twice Blessed by the Appalachian Trail”


  1. 1 Valerie Hoffman March 26, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    This is beautiful, Tish! Funny, when I was a teen it was also my dream to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. I’ve never done it, of course, but I have hiked portions of it in Great Smoky Mountains National Park–though I found the other trails in that park, where Steve and I did a six-day backpacking trip back in 1986, to be more rewarding and beautiful. I have been back there to hike several times, but it never occurred to me to consider trying the entire Appalachian Trail at my advanced age (not yet 60). Perhaps I should rethink this! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

  2. 2 Letitia Suk March 26, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Valerie, Thanks for sharing. You would like her book, “In Beauty May She Walk”, that tells her story. Quite an amazing woman!

  3. 3 Cindy Nicholson March 26, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Though probably not quite as inspirational and quite a bit more profane, I also enjoyed Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods”, detailing his not-quite-all-the-way hiking of the Trail. As a kid who went to camp many summers close to it, I never realized that the Appalachian Trail extended so far north and south and that it was the stuff of dreams and books. I think that if I got in shape, hiking the part of it that runs through “my country” would be especially sweet.

  4. 4 Letitia Suk March 26, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Cindy, I loved Bill Bryson’s book too! He made it accessible to the non-athlete type such as me. Not too late for you 🙂

  5. 5 Jeanette Kercheval March 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    I can imagine the spiritual and emotional blessings were poured upon you during your walk. I know when I’ve done different trips, I would always feel fulfilled and ready to face whatever lay before me.

  6. 7 lauralea March 27, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    What a wonderful discovery reading your blog. I’m hooked!

  7. 9 Wilderness Escapades March 31, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    “In Beauty May She Walk” was one of the first books I read about hiking the Appalachian Trail – it helped ignite my white blaze fever.

    Have you ever read “Blind Courage” by Bill Irwin? It is also a fantastic book.

    “switched out my knee” – did you have a knee replacement?

  8. 10 Letitia Suk March 31, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Thanks for writing. Yes, I did have a knee replacement 4 months ago.


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