2019: We planned to go in August, shortly before moving apartments against our will, and only a couple of weeks before kid was due to start college. But, just a few days beforehand, my stepfather-- who'd been part of my family since I was four years old-- began to die. He was old, but the timing was still unexpected. We went home to be with him, then stayed through the funeral. After the funeral, it was time to pack, to get kid through their driver's license test, to move, to pack again for college. The hike had to be postponed till 2020.
2020: Kid came home in March, college having closed due to covid. There ensued a very long period of time in which nobody in the household was working, and kid was also home from school much of the time. We could easily have gone backpacking, except that the C&O Canal decided that providing water to their pumps along the trail was somehow... not covid-safe? The entire season, no water. So the hike was postponed until May 2021, when hopefully they would turn the pumps back on.
May 2021 came around and, at the last moment, they did turn the pumps on. But, by the time we knew for sure, kid was going back to school soon (atypical summer session added due to covid), having wisdom teeth out, and we were hunting for apartments again (and again against our will). No time, many tears. How about September?
These years have provided, if nothing else, valuable lessons in flexibility. But I am so glad we were finally able to go. It felt like unfinished business, between us and the trail, and also between me and kid. The original timing, prior to college, had been an appropriate coming-of-age, a launch. Covid delayed and complicated that launch. Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. How to live in a series of two-bedroom apartments with your unemployed parents when you long desperately to be with your friends, to engage in activities, to be your adult self in the world. Even though the delays are externally-imposed, you begin to doubt yourself: do you have what it takes to grow up? What has happened to your toughness and independence-- is it still in there?
The trail said it was.
I'm proud of myself, also. I'm 49, will be 50 in less than two months, which is a terrifying prospect. There is no sense in which I am still young. I've let my hair go gray. I've had foot problems over the past few years, sometimes back pain, knee pain, aches and pains. When I first put my pack back on, I was shocked by how heavy it felt. I'm going to do what? Hike 62 miles carrying this thing? But we put one foot in front of another, and prepared carefully with some nice anti-blister hiking socks, and we did it. Even cheerfully, the majority of the time.
We spent 3 out of 4 nights tent camping in the small hiker-biker campsites, like this: