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back where we left off

I popped out on this road near Caratunk in June and came home to get cancer treatments.

It’s early. 8:30, a half hour before hiker midnight with only a sliver of light in the gloaming.

I’m cuddled in after a long day of flying. It’s not easy to get back to this spot on US Route 201 at the edge of Caratunk, Maine.

When I was here last, it was cold and raining. I had good intentions – and time – to march onwards into the Bigelows. But doctors appointments awaited me at home and a fellow hiker and cancer survivor staying at this same hostel encouraged me to take the time to pull together a support system.

I’m lucky Susan was here in June to give me that wise advice as the rain lashed. Now, I’m back and the high, exposed ridge of mountains awaits, this time under clear skies and a healing body.

Earlier this morning, the first leg of my journey took me through Chicago. My layover was nearly four hours, so my big brother Andrew drove out to O’Hare to meet me for breakfast.

We love to talk with the topics careening from science to art, music, politics and philosophy. After copious cups of coffee, we become more animated and silly, driving our points home through the use of metaphors that require acting and sound effects.

The good people at the Hilton Bar & Restaurant did not even glance our way.

What I love most about Andrew is that he can be wild and zany yet quickly veer into topics more serious, lending them the gravitas they deserve.

My big brother Andrew Young who I can talk to about anything and laugh heartily about everything.

He asked me about something he’s been thinking about: measuring engagement and its rewards as we and what we value grows and changes.

Specifically he wondered how I’d tackle the trail. “Would you ever consider just camping by a lake for a week?”

Of course that’s antithetical to the thru-hiker ethos of ‘bagging miles.’ And even for me, I love how the environment changes as I proceed with surprises lurking around each bend so would likely keep moving.

He added that if anyone had the right to take things slow, I certainly do in light of recent events.

But setting aside the physical aspect, he got me thinking what will change in my approach to these coming weeks and miles? How will I ‘hike my own hike’ and allow for my own power to be defined by how I choose to enter this space?

To be honest, I did not arrive here with a clear picture of what that will look like. Everything happened so suddenly, I’m still in shock and processing what my cancer adventure means – if anything.

I was slightly panicked getting back on a plane like nothing ever happened, wondering if I still have the spark in me to find bliss in hiking.

Andrew’s query opened up the possibility of not knowing what things will look like until I take that first step, and being ok with that.

As I close my eyes on the day and the sky goes dark, I’m reminded that the sun will come up tomorrow. I will pack my bag on a fresh new day and do with it whatever I like.

Who knows what the measure will be of my engagement and subsequent rewards. All I know for sure is I’m ready and willing.

Sunsets give us so much pleasure not only because they’re colorful and lovely to look at, but because we know the sun will come up tomorrow.

9 Responses

  1. I shouldn’t be-but am-that you have hit the trail (your trail) so soon .
    High mountains and cold, winter weather await. I know you can do it! But is okay to stop for awhile.
    All the best.
    PS. Midwest Mountaineering has closed. It was my home away from home.

  2. Alison,
    You are such an inspiration! Will be taking my first solo backpacking trip to Spain on the Camino de Santiago in 2024. Prayers for you on this next chapter of your hiking adventure!

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