My Appalachian Trail Hiking Partner

Back in November on Thanksgiving my brother-in-law Joe told me his sister was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I had wanted to do this forever and as soon as I got home I contacted Lisa and offered my company for a section in Virginia. 

Lisa and I at her Kickoff fundraiser in New York.

It turned out Lisa could not pull off leaving her practice for the full six months it would require, but did arrange to carve out a month and planned to hike 500 miles.  We began emailing and looking at the calendar and ultimately decided we would hike the first 100 miles together, beginning in the middle of Shenandoah National Park.  She would continue on for three more weeks by herself trying to get to the New York border.

Lisa is a psychologist and I have promised her I would not become a patient while on the trail!  We don’t see each other often, but there is the occasional holiday or family event when we get together.  I believe we are of a similar enough temperament that we can walk together all day chatting some time, not chatting other times, camp side by side and not kill each other.  We’ll see.  The older I get the fewer people I can say that about!

Over the last few months we have been comparing notes on gear, training, food , and logistics.  As we have done so the excitement has mounted and we have both appreciated the motivation and opportunity the other one offers.

Lisa decided to use her journey to raise money for a worthy charity.  She scheduled a kickoff party in her Manhattan neighborhood; and  I was thrilled to be able to join her.  There is some irony that a month (or in my case a week) in the wilderness living out of a backpack would be launched from an Irish pub on the upper east side of Manhattan but there we were!

The charity Lisa has selected to raise money for is called “Train a Dog – Save a Warrior“, or TADSAW.  This program trains service dogs to be “battle buddies” to wounded warriors, active duty military, and veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and Military Sexual Trauma.  These conditions affect a very high percentage of returning soldiers.

Now, with the help of these trained dogs, a flashback nightmare can be detected and short-circuited, a panic attack can be averted, and a shell-shocked life on the fringe can be improved.

The night of Lisa’s kickoff party she raised enough money to fund the complete training and placement of a dog with a veteran…quite possibly saving the life of a soldier!  Donations continue to roll in and she is turning her 30 day “walk in the woods” into a gesture that will improve the quality of people’s lives.

My pack is the size of a golf bag but it’s packed and I’m ready to go!

Lisa and I got to compare final notes on the trip and since she’s family (my sister’s sister-in-law) I got to see some people I know.  It was a short overnight trip for me and one of stark contrasts.  Since the train was over $300 for a round trip, my wife and I opted for the Chinatown Bus, $44 round trip with free wifi!  Once there we stayed (on points) at the W in Union Square.  Contrasts.  For now however, both the Chinatown bus and the W will have to wait for another post. 

After decades of dreaming about it and months of planning an preparing for it, I finally am only days away from hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail!  We leave Thursday morning from Skyland Lodge in Shenandoah National Park!

π

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