The Other Side

by Jennie


My life’s journey took a different path this spring. Many athletes peace out to a tropical resort destination after Spring Series, because there is only a short time frame where we are allotted to do whatever the heck we want. Once my UVM college buddy, Katie, talked to me about how she was thru hiking the AT this summer and could  use some company, I decided to heft on (because “throw on” is most definitely not the term to be used)  a 50lb backpack and join her for a month in the woods. It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Spring is a time to “refill the well”, as my old coach Fred used to call it. Many times, it’s more mental than physical. When Katie told me about this trip last summer, I thought to myself, “huh, yeah, I should join her for some of it, that would be good of me to do”.  I have never backpacked before, and, truthfully, had never spent more than one night consecutively camping. Minor detail. A willing participant can learn anything. I was non committal about the duration of my hike. ”One week? Nah, once I meet up with you  (however that’s going to be), it should be longer. Two weeks? I mean I guess, but why not just make it a month?” Suddenly, it was April and sh*t got real. I bought my plane ticket to Charlotte NC, and had two weeks post Alaska races to collect literally everything together, since I hadn’t been home to Bozeman since January. I found three suitable roommates for my house, caught up on work, caught up on Bozeman, and crammed in as much work as possible before going into the woods with limited cell service and no internet. No biggie, totally manageable…

My dad always says I “cram 10lbs of sh*t in a 5lb bag”. See, I just find the result of that to be  a) occasional mental breakdowns and c) the metephorical 5lb bag stretches to about a 7 or 8 lb bag, and when you throw some stuff over your shoulder instead of putting it in the bag, you’re now very uncomfortable but able to carry 10lbs of sh*t. Problem solved! (Disclaimer, I find no PG  word substitute for sh*t. “Stuff”, does not suffice. Therefore, pretend I’m talking about poop in a very angry way, and not as a swear.  Because I’m a professional here, I don’t swear.)

Finally, I was as ready as I was going to be, after packing and unpacking my beastly pack until 3am, when I  got up at 4:30am to take a taxi to the airport. “My plan is to live simply”, I decided.  Ideally, this month would be cheaper than if I stayed in Bozeman.

A little more than a month later, I am sitting here on a computer in my  home in Vermont. I came home in time for Mothers Day, and one of my best friends wedding. There is a strong dislike for modern technology seeded in my soul, however, I have decided that I will keep skiing, so reality calls  and I must head back to work. Over the next few months, I will tell you my stories, my lessons, and why I must find my way back to the trail at some point.

To be continued…

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