By Brian Kibler
Early last spring, near my 65th birthday, I realized it was time to make that transition into retirement. But, like many people who are retiring, I had a burning question: What will I do with all of my free time once I retire? I then realized that it would be my time to catch up on the things that had accumulated on my bucket list—a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life.
When I was 12, my family traveled to the Green Mountains of southern Vermont to visit my grandparents. While we were out one evening sightseeing in the mountains, I spotted a sign that read: Appalachian Trail (AT). After learning from my grandfather about the nearly 2,200-mile trail that covered 14 states, I was quite intrigued. I told him I would hike the entire AT one day. That ambition eventually faded and was replaced by life, work commitments, house mortgages, and supporting a family.
On May 15, 2018, my dream became a reality. My AT trek began at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Hiking the AT is no walk in the park for anyone. However, being an upper-limb amputee puts me in a rare category of hikers.
I was able to complete 600 miles before falling on a remote mountainside in—of all states—Vermont. The fall resulted in a broken ankle. Six wonderful hikers spent hours helping me down that mountain to an area where search and rescue finally found us.
During my five months of recovery and rehab, I struggled with the idea of returning to finish from where I left off. I finally concluded that finishing the remaining 1,600 or so miles is a distinct possibility.
Once again, I am joining the throngs of other hikers doing what we all love best. My experiences last year were awe-inspiring. The beauty and serenity of nature is breathtaking. The people and places I visited were unforgettable. I learned a little about myself as well and had time to enjoy the peace and solitude of coexisting with nature.
For more information, visit my blog at www.trailjournals.com/kibs to view my journal entries and photos.
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
2018 HIKE TAKEAWAY
- Know and respect your limitations.
- Learn to adapt and become more resilient toward adversity. In hiker terms, “Embrace the suck!”
- Pursue your passions and you will be rewarded with a rich and fulfilled life.
- Respect gravity.
- People of the AT are incredibly awesome.
IMAGES: Images courtesy of Brian Kibler.