Tired and bruised but happy
ASPEN Roaring Fork Valley resident Mary Lynn Munro mostly has recovered from the rigors of hiking the Appalachian Trail for six and a half months.The rather serious facial injuries she sustained in a fall one day in Virginia, after her hiking pole broke, have healed, leaving behind a few scarcely noticeable scars.Shes regained a little of the weight she lost over the course of the walk, and feels shes just about at her proper fighting trim right now.I weighed 118 pounds when I started out, I got down to 97 pounds, and now Im at 104, she said. I feel good at that weight.And while she is not likely ever to repeat the walk from Georgia to Maine, she already is thinking about other, similar trails along the rim of the Pacific Coastal Range and the Continental Divide.Im in tears and smiling at the same time, its such a relief to be off the trail, Munro said, explaining that the hike was the hardest thing Ive done in my whole life.But at the same time, she said, she learned a lot about her own limits and abilities, as well as about the helpful and compassionate nature of people in general, through the relationships and interactions she encountered along the way.You do become connected, she said, referring to the fact that through hikers, as those who go the entire distance are called, get to know each other as they move along and provide aid when needed.Some of those she met and befriended sported nicknames such as Serene, a man who lives on Prince Edward Island in Canada; Bogey & Bacall, a couple making the hike together for the second time; Peregrine, a woman raising money for a girls school in Africa; Zero-Zero, who is legally blind in both eyes.Munro, who has lived in the valley for decades with her musician husband, Sandy, turned 65 while she was on the AT [as the hikers call it in shorthand]. She undertook the 2,100-mile-plus hike as a celebration of that birthday and a personal challenge she had been dreaming about for years.She knew it would be difficult, she said shortly before leaving, but now that shes back she realizes that even though she was prepared, she did not fully understand what she was letting herself in for, nor what kind of recovery she would be facing.My toes are still a little bit numb, she said ruefully this week, noting that walking 15 to 20 miles a day typically gives hikers a lot to talk about around the campfires at night.We would joke about the pain du jour, whether it was a hip, or an ankle, or the toes, whatever, Munro recalled of the nights spent in the shelters constructed along the trail by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy [appalachiantrail.org], where she would commiserate with other hikers and share tales, food and other comforts.Along the trail she encountered two snakes a timber rattler and a copperhead from a safe enough distance while traversing Virginia; met a couple of bears, one of which snagged her entire food-bag from a tree branch and cost her $175 in replacement costs for gear and food; and jammed a finger so badly she and a hiking companion had to find a hacksaw and cut her wedding ring off to let the swelling go down.She shivered in a minus-two-degrees Fahrenheit snowstorm in the Georgia mountains, and learned a new meaning for an acronym that is fairly familiar to Aspen area land-use experts the PUD. Instead of meaning a planned unit development, as it does in local government circles, she said, PUDs in AT lingo refers to pointless ups and downs that one deals with along many stretches of the trail.As far as safety is concerned, Munro said, I never really felt uncomfortable in the woods, but sometimes would experience minor anxiety as she approached civilization or encountered others on the trail who somehow seemed shifty or off.And at one point, she said, she returned to Colorado after two men were shot while fishing near a section of trail she was about to get to, and a woman was raped after being picked up while hitchhiking on a road near the AT.The shooter of the two men, who turned out to have killed a pair of female hikers 20 years ago and was just been released from prison, was himself killed during a manhunt. And the alleged rapist was arrested, as well.And Munro, after being home for a few days, told her husband she had to get back to the trail.I told Sandy, I have to go back, I cant let this go, she recalled. I wasnt going to let myself be chased off the trail.Her gear performed very well, she said, and she wore out two pairs of hiking boots in the process of completing the trail, a feat that is accomplished by an estimated 20 percent of the 4,000 or so who take to the AT each year.If you want to do the trail, she advised others, as much reading, as much research, as much testing of stuff as you can do, will make it so your chances of finishing will be much better.She would recommend the experience to any who want to give it a try, she said. While it took a lot out of her, she was left with just unbelievable memories and a growing scrapbook culled from her on-line journals and photographs.And she expects to maintain contact with a number of those she met and walked with, visiting them where they live and inviting them to come to see Colorado.Looking back on it all, she said, Theres something about being out there on the trail, the simplicity, everything that I need is on my back. You relish that time.Mary Lynn Munros on-line AT journal can be found http://www.trailjournals.com/ravon/, will be giving a Potbelly Perspective talk at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies on Feb. firstname.lastname@example.org
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