2023 turned out to be a challenging year, but not in the way that I expected.
A week before I was due to fly to America to hike the Appalachian Trail, I got a call to say that my 84-year old mum had suffered a stroke, and the prognosis wasn’t good. Needless to say, all thoughts of going hiking were immediately put on hold and my plans for the year were lost in a flurry of hospital visits and making provisional plans for Mum’s care. When I called to cancel my plane tickets I was asked if I wanted to transfer to a later date, but with Mum hanging on in there in a severely disabled state, I had no idea when I would be free to spend six months away from England.
Mercifully for Mum, she died just two weeks after her stroke, shortly after getting home from hospital. My sister and I were able to spend time with her at the end, and we were comforted to know what it was what she would have wanted, rather than lingering on.
My employers were very understanding about the whole situation – I had handed in my notice and only had two days left to work when the call came, but they immediately took me back on and put me straight onto compassionate leave so that I could spend time with Mum. I’m immensely grateful to them, but I can’t pretend it hasn’t been a challenge to re-find my motivation in my job when all I wanted to do this year was hike.
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I haven’t totally shelved my hiking plans. So I am really, really happy to announce that Neil and I are planning to hike the Appalachian Trail together next year, thus completing our Triple Crown, having hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012 and the Continental Divide Trail in 2018. We’re hoping to start the AT in March. I’m trying hard not to get too excited – after this year I know all too well that sometimes fate intervenes and everything changes. But fingers crossed that come the spring we’ll be stepping out together on the trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia, heading for Mount Katahdin in Maine, 2200 miles away. I can’t wait!