I have shared before that two books greatly impacted my decision to hike the Appalachian Trail. The first was Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis and the second was A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt. I was able to meet Jennifer this fall in Cincinnati as she shared her story at Benchmark Outfitters. She did not disappoint my high expectation of her character and humility. This past Saturday I was able to hear Jeff Alt speak at The Adventure Summit at Wright State University. The Summit was sponsored by WSU and Five Rivers MetroParks. It was an outstanding event embracing two days of workshops, clinics, and fitness sessions. Topics included hiking, snorkeling, cycling, kayaking, wilderness medicine, rock climbing, SCUBA diving, and more.
I had a date with a trail on Saturday afternoon but Cathy and I made a short morning stop at WSU and experienced the Summit for a couple of hours. My primary focus was to hear Jeff Alt. His presentation was one of the best I have heard regarding the Appalachian Trail. Jeff thru-hiked the AT in 1998. His adventure took 147 days, he averaged 17 miles per day, and he hiked through three pairs of boots. His pack weighed in at 50 pounds and he lost 30 pounds of body weight during the trek. He started his hike on March 1st and reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin on July 25th.
Jeff was an outstanding speaker filling his presentation with humor, facts, personal experiences, and a historical perspective. He shared about spending the night with a skunk, eating lunch with a rattlesnake, a photo shoot with a bear and a near head-on collision with a moose. He communicated his struggles with blisters, days of rain, bugs, pain, and hunger. At the end of his talk he delineated some of the life lessons he learned from the trail. Three really rang true for me. One – humor can spread a smile over the difficult times. I love to laugh and I often deal with stress by finding the humor in the situation. On a recent hike I found myself doing a face-plant after tripping on a sneaky root. My initial reaction to the fall (after concluding that I was not injured) was to laugh at my lack of balance and my inability to jump up because
of the 30 pound pack on my back. Two – the simplest things can serve as the biggest rewards. It was in Jeff’s book that I read and adopted the philosophy (and I hope the practice) of finding something to celebrate every day. Three – go after your dreams now! 2200 miles when you are 22 years old is a challenge – 2200 miles when you are 64 years old is crazy. But God has blessed me with a healthy body, a wacky sense of humor, a positive determination, and a sense of His call to make this journey…..now!
I had the opportunity to share with Jeff after his workshop. I wanted him to know the impact of his book in my life and my plan to thru-hike in 2014. He was so gracious and genuinely interested in my adventure.
Jeff, thanks so much for your presentation, your enthusiasm, and your walk for sunshine. (www.awalkforsunshine.com)