Dulcigal, Karla Redman from Jackson. Georgia, is attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Stepping out from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 13, Dulcigal made solid progress through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As she entered Virginia (the state with the most miles on the AT), she faced 550 miles of trail before reaching West Virginia. She entered the Shenandoah Nation Park and had conquered 469 miles of Virginia and then, it happened…. On June 19 (day 99 of the adventure) at 4:00 in the morning, Dulcigal woke up with intense pain from kidney stones – it was a debilitating case of kidney stones that resulted in an emergency room visit, two days in ICU, and a trip back home for recuperation.
Honestly, I did not think she would return to the trail, but her resolve is more than incredible. Less than a month after the episode, she is back on the path. On July 12, she returned to mile marker 932 and the trail head at Pinnacles Picnic Area with her two sons to continue the quest for Maine, Mount Katahdin, and the brown sign marking the northern terminus of this very long trail.
Dulicgal has posted several times since resuming her trek. The entry dated July 13 records that her hike through the Shenandoah Mountains was complete. She loved this part of the hike (as did I) with the beauty and freshness of the mountain canopy, but she was pretty excited, anticipating her arrival at Harpers Ferry, WV – only 54 miles away. During her time away from the trail, she lost some of the endurance and strength gained from hiking 930 miles, but she posted that each day was bringing more energy.
July 18 found Dulci at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV. She got the traditional photograph taken and entered into the historical record of thru-hikers of 2016. When I arrived here in 2014, the date was June 30 and I was hiker number 924 – Dulci’s official number was 1,436. There are definitely lots of hikers on the trail this year.
Her sons (Jeremiah and Isaac) were able to hike with their mom all week to help her get a safe start back on the path. They returned home when the trio arrived at Harpers Ferry, but Dulcigal decided to stay in West Virginia a couple of days to allow a pulled muscle to recover. She had hiked 87 miles in 5 days but it was the 13.5 mile “Roller Coaster” (endless ups and downs), climaxing the end of the hike through Virginia, that tested her trail legs.
Dulci’s journal on July 20 relates a special story of receiving and carrying a dulcimer along the trail. She got the instrument in Waynesboro and began playing it some during her hike in the Shenandoahs. She shared that she played it every day in Harpers Ferry. I just love this part of her entry, “After the boys left, I carried the dulcimer with me when I went into town in case an opportunity arose to play. One of those times I came across an elderly lady sitting at a park picnic table. She was waiting on her son and his wife to finish a day hike. It didn’t take me long to realize she had some dementia and was struggling with general conversation. When I played her music on the dulcimer, her entire countenance changed. It was a blessing to me to see her enjoy such a simple gift.”
July 26 is the date of her most current post. She is in Boiling Springs (one of my favorite trail towns along the AT), having passed by the true half-way point of the AT in Pine Grove Furnace State Park and having walked over 1100 trail miles. She continues to gain strength and to make adjustments to the physical demands of the adventure. On the down side, the past week has been quite tough mentally. The hiking community she knew before leaving the trail is now 300 miles ahead of her. She is really missing her children after spending 3 weeks with them during recovery. And the heat, humidity, and bugs have made the recent days rather difficult.
She writes, “Now I understand the mental challenge piece of the hike. Getting to the halfway point sign at 1094 miles was not exciting to me. I’m ONLY HALFWAY!!! I still have 1094 miles to go!!!! That’s what was going through my mind.”
She began to reflect back on her excitement about returning to the trail. She experienced several deep conversations with herself and with God to sort through the distracting mental struggles and frustrations. She found strength in the ordeal with the kidney stones and being convinced that her journey was not over. She concludes her past journal entry with this insight: “We may not always understand the hills and the valleys in our lives, but we must still go on.”
Keep on hiking on, Dulci!