Every journey begins with a single step -- onto the Wii balance board
Buzz Trexler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recently, I loaded up the Wii Fit and stepped on the balance board and joyfully discovered that I had lost about six pounds since I last weighed in months ago, currently tipping the scales at a not-so-firm 230 pounds with a body mass index (BMI) of 32.22.
Three days later, I found that holiday food added two more pounds to my frame and increased my BMI to 32.5.
“This is not good,” I told myself. “I’m heading in the wrong direction!”
Heading in the right direction is extremely important, particularly if you’re planning on hiking nearly 60 miles through a section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on The Appalachian Trail -- which, Lord willing, I’m planning to do in the coming spring.
It’s a continuation of a journey that began nearly 25 years ago when a friend of mine, Steven Gilreath, and I talked about someday hiking along The AT with our sons. Alas, the Gilreaths’ military career took them around the world and it was decades before we talked about it again.
By fall 2009, Steven was retired from the Army and flying a medical transport helicopter in Glasgow, Ky. During a visit, Steve shared with me that he was planning on taking some friends on an AT hike near Roan Mountain.
The timing was right.
I had just watched “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” and was ashamed at how little I had traversed this beautiful backyard -- unless, of course, it was inside the confines of an automobile.
So, just after Christmas 2009, I began preparing for what was to be a three-day Memorial Day weekend hike on The AT with Steven, his Kentucky friends, my son, David, and a longtime friend of his named Cole. We were to begin at Hughes Gap in Upper East Tennessee and end at Apple House Shelter, a journey of about 17½ miles.
At the time, I was closing in on 240 pounds and obviously not in the best shape. Another factor that concerned me: a teenage injury left a screw in my right ankle, and I suffered severe trauma to my left foot while in the Navy. The result: arthritic aches that lead me to walk like Frankenstein in the morning and the added joy of occasional bouts of plantar fasciitis.
In short, at nearly 54, I was beginning to feel like a fat, broken-down old man.
So, I started walking when the weather was nice; using the Wii Fit when it was lousy; and trying to watch my diet.
David and I began buying hiking and camping gear, eventually picking up a backpack, hiking boots, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water filter, rain/wind gear, trekking poles, map packs ...
My wife, Donna, sometimes looked rather doubtful that I would ever hit the trail -- and if I did, it would be a short-lived enthusiasm.
In spring 2010, David, Cole and I did a warm-up hike along Lumber Ridge Trail near Tremont. David and Cole chose this trail knowing that part of our Memorial Day weekend hike started with a 2,100-foot climb in about 2.5 miles at Hughes Gap. Lumber Ridge Trail climbs over 1,000 feet in two miles. We covered about 8 miles in four hours or so. I didn’t get that winded; however, about halfway through it seemed like my left foot (the one injured in the Navy) was breaking in half.
I began to wonder whether I could do these hikes.
Not long after the test hike, I went for my physical and shared with Dr. Bruce my hiking plans and concerns about “my two bad feet.” He prescribed a high-powered anti-inflammatory medicine that I could take daily.
Meds in hand, I continued to “train,” so to speak, for Memorial Day weekend.
But it wasn’t enough.
What I would learn about myself on that and subsequent hikes would go far beyond the physical.
as every journey begins with a first step, every trail brings with it life lessons.