Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hiking with Sassafras

As we get started in planning our 2013 Appalachian Trail adventure, I have been thinking back on how this all got started. I have always had an interest for the outdoors. My grandfather was the classic Maine outdoors-man  He was an avid hunter, loved to fish and was very independent.  He gave me my first exposure to the outdoors and have had a love for it my whole life.
My Grandfather as a small boy with his father 

I tried to pass this love of the outdoors to Sassafras. I took her hiking as soon as she could walk. We went camping, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing and canoeing whenever we could. She loved all of it.
A young Sassafras already wearing a pack

When she was 8 years old we were car camping at Mount Blue State Park in Maine and went to the evening  presentation. At this state park on Saturday nights they offered a nature presentation of some sort each summer. On this particular night a gentleman gave a talk about his thru hike of the Appalachian trail. Sassafras was enthralled by the presentation and after his talk she went up to him and he was nice enough to answer her questions for over 1/2 and hour. He told her that in two weeks a young lady who he thru hiked with would be giving a talk at the park. She begged us to come back and see the presentation. Two weeks later we were back and the hook was set. The young lady brought her gear from her thru hike and after her talk she spent a long time letting Sassafras try out all the gear and answer her many questions.

The next weekend I had no choice but to take her out on an overnight backpacking trip. So i got out my old gear and off we went. We hiked Baldpate Mountain near Bethel Maine on the A.T. and then stayed overnight at the shelter. That night as we were ready to go to sleep two thru hikers came in, having just gone thru the mahoosuc notch and down Old Speck. Sassafras talked to these guys for about and hour asking one question after another. The were so kind and patient with her (this has been my experience with the people we meet on the trail). The next morning she told me that some day she was going to thru hike the Appalachian trail, little did i know how soon that would be.
Hiking down to Fry Notch Shelter-notice the huge 1989 Camp Trails Backpack

So from that time on we have been hiking as much as time would allow. Sassafras loves to hike and meet all the interesting people. I remember that first hike well. I bet my pack weighed 50 pounds (for and overnight hike) all my gear was 15 to 20 years old and heavy. I also remember to odd looks I received from thru hikers that met us those first few hikes, I guess because of the huge pack and little girl. We learned quickly to lighten the load. The first few year we did our hiking on the A.T. between the New Hampshire line and Rangely Maine.  Living in Maine and doing most of my hiking in Maine and New Hampshire, we both thought this is how the A.T. was i.e. steep, rocky, and rooty, but still has a great time. After hiking in Virginia and Georgia I am sure that this foundation will do us well on our Thru Hike.