Saturday, May 13, 2006


Tenacity: persistent determination

Is it inborn? Do we learn it? What keeps some of us going no matter what, and make others just give up?

He quit, after 6 hours he just quit. "I can't do this, I can't do it."
How can someone plan something for so long, and because of a little physcial discomfort....okay a lot of physical discomfort....just give up...quit.....

I cannot wrap my mind around this, I have spent 3 days trying, I thought by late Friday evening I had accepted that some people just do not have that added spark or whatever it is that keeps you going, that keeps you from quitting. Then I thought, maybe that is my problem, I don't give up on things, even when I know that there is nothing more....I don't give up even when I should, in fact that may be why I don't start some things. On the phone today, my older brother said to me, "He just doesn't have your tenacity." And I thought is that it? Is that all it is that keeps some going, and others not? A part of me still thinks it is also pride, and just plain ol' stubborness.

He put in the most physically demanding day of his life, in the worst possible shape a person could be in, aside from being physcially ill. He called me, telling me of all his pain, his aches, his not being able to go on..........I heard it in his voice, the anquish, the fear, the defeat.

Lesson ONE: Do not do it alone!

Today, I found a website in which a person described his first day on the trail, this could have been my son,
" All I could do was sit in the middle of the trail and keep myself from crying....I tried to maintain control over my exhausted body and splintered mind. I could feel every part of my body, from the blisters on the bottom of my feet, to my aching quads, to the pounding pain in my head."
This person had two other people with him, he continued, slowly, but he did continue.

My son was alone, with no one to goad him into resting for the night, and then continuing the next morning. I tried, but the phone just doesn't do it. He was defeated at 3000 plus feet. From what the hikers I spoke with Friday morning said..... at a place on the AT called Woody Gap....the approach trail to the AT is the most severe part of that portion of the trail. Yet online, in the guidebook, it is described as moderately difficult. The approach trail is what defeated him.

I gave up too-- I pushed him, I cajoled him, I let my feelings be known, I tried ultimatums, I even found him a hiking family--they were ready to meet up with him Saturday night at a shelter called Neels Gap. (there were 3 girls his age in the group of 4 but even that thought couldn't keep him from giving up in defeat.)

Lesson TWO: For many physical preparation is more important than mental, if physically fit, the mental will follow.

A plan for the future, he/we hike/camp a trail in the southern part of our state, with similar conditions, hopefully within one of the first weekends in June. Then he and/or we go to some part of the AT in the fall....... thinking Virginia........ for a week, and hike a section. To do this, he gets in better physical we hiked a little over 2 miles of trail last night, his sister and I even jogged a portion (proud of me--oh yeah!) he could jog a few paces then had to stop. The plan is to hike everyday we can, him twice a day......will it happen? A question I won't be able to answer for a while, but my hopes are on the positive side.

As we started out on our little trail last night, I sadly realized that I had actually hiked a small portion of the AT Friday, but he had not, he was only on the approach trail, never made it to the actual AT. Friday morning I had driven to Woody Gap, hoping it would be a spot I could start him out on fresh. It was a nice easy hike (the mile or so that I hiked), I met 3 groups of hikers, they all told me the same thing about the Approach trail, several of them skipped that portion and went straight to Springer Mountain. Why didn't he know that? He had supposedly researched it all. But then again as I mentioned up above, it is called a "moderate" hike in the guidebook.

But he climbed Frosty Mountain, and I hope he doesn't forget that. A climb I know without a doubt would have had me lying on the trail in a worse mental and physical state than he was in, but I do not believe I would have given up in defeat, most especially my first day on the trail.....something inside of me.....just says "No fing way!" Okay, I have to let that go, yes he gave up too easily, but somewhere in here lessons were learned.

Lesson THREE: Enjoyment.....things like these are supposed to make us feel find the pleasure, the joy, and revel in that.

At least we had a good time together, once I let the rest go..... I decided to drive home through North Carolina, before heading back into the Tennessee portion of the long drive home. We traveled the 23 mile Cherholla Skyway, highest elevation 5,234 feet (or something like that), it was amazing, and beautiful. We also explored some little side roads hidden in the mountain passes, it was a great way to end something that had turned so negative.

We ended up driving straight through to home, had a 22 hour day, but it was a good one, even the 45 minutes spent sitting at a dead stop in a traffic jam in Nashville, because we enjoyed staring at the full moon, singing songs, being silly, and laughing....something my son and I have not done for at least 2 years....... I put over 1500 miles in from Wednesday to Saturday morning, but I loved it, and we once again have our connection.

I am disappointed that he could not do more, but if I have anything to do with it, I am not going to let him give up on his dream, in a sense it has become my dream too, it has been years, literally years, since I felt as good as I did in those mountains. Hiking a portion or portions of the AT is now my dream too. And ya know what?

I am going to do it!

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