<editor’s note> Every year, there are a handful of AT thru-hiking stories that you can’t help but be in awe of. Not that everyone’s story isn’t interesting (because they are), but some simply stand out as budding Hollywood scripts, even before stepping foot onto the Trail. This year, one such story is that of Fred and Debbie Beck who will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Even in the face of dismal divorce statistics, a story like this can’t help but make you optimistic about love.
As is the theme around here, I asked Debbie (aka Tag along) to share her “why”. Her answer, although it may not surprise, will inspire you. After reading this wonderful post, check out their blog at www.thetrailBeckons.com (get it?). </editor’s note>
When we tell people in our Midwestern city that we’re hiking the Appalachian Trail, they get a confused look on their faces. The one that say’s I’ve heard of the Appalachian Trail, but I know absolutely nothing about it. We explain that the trail consists of 2,189 miles covering 14 states from Georgia to Maine and that we plan to complete it in six-seven months.
Question 1: “Will you sleep in hotels every night and how will you carry six months worth of food?”
Question 2: “Deb, will you have to pee in the woods?”
We are told time and again that we’re crazy, we laugh and agree with them that while we maybe crazy we can’t think of a better way to celebrate thirty years of marriage and friendship.
We are always asked WHY we would choose to do this hike. The why for Fred is clear as mud. He has wanted to hike the trail from the first time he stepped foot on a section of it while in the Smoky Mountains. His desire became almost an obsession when he spent some time with three hikers back in the spring of 2011. The trials and triumphs they had accomplished so far in their hike only fueled his desire to complete a thru-hike. To this day his desire to complete the hike has never wavered, no matter how many naysayers he has encountered. But when asked point blank why he is walking he will tell you that he is still searching for his WHY answer. He just knows HE HAS TO HIKE THE TRAIL.
Why I’m Hiking
My answer is simple, I am walking for love. One might ask how that one emotion could motivate me to leave my family behind, give up a life of comfort to spend months on end enduring the elements, while living in a fifty square foot tent with no indoor plumbing. All for LOVE?
What kind of love would put me on a trail covering fourteen states for six months? Love for the physical challenge? Love of solitude? Love of dehydrated foods? Love of carrying a thirty pound pack on my back for six months, day after day, after day? NO, NO, NO and Hell NO!
What kind of love could motivate me to give up all my possessions and simply walk away from the life I’m living? I mentioned earlier that my WHY is simple. My unwavering LOVE for my best friend. For over thirty years, I’ve followed the love of my life wherever his jobs and dreams have taken our family. So when he asked me to support his dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail I couldn’t say no. It’s easy to be supportive when you love someone as much as I love my husband. A love like ours means you do everything you can to help each other fulfill their dreams. But, little did he know that my support would include me tagging along.
I love hiking and camping and for me there is nothing better than falling asleep in a tent, listening to the silence of nature. Waking up to the rustle of the trees and the rush of water from a nearby river. So it really isn’t a stretch for me to tag along on this journey with Fred. Hence my trail name “tagalong” was born.
Now fifteen months after saying yes to the hike, reality has set in and as we’ve sold or donated most of our belongings, gotten rid of our house and simplified our lives I’ve struggled with mixed emotions. As I continue to work through my emotions, I have realized that I have exactly what I am supposed to have at this time in my life, my health, my family and the love of my best friend. Who needs things when you can spend every day with the person who matters more than your own life. Time spent living in the moment, enjoying God’s beauty one step at a time. Creating memories that only those who are willing to walk away from what is expected of them, to follow their hearts and live life on their terms.
Now on the brink of starting our journey in celebration of thirty years of marriage we often wonder how many couples who’ve been married as long as we have are willing to walk away from everything they’ve spent their entire marriage working for. I’m sure more than we think but not nearly as many who want to.
We are eager to start our journey with excitement and apprehension. We long to bask in all the trail has to offer, the unknown, the friendships made along the way and to live a life of freedom for those who will never take the chance. May we be an example of how true love can endure and continue to grow stronger after thirty years together.
What is your WHY?
- Debbie aka Tag along