Poll: What would you do?

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  1. #1
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    Default Leaving Kids Behind

    I'm wondering if there are other women out there in my position:
    I am going to thru-hike the AT. It's all I think about. I would go tomorrow if I could, but I have to save money. My plan is to hopefully be able to go in three years.
    Here's my biggest issue: I have 2 kids, they will be 13 and 12 when I want to hike. I HAVE to do this hike. I cannot wait until they graduate. I talk about it constantly with the kids. For the most part, they are very supportive already, and are excited for me. They have talked about their concerns about me being away for so long. I can't do this and split it up over a few years by section hiking. It has to be a thru-hike, start at Georgia, summit on Katahdin. And I don't want to bring them with me.
    My husband works, so they will be by themselves during the day while I'm gone. My husband is very supportive as well, and has assured me that they will work it out while I'm gone, getting them to school and all that good stuff. I'm very lucky to have such a supportive family. I'm just trying to tell myself that, yes, this is completely selfish, but that's it okay to do something like this for myself. I figured if I could find other mothers out there in the same position it would help!

  2. #2

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    When you say you "have to" do a thru-hike, is that because you feel so passionate about it or is there another reason?

  3. #3

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    Our son is now 21. The only thing I regret is not spending MORE time with him, especially when he was a teenager. We have a good, close relationship. He still lives with us, actually moved back in last year. We love having him here. Can't wait for him to be able to get a place with his friends though not 1800 miles away from us! But no, personally, I would not have been able to thru hike when he was a teen. I went for a hike "up to a month" 2 years ago. I was gone 8 days. There were many reasons but I left when I did in no small part because our son wanted to know if we could help him with something. It was too difficult (for me) to communicate and help sort this out "from afar."
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  4. #4

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    Clearly a thread directed to women. Stay off the thread guys.
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  5. #5

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    Wow! Good for you. If you have the support at home, go do it!
    There are lots of ways to fit in a visit from your kiddos somewhere along the trail, if that's something you find you need, or they need.
    Your life and well-being is important too. Lots of love and support for you!

  6. #6
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    I have had the support at home; however, I could not handle missing watching my kids grow. I section hiked: between 55-200 miles each year the past 10 years (1 week to 2.5 weeks on the trail a year). Some years, my kids came with me. Some years, I just bonded with people I met on the trail - we were Tramily!

    Looking back - those years with MY CHILDREN will never be available again. Now, that they are graduated (last one was 2017), I could chose to do the entire trail or finish the last 1000 miles I have left...

    Either way, I now miss those kiddo's... they have moved on, and I am SO GRATEFUL that I DEDICATED the time I had with them - to them!

    Looking forward, my years are my own!!!!

    That was the best choice for me. Your choice might be different...

  7. #7

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    I would suggest that there are other options available to you. I have been in a very similar situation. I had my youngest child at age 41. I thought, then, that by my early 50s all the kids would be old enough for me to be gone for months at a time. In the meantime, I very much enjoyed lots of car camping and easy hiking trails when my children were young, places that I probably never would have explored if I had not had children. I also began taking each of them individually on backpacking trips in the Whites when they were age 8 and these are some of my fondest memories. We also were part of a local hiking group with kids and hiked just about every week of the year for more than a decade.

    By age 47 I was so ready for a thru hike. Full time parenting is hard! My oldest was thirteen, and contrary to what I believed would happen, teenagers are even more needy than toddlers. I found myself busier, and with more stresses and issues and responsibilities than I had ever imagined. Turns out, as kids grow up, they have lives and needs and wants too. It just wasn't possible. So I decided to do a shorter thru hike - the Long Trail in Vermont. It was awesome. It took three weeks and I could do it in the summer when my spouse (a teacher) was more available. Since then I have reserved a few weeks every summer for a solo hike of 200-400 miles. I don't know how much experience you have backpacking, but I would strongly recommend doing a shorter thru hike first. You still get that feeling of accomplishment, of finishing a trail, but without quite the same amount of disruption to the family.

    My kids are now 11, 15 and 18. I have pretty much resigned myself to waiting another 7-8 years before doing a longer thru hike. I honestly think I will enjoy it more when I am not struggling with the guilt of missing out on something else. And, believe me, there is so much you can miss in 5-6 months at these ages. I am looking forward to returning to the Long Trail for a yo-yo of the northern section this summer. In my experience, a month is long enough at this time of my life. I get a wonderful break and the real feeling of a long hike, but don't miss out on all the important things taking place in the lives of these wonderful people I live with.

    Oh, and just my experience, but I have not found that section hiking parts of the trail necessarily means giving up on the dream of a thru hike. I have hiked just about all of the AT in CT, MA, VT and NH, and I still plan to do a thru some day.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Marta's Avatar
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    My personal history--I learned about the AT when I was 12 years old, and decided then that I wanted to hike it all some day. Time passed. Other things happened, including marriage, three children, lots of traveling... In 2000 we ended up moving to North Carolina, which rekindled my interest in the AT. My youngest son was then 13 and just entering high school. Over the next few years I section-hiked pieces of the Trail from Maine to Georgia, including taking a week off work to do the Smokies as a section. When my youngest son was in college, I finally cleared my schedule for six months so I could go the whole way.

    The five years of section hiking was invaluable to my thru-hike. For me, it was far from wasted time. In that five years I had sectioned more than 500 miles. I had my gear and knew how to use it. I was physically and mentally prepared.

    My husband did not hike with me. He did not have any interest in a long-distance hike. But he was very supportive of my hike. Because we were just entering the empty-nest phase of our lives, the hike was actually a time of growth for both of us--to reflect on what we wanted to do with the time not having kids around the house gave us; and to reflect on where we wanted to go as individuals, and as a couple.

    I still do a lot of hiking. My husband occasionally joins me. My kids are all in their 30s now. Just this evening my youngest son and his wife and I started hatching a plan to take their 10-month-old on his first camping trip. Car camping, but that's how it starts.

    If your husband and kids are supportive, there's no reason not to do the hike when you are planning to. But every mile hiked and night spent in a tent between now and then will help you be successful when you start your long hike. Best wishes!
    If not NOW, then WHEN?

    ME>GA 2006
    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=3277

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  9. #9
    Registered User coppertex's Avatar
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    Back in 2007, when my kids were 4 and 8, I found out about the AT. I too believed I had to hike it and just couldn't wait. I was obsessed and scoured my brain for ways to make it work, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't justify it. When I would go to the trail on a three day section hike, I would feel an emormous pull to be with my kids at home. I felt guilty. I looked and looked to find another mom who had thru hiked the trail successfully and I just couldn't. Over the past 11 years, I have never heard of a mom who successfully did it. It's like trying to find bigfoot. You can even look back at my old posts - I started a thread in 2011 asking if anyone had heard of a mom who had thru-hiked while leaving their kids at home. A lot of them start, but don't make it more than a couple weeks or maybe a month.

    After several years of obsessing, planning, and contemplating, I finally came to the realization that it just wasn't going to happen. That if I would be doing it, I would be forcing it to happen and would quickly end up back home after the overwhelming guilt took me over. They say that to sucessfully through hike, you have to want it more than anything. I decided that my time with my kids was more important than the trail, that it could wait, and that if something happened to me that kept me from being able to thru hike in that time, well, at least I would know that I did what was best for my kids and put them first. For some women, that thought comes naturally, but for me, it took a while to figure out haha. And my kids as teenagers have needed SO much more from me than I imagined. I thought as teenagers they would be as smart as adults LOL, but they need so much guidance at this age. I'll never regret my decision in deciding to wait, and trust me, I understand the pull.

    For several years, I took down my AT poster, I didn't visit Whiteblaze or any of the Facebook groups, I didn't visit the trail ... it was just too hard, the thought of having to wait 10+ years. I had to put the idea aside for a bit. A couple years ago, though, the poster went back up, I've done some small sections, and I'm back talking about it and dreaming now that it's coming closer.

    Now, my kids are 15 and 19. I plan to hike in 2023, the year after my son graduates high school, after waiting 16 years. This way, I know my heart will be settled, and I will enjoy my hike without any emotional burdens.

    So, the point is, the time will pass ... faster than you think. I'm just sharing my viewpoint on this, and of course, any mom (or dad) is free to make a decision they feel is best for themselves or their family. Good luck in your journey.

  10. #10

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    You are 35, and your kids will be launched, presumably, in 10 years or less. Why not just try a two-week section this summer, and see how it goes, family-wise?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiptoe View Post
    You are 35, and your kids will be launched, presumably, in 10 years or less. Why not just try a two-week section this summer, and see how it goes, family-wise?
    EXCELLENT advise! Plus, this would provide a "shakedown" opportunity!

  12. #12
    Registered User Water Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K.Red View Post
    My plan is to hopefully be able to go in three years.

    Here's my biggest issue: I have 2 kids, they will be 13 and 12 when I want to hike. I HAVE to do this hike. I cannot wait until they graduate. I talk about it constantly with the kids. For the most part, they are very supportive already, and are excited for me. They have talked about their concerns about me being away for so long. I can't do this and split it up over a few years by section hiking. It has to be a thru-hike, start at Georgia, summit on Katahdin. And I don't want to bring them with me.

    My husband works, so they will be by themselves during the day while I'm gone. My husband is very supportive as well, and has assured me that they will work it out while I'm gone, getting them to school and all that good stuff.
    There are many women in the military who are deployed for longer than the time it would take for a thru-hike. Different circumstances (choosing to be gone vs. being deployed), but the family still manages to make it work. It can be done - especially with a supportive family.

    It is ok for you to want to do things just for you, without having to be responsible for others while you are taking time for yourself. More importantly, it sounds like your husband and kids have given you their blessing for you to do what you need to do for you. That matters far more than what anyone on the internet thinks.

    A whole lot can happen in 3 years. Plan as if the hike will happen in 3 years, but be flexible to the idea of changing your mind if the timing works out to not be right. If your kids are interested, include your kids in the thru-hike planning. Research different parts of the trail together, different historical sites. Build a map of the trail together so they will be able to follow along while you hike. Maybe make the map big enough to include spaces to add postcards you send home. Maybe plan for a few places the family can meet up with you along the way.

    In the meantime, take some time to do shorter trails. The Long Trail, perhaps? That time away will tell you all whether or not the plan will work. It's a good way to get a feel for your gear, it starts getting the kids used to you not being home, and it's a good way for your husband to figure out strategies for juggling the homefront before he has to do it for a long time on his own. A bonus is these shorter hikes might help satisfy the need to be hiking the AT right this very second.

  13. #13
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    Ever since I heard about it last year, it is all I can think about. Every day involves something to do with the AT... watching videos, reading books, planning... Every. Single. Day. Thru-hiking the AT is something that I feel I have to do, it's part of me. Just thinking about not thru hiking leaves me with this feeling of despair. I am so passionate about thru hiking. The AT is my calling.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by K.Red View Post
    Ever since I heard about it last year, it is all I can think about. Every day involves something to do with the AT... watching videos, reading books, planning... Every. Single. Day. Thru-hiking the AT is something that I feel I have to do, it's part of me. Just thinking about not thru hiking leaves me with this feeling of despair. I am so passionate about thru hiking. The AT is my calling.
    Have you done much backpacking before?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by hepatica View Post
    Have you done much backpacking before?
    I was wondering the same thing

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  16. #16
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    I've actually met a lot of people in the same situation. On my thru in 2009, I know several parents who were thru hiking. Granted, some of them ended up quitting because they missed their kids, or there were family problems that called them home. However, I bet you could do it. Especially if you have a supportive spouse back home. A lot of the successful people met their spouse and children every month or so on the trail- a lot of kids seemed to really love the "adventure" of coming out every month or so to meet their hiking parent, packed them some fun care package, and even hiked out a day or two with them. I'd say the best way to do it is to make sure your kids feel involved. They can follow along your route from home, send you letters and care packages, and get to see you do something awesome!
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  17. #17
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    However, if you haven't done much backpacking, go for a shakedown for a week or so before committing to a full thru hike. A long distance hike is, well... a long distance hike. It isn't similar to going for a walk in the woods with just water and an apple in your pack, it's much more mentally demanding. Taking a week to do a hike will give you a small taste for longer distance hiking, and will also give you a chance to see how your family does without you. Watching movies about thru hiking will not, repeat, will not, give you a good idea of what you're getting yourself into. Good luck, and I hope you love it!
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  18. #18
    Super Moderator Marta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K.Red View Post
    Ever since I heard about it last year, it is all I can think about. Every day involves something to do with the AT... watching videos, reading books, planning... Every. Single. Day. Thru-hiking the AT is something that I feel I have to do, it's part of me. Just thinking about not thru hiking leaves me with this feeling of despair. I am so passionate about thru hiking. The AT is my calling.
    Ditto what people said above. Long-distance hiking is way more boring and painful than most people imagine. A shocking number of people quit their jobs, give up their leases, mail themselves dozens of boxes of food, and then quit, sometimes in the matter of a day or two. In 2006 someone from Kansas asked if she could start the trail SOBO with me. She quit her job, etc., and then bailed on the whole hike halfway up Katahdin. It was really sad, and dealing with her was really an annoying drama at the start of my hike.

    It's a good idea to do a lot of overnighters and a couple of weeklong trips before you upend your own and your family's lives to make this happen. If you can swing it, joining ALDHA and going to The Gathering, and going to one or more of the northern Rucks can be incredibly helpful. For one thing, you'll meet lots of people who have hiked thousands of miles, and people who are instrumental in keeping the AT up and running. You'll learn a huge amount, and can start getting to know the AT family.
    If not NOW, then WHEN?

    ME>GA 2006
    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=3277

    Instagram hiking photos: five.leafed.clover

  19. #19
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    I don't think there is anything wrong with a mom taking time for herself to do a long hike if kiddies are stable and the family is supportive. Like someone above pointed out, moms in the military are deployed a lot longer. Why must women completely give themselves up for the entire 18-20-25 years it takes to launch children? It feels like some sort of requirement that women just lose that independent part of themselves. There are plenty of families and children this would not work for so it would be irresponsible if the family did not support it but if everyone supports it then go for it. Doing this will teach your kids some life lessons as well. Maybe your son won't expect his wife someday to lose herself in raining their children to her detriment and her daughter won't marry a guy who just expects her to do so. It may help in the process of raising independent young people.

    You can always can it and go home if it turns out your children need you and no, I do not think there is anything wrong with going hiking and not being so consumed with guilt and missing your kids that you need to fell back to them. Even if that is the way most women feel it does not mean that is the way you should feel as we are all different and we should respect those differences. We are all wired differently. Perhaps you do your family a disservice by not going, a discontented partner and mother is not necessarily any bargain either.

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