The old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed ... try, try again.” Well, that’s just what Bremen resident Melissa Rae plans to do: She will try one more time to tackle the 2,180 miles that are the Appalachian Trail.
During the summer of 2011, Melissa returned home a little humbled but not defeated by the trail, which she started hiking in March of that year with the ambitious goal of completing the trail in three months (most complete it in six). Unfortunately for Melissa, our region experienced some rather inclement weather that year – make that very inclement. That year, we had a record number of tornadoes, not to mention enough rain to flood the Mississippi River.
She said upon her return home in June 2011 that “there were a lot of tornados close by. There were a lot of storms on the trail, it seemed like it was always storming.”
So after two months of dodging lighting and nursing some extremely pummelled and bloodied feet, Melissa said she felt like it was time to come home.
“It was just time for things to end,” she said at the time. “I was pretty upset about leaving the trail, but I was also glad. I will probably return after I finish school to complete the rest of the trail.”
And Melissa intends to hold herself to that promise. She has now finished school, and is working three jobs to raise enough money to pay for her trip as well as her bills while she’s gone.
Every year, hundreds of hikers and adventurers tackle the trail, which cross 14 states from Georgia to Maine. Only about one fourth who attempt to hike the trail all at once succeed in reaching their goal. Only 12,000 people have hiked the full trail since its completion in 1937.
Most people hike the trail in sections a few days or weeks at a time. However, Melissa doesn’t plan to just pick up the trail where she left off, she’s going to hike the entire thing in one effort.
“It really bothered me that I quit early last time. I don’t think God will take this out of my heart until I get it done,” she said last week, “and so I just have to do it.”
Once again, she says she’ll depart in March. However, this time she’s not pushing to meet a three-month deadline.
“I’m just going to see what the weather is like and take it day by day,” Melissa said. “If the weather’s bad, I’ll stop for a while. The plan is to just keep going. I’m not coming home this time until I get to Maine.”
Melissa says she feels more prepared for this trip. She says she knows now what to expect.
“It’s going to be a better trip this time,” Melissa said. “I know it will be painful. Everyday, there is some kind of pain. Nothing about going out there is going to be comfortable.”
However, Melissa says she’s prepared for it this time. She has her cell phone and emergency alert equipment, and she has more than two months of experience on her side.
So, come spring, Melissa will traverse over Blood Mountain in Georgia, Clingmans Dome in Tennessee, through Harpers Ferry, across the Hudson River and on to Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak in Maine – the end of the line. And she says she can’t wait to get started.
“I’m just excited to go out there and do it,” she says. “It’ll drive me crazy if I don’t finish. [...] I’m just going to trust God to keep me safe.”