SWEAT stands for Smokies Wilderness Elite AT Crew. This is a volunteer crew that maintains the portion of the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains. Information about this group came to me through a women’s AT Facebook page that I follow. When I first saw the post a little surge of excitement ran through me. What if I could do this? What if I choose to volunteer for a week to get my feet wet on the AT? Right after the excitement came and went, fear sat in! What if I can’t do it? What if I get there and they tell me I am not physically fit enough? What if? What if? What if? “Well sugar plum, if you can’t handle doing volunteer work for a week, then how do you plan on hiking a thru hike for 5-6 months?”, is what my little inner voice sarcastically said next.
I like to think of myself as a pretty tough cookie. I did martial arts for almost 4 years (kicked some a$$ and had mine handed to me as well). I have worked many jobs that were male dominated and involved working in the elements and moving, lifting and using equipment to move items heavier then myself. I’ve run a half marathon. I work out at the gym 3-4 times a week and can deadlift my own weight and then some. And even to this day I could still pass the military basic training physical assessment test if I had to (although I am too old to join). So why couldn’t I do this? I don’t really see it as a why “can’t” I do this and more so as a OMG “what if” I do this?
The “what if’s” in life I think are the scariest things we all face. Our minds (and what goes on in them) can be the most limiting and/or most up-lifting tools we possess. But our minds can play tricks on us to try to keep us safe and/or comfortable. We pretty much all have some sort of daily routines that we follow. Our brain’s, being the big computers that they are, get programmed to feel safe while following these routines. It’s usually when something goes wrong or with the thought of something changing that fear and the dreaded “what if’s” set in. You get a flat tire on the way to work, you are buying a new house, you are getting married, you are having a baby, you lost your job, you started a new job, you want to set out on an epic hike and so on and so on. Yes all of these things will have an affect on your life routine, but not all of them are bad; and even the bad ones, may not be the end of the world, but could feel like it at the moment. One way or another they throw you off and you brain goes a little AWOL for awhile. But how you handle them, what you learn from them, and how you come out in the end is the most important factor of all.
The idea of doing thru hike is terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. But the idea of never knowing how it could turn out is saddening too. Maybe I’m not cut out for it. Maybe it will be too long. Or maybe it will turn out to be life changing and the best thing I will have ever accomplished to date. So why not try something that could test the waters first? By participating in a volunteer group, I could stick a toe in the waters of the AT before I commit to having to drink the filtered water of the AT day in and day out. I would get to meet some amazing people that have similar interests. I can give back to something that bigger then myself. And all the while learning exactly what I can and cannot handle in 6 days as compared to 6 months!