I’m sitting on the front steps of my suburban Orange County, CA home. It’s early and the sun hasn’t even peeked over the mountains. I’m waiting for my hiking buddy, Carol, to pick me up for an early morning hike. I’m usually up early but sitting outside quietly, I notice things take on a different appearance in those predawn hours.  As the morning fog creeps up the street and the ink black crows fly silently overhead, there is a feeling of complete aloneness even though you know the houses around you are filled with families that still slumber. 

In a short five months, I will begin my thru hike of the AT and as I sit here, I try to imagine what it will feel like in those moments of complete and utter solitude. My mind flashes to the TV show The Walking Dead. Yes, I’m a little older but something about that human / zombie existence has always fascinated me (definitely not the nashing teeth and the tearing of flesh part)!

When I was much younger I remember watching the movie Night of the Living Dead, not a remake the original. Even then my younger self couldn’t help but run through  scenarios of how I would make my escapehow I would live. I had the ultimate zombie apocalypse plan ready to go before millennials were even a gleam in their parents eye!

I’ve always wondered what those scenarios meant. Was I running from something or just embracing the ultimate test in self-preservation? I’m not sure I’ve ever really answered that question.  As my ride to the trail head arrives I think to myself, there’s something very primal about being alone in the woods and this unlikely wanderer is ready to embrace that, zombies and all! 

To Fear or Not to Fear, That is the Question

I stood there terrified doubting if I could even move forward. Tears streaming down my face, my breathing making that high whistling sound that you would expect from someone suffering from an extreme asthma attack, frozen between moving forward and giving up. All of this from a little thing called FEAR!

A couple of months ago my husband Steve and I headed out on our first real nature hike in Southern California. We were excited to get out and blaze the trails. We found a local wilderness park and started off by having a great conversation with Ranger Susan. Ranger Susan was full of knowledge about the park and helped us pick the perfect route for a long hike.

That’s where things kind of went sideways. You see, as we began to walk away from Ranger Susan, she called out, “Oh by the way be really careful at the top, there was a very large diamond back spotted up there this morning!”.  For those of you that don’t know, a diamond back is a rattlesnake and I am very afraid of rattlesnakes!

do-not-feed-the-fears-300x300I felt my pulse quicken as we set out hiking but quickly began rationalizing my chances of coming across said snake (besides the trail was almost as wide as a single lane road). Surely I would spot the snake with plenty of room to spare. Then a funny thing began to happen. That nice wide trail became smaller and smaller while my fear became greater and greater. Before I knew it I was closed in on both sides headed into heavy scrub brush with nothing but a tiny footpath to guide me. I came to a dead stop, paralyzed by the fear that had taken over.

At this point I felt like a complete and utter failure. How would I ever make it on the Appalachian Trail if I couldn’t even hack a local hike here in California? My husband was a little irritated and reminded me of this fact but he was patient and hung out waiting for me to make the call. Do I move forward or let fear win?

I think the universe gave me a little nudge because just at that precise moment a cute twenty something couple came bopping down the hill through the brush, Zen music and all emanating from their backpack. In the most pleading panicked voice I reached out to the woman and asked “Did you see any snakes”? They assured me they encountered no snakes at all while they made their way down the trail. I thanked them profusely, took a big breathe and made my decision. I took one small baby step forward, then another. Still unsure, still feeling a little panicked not knowing what lie before me.

The ultimate moment came when we finally reached the wide open fire road at the top!  As I moved forward I began to feel stronger. I began to feel like I could do this. I felt accomplished.

I know it probably seems like a silly thing, a panic attack over a snake, really Sherry?  I’m sure you can probably think of a time or two where something has stopped you in your tracks. Did you freeze in place, turn around and run in the other direction or take that one huge baby step forward?

I’m just an unlikely wanderer learning a little more each time I put myself out there. It’s not always pretty and it’s certainly not perfect but it is progress.

Happy wanderings my friends!

Confessions of a Slacker Daughter

I love technology and I love checking out all of the new little tchotchkes that come out each year that are supposed to make life easier. For instance the Tile featured on the SoCalHikers site. It’s supposed to allow me to track my bear canister (or any of my other belongings) should the local wildlife decide to play soccer with it while I’m quietly slumbering in my tent. I’m hoping that doesn’t actually happen and since we’re thru hiking the AT they’ve graciously provided us with bear cables. The bear thing kind of freaks me out!

I digress.

Since making the decision to thru hike the AT next spring, the topic of fitness has been all most a daily conversation between my Dad and I. My Dad lives three thousand miles away in NJ but we talk often. He usually starts off the phone conversation with “Did you walk today.”  Most days my response was “Sure”… even if I didn’t. I figured what’s a little white lie? I have a year before even starting this grand adventure, right?

Then my love of technology bit me in the ass! During a recent phone call, my Dad through me a curve ball and instead of the normal “Did you walk today?”, he asked me if I owned a Fitbit. I said I did and that I really liked it (to be perfectly honest since this post is titled “Confessions of a Slacker Daughter”, the truth was it had been sitting on my kitchen counter getting very little use).

My Dad proceeded to tell me that a friend at work recently showed him his Fitbit and did I know that we could set up goals so he and I could compete with one other. To his credit, my Dad has been working out faithfully since we made the decision to thru hike and did I mention he’s also VERY competitive. I knew it would be no time at all before he owned this great techno gadget.

My father retired recently and lo and behold what did my youngest brother’s family give him as a gift? You guessed it…the Fitbit! Don’t get me wrong, Fitbits are a great piece of technology and now I knew I would have an electronic trail of my daily activity with Dad as my monitor.

I’m not sure if it was guilt or my own competitive spirit but my lonely Fitbit HR found its way back onto my wrist and more importantly it actually has activity to log. As of this writing, my father, sister-in-law, husband and I are all actively tracking our daily fitness. East Coast versus West Coast baby!

Fitbit crazy


So yes, technology bit this unlikely wanderer in the ass, but in a good way! Our miles are adding up, hikes are becoming easier and our goal of thru hiking the AT doesn’t seem like just a dream anymore. It’s slowly becoming a reality one technologically tracked step at a time!


I’m not sure about you but I never enjoyed walking alone.Preparing for my thru hike of the AT next year has definitely caused me to up my mileage lately. If I don’t have a human to keep me company I have the next best thing. Barney the superdog! He’s ten pounds of flying fur and a great hiking companion.

Have We Gone Mad?

mad-hatterIt all began with a single question, “Dad what are you doing next spring?” I received his typical reply, “why what’s up?”.  I asked him if he would he like to thru hike the Appalachian Trail with me. At first he laughed, then phone got quiet and I received a simple answer, “sure.” That conversation took place in early February of 2016. At the time I wasn’t sure if my Dad was fully committed, but each time we spoke after there would be a joke or two about who could outrun a bear (just so you know it’s never recommended to run from a bear)! Things would get a little more serious, more questions were asked and more serious planning began. We both started taking our work outs a little more serious and have had debates over what equipment we think is best.

It’s early in our planning process yet and things may change, but right now we are expecting to be on the trail for six months. Reactions from family and friends have been varied but most think we are crazy! My Mom doesn’t understand why we don’t just do a portion of the trail. Others say they couldn’t imagine going that long without the comforts of home. We are a pair of unlikely wanderers who very possibly have gone mad but just like Alice says to the mad hatter “you’re entirely bonkers, but I’ll tell you a secret all the best people are.”

A Pair Of Unlikely Wanderers

It all began with a phone call and a single question. “Dad what are you doing next spring?” You see I knew my Father was getting ready to retire and I was hoping he would be up for an adventure, a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. My kids are now grown and going about their young adult lives and I recently closed a business that I had been running the past several years. It seemed like the perfect time to branch out and do something epic! Of course there’s always more to the story.

Shown in the above photo are me, my Dad, my brother Jim and his lab Sherlock Bones. At the age of 19 Jim was in a severe auto accident which left him permanently disabled with a traumatic brain injury. His initial prognosis was bleak and the doctors in the trauma unit did not expect him to survive. Last Rites were given, goodbyes were said. As you can imagine it was a dark time for our family. Jim had other ideas though and surprised us all. Jim blessed us with his presence for another 27 years! They weren’t easy years by any stretch of the imagination. Confined to a wheelchair, blind and unable to speak he still had an amazing sense of humor that he somehow was able to convey despite his limitations, there was something about Jim that just drew people in. My family made sure that Jim lived life the best he could. Going for walks, playing catch with Sherlock, fishing and several trips to Disney World (my brother’s favorite place) were not uncommon. Jim’s journey here on earth ended on Christmas Eve morning in 2015 when God called him home. The lessons he taught us through his daily fight will stay with our family forever.

Hiking in my brother’s memory is a big part of what set this all in motion. I know he will be with my father and me cheering us on every step of our five million step journey! My Father will be celebrating his 70th birthday while we are on the trail. He has one kidney and had a knee replaced a couple of years ago. As for me I wouldn’t say that I’m in the best shape of my life and will be celebrating my 50th birthday a couple months after our expected finish date. This year, 2016 is a year of preparation for us which we have embarked on with excitement and A LOT of questions. We are a pair of unlikely wanderers my Father and I. We know there will be challenges ahead, but we have a lot of heart and one remarkable guardian angel smiling down on us!