Lowell woman walks the Appalachian Trail
By Emma Palova
Lowell, MI- No, it wasn’t on her bucket list. Ivy Haskins is too young to have one. She simply wanted to get away from everyday life between the pub and her house painting ventures.
“Ever since I was a kid I heard of the Appalachian Trail,” she said.
For years, Haskins, much like many others, dreamt about the 2,181 miles long trail with the highest elevation at 6, 625 feet.
The trail runs from Georgia to Maine from easy strolls to challenging mountain climbs.
“I had all my bills paid off and 15 years of working two jobs at once and not enjoying life,” Haskins said. “You get caught in a cycle. I wanted a change.”
Haskins saved up extra money for the adventure of a lifetime.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” she said. “I’ve never even carried a backpack.”
Rookie Haskins had yet to find out that the Appalachian Trail is not a walk in the rose garden.
Standing behind the bar at the local Sneaker’s pub, Haskins lifted her arm in a 45-degree angle.
“This is what the trail was like most of the time,” she touched her inclined arm. “It was challenging, there is no flat land.”
The most painful was the first week, long before Haskins got her “trail legs.”
The first week was painful,” she said. “My knees hurt. It was hard on joints and it never really stopped hurting. Every single day there was a lot of pain involved.”
And Haskins found out that there is a huge difference between walking and hiking.
Coming from the Lowell flatlands, where there are only flat rail beds converted to trails, the Appalachian Trail was a surprise for Haskins.
“You have to watch the ground all the time,” she said. “When somebody walks toward you, you have to step aside.”
It takes about three weeks to a month to get your “trail legs,” according to Haskins. Haskins had to buy knee braces to ease the pain.
But as the tail saying goes, “You hike your own hike.”
As Haskins walked or climbed an average 10-hour day, the bottom of her feet were burning.
“You can’t help but compare yourself to others,” Haskins said. She met the same people over and over like the German guy with that trail name Roatman.
“We just kept bumping into each other,” she said.
Although, the trail has no rules, there is still that nagging feeling inside telling you to do better.
“I had a desire to do better, to better myself and my fitness level,” she said.
“Were there moments when you wanted to stop,” I asked Haskins in an interview.
“Every single day had good moments and bad moments,” she said.
Some of the bad moments included eating the same food like Ramen Noodles for four days in a row.
“I was looking forward to having real food,” she said.
Haskins encountered the higher elevations in the Smokey Mountains while walking that feared 45-angle slope on a gray overcast day.
In the Smokies, you have to make it to the shelter, said Haskins.
The last mile before the shelter was a steep slope. There were already 15 people in the shelter suited for 12.
“What made you stay on the trail?” I asked.
“It might be a cliché, but you never quit on a rainy day,” she said.
It was actually on one of the easiest days, that Haskins decided to call it quits. Even though she already had a trail name, tortoise.
Haskins was hauling a 35-pound backpack to a beautiful campsite by Laurel Creek in Virginia.
“I’ve had enough,” she said. “It was five miles to get to Perrysburg.”
Usually there is a taxi that drives people to and off the trail from the trail towns.
“It’s dangerous, but there is always a road crossing within 10 miles,” she said.
After 600 miles on the trail, Haskins had enough. She wasn’t searching for the meaning of life, she just wanted to get away from the everyday rut.
“It was a fun challenge,” she said. “I definitely wanted to make a change in life, do something different.”
Haskins spent two months on the trail and lost 25 pounds, walking 18 miles a day toward the end. The average elevation in Tennessee is 5,046 feet.
“Don’t think you can only do what you’ve been doing,” she said. “At least you tried something else even if you were not happy.”
Trail 101 basics:
Appalachian Trail guidebook
Know where to get water
Hiker’s backpack $350
One-person tent $250
Sleeping back $90
Water filter $80
For more information go to: www.appalachiantrail.org
Copyright © 2014 story by Emma Palova, photos by Ivy Haskins