I get lots of questions about Naomi’s gap year after high school thru hiking the Appalachian Trail so I thought I would write a quick update. First and foremost, she is doing amazing! The last I wrote about our summer on the Appalachian Trail, Maya and I were still out hiking and we had just finished backpacking through the unforgettable White Mountains. (You can read about that HERE). As planned, Maya and I came back home to Ohio in August just in time for school to start after hiking 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail with Naomi. It was an awesome adventure for the three of us to hike from Baxter State Park in Maine all the way to Rutland, Vermont, and while I wish we could have kept hiking together, it was really good for Maya and I to get home and reunite with the rest of the family.Since Naomi was thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, she now was on her own to hike the remaining 1,690 miles. I will be totally honest and say that while I know in my heart that the Appalachian Trail is safe, I agonized over leaving Naomi by herself in the middle of the Vermont wilderness. I was worried about her safety, but I also worried about her feeling intensely lonely on her own. Throughout our hike, the three of us ate each meal together and set up camp together every night. And while we had made many wonderful friendships out on the trail, since the three of us hiked as a group, we typically did not stick together with any other groups and would just catch up with other hikers as chance would have us meet. So when Maya and drove away from her on top of Mt. Greylock, Naomi was going to be truly on her own. Before we left we gave Naomi a pep talk and we all prayed together. We asked God to keep Naomi safe, keep her feeling strong and confident, and to help her to not feel lonely. After one last long hug, she was off down the trail.And in the most direct answer to prayer I have ever experienced, not two days later, God blessed Naomi with an amazing trail family (“tramily” in hiker lingo). At the Upper Goose Pond Cabin, Naomi met a group of other young hikers that she has been hiking with every single day since they met. Walker, Lucas, Don and Taylor have truly become like family to Naomi, and I am forever thankful for God putting them in her life. Dave and I have been fortunate to get to know them since we’ve been visiting fairly often, and they are exactly the kind of people you are happy your 18 year old daughter is hanging out with- interesting, thoughtful and seriously fun.And while they are having a great time, they are also putting in serious miles. With less then 500 miles left to hike, Naomi is more than three quarters of the way finished and only has a few states left until she completes her Appalachian Trail thru hike on Springer Mountain in Georgia. Some of the highlights of her hike so far have been doing a work for stay at the Lake of the Clouds Hut, enjoying the best trail breakfast around made by the unforgettable Omelette Man, a chance encounter with the truly amazing String Bean, who was in the middle of smashing the Appalachian Trail speed record, completing the Half Gallon Challenge in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, hiking a 53 mile day through the night to survive the 4 state challenge from the Mason Dixon Line just before Pen Mar Park to the Blackburn AT Center, and hanging out with the famous Ellie on the AT who just completed a flip flop thru hike with her parents. She has experienced all kinds of weather in the 4 months she has been hiking and her recent pictures showing the explosion of fall colors all around have me seriously jealous. And best of all is the kindness she has experienced from too many people to count. If you are questioning the state of humanity in the crazy world we are living in, get yourself on a long hike on the Appalachian Trail and you will know the inherent goodness of people. Naomi is truly having the time of her life thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and while we can’t wait for her to get home, our family couldn’t be happier for her.For now, we are enjoying spending every couple of weekends driving our Camper Van out to meet Naomi and her tramily on the trail with heaps of home cooked food to help get them through the miles of hiking. It will be wonderful to watch them walk the last part of the trail in Georgia sometime in November. And if you are wondering if Naomi is glad she decided to take a gap year before college to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, she says she would do it again in heart beat. In fact, she is already planning other long hikes in the future.So that’s Naomi’s Appalachian Trail update! All is well for her and while she is tired, she is happy to be living this amazing hiking adventure. To read more about her thru hike experience, check out her latest post on The Trek. You can also find her on Instagram @naomimanaster and our Insta updates @roadtriptheworld.
As always, Happy Trails!