In 2001, Leslie Mass turns a lifelong fantasy into reality. She began a grueling journey – a thru-hike of the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.
For the first few weeks, Leslie learns how to pitch a tent in the rain, make her food bag animal-proof, and keep her socks dry. At first she avoids speaking to single male hikers, but gradually she becomes more comfortable socially, and becomes part of a group of other hikers (all male) who stick together on the trail through the White and Green Mountains in New Hampshire and Vermont. When the terrain toughens, she struggles physically to keep up with them, even though she emotionally depends on their friendship to keep going. Often, she finds herself frustrated with herself as a woman, giving in to her male counterparts when she knows what is better for her body (such as stopping to camp earlier than her companions want to). Her ascension of Mt. Katahdin in August 2001, the climax of the book, finally releases the tension.
After September 11, 2001, she copes with being alone on the trail, unable to depend on the small trail communities that had once been so inviting. Eventually, she changes her definition of “hiking her own hike" and goes home for the winter, planning to return in the spring of 2002. When she does return, the hike is hers to enjoy, at last.
A wife, mother, and suburban college administrator, Leslie is just like any other woman you might pass on a grocery aisle.
This report prepared by Alice Platt