Day 5–July 8, 2009 (Greenbriar State Park-Hagerstown, 13.6 miles)

This morning began cold and miserable in a tent. It ended exhausted but with a renewed energy to push on. Today, I met a man named Fred in Wagners Crossroads just as I was feeling the reality of my trip sinking in and having doubts about my ability to continue. Fred (at least I think that was his name) gave me some advice on what to bring and what to toss: “anything you haven’t used in a week,” he told me. He has walked the full length of the Appalachian Trail and walked cross-country as far as Denver before a knee injury stopped him from continuing. While he walked the AT at first he felt a constant pull back to his home in Georgia. Eventually, he said, the pull switched to Maine. I can only hope the same holds true for me.

After my talk with Fred I knew he was right. I shed another 6 pounds from my backpack today. I no longer have any non-exercise clothing and I dumped my extra sneakers. “Are they difficult to come by?” he’d asked me of the extra sneakers I was lugging around? As the answer is no, and I have a box of items that can be shipped ahead to me, I knew it was time to unload all but the basics. Funny it only took me four days and 60 miles to accept this reality.

By the end of the day I was excited to have finally reached Hagerstown. And was even more excited to be featured in the local NBC news station, WHAG. (Woman walking across America makes local stop.) Later that day it was strange to be recognized as “the woman who’s walking to San Francisco” by someone as I stood outside a shopping center in Hagerstown.

By Jennifer E. Cooper