Outfitted with a pack frame, I carried 3 normal-sized packs, as I was strong and tall for my age. Each hiker carried her essentials for the 14 mile first leg of the hike, and the camp truck delivered our sleeping bags, food and cooking gear to our evening campsite, in a farmer’s cow pasture along the banks of a running stream.
The walk was grueling, hot and dusty and straight up and straight down, sometimes over gravel switchback roads, but mostly on paths through the rugged wildness of the Eastern Front of the Alleghenies. Fourteen miles each way with an overnight camp, this was a great challenge for young women.
When we made camp that evening, we built a campfire and cooked our evening meal. I can’t remember what we ate but the birthday cake we baked over the campfire in a reflector oven, and the birthday song sung to me by fellow campers and counselors, were the sounds and the taste of victory. We slept that night under the stars, and I awoke in the foggy dark dampness to see a cow staring straight into my eyes, her head just above mine. I had no fear.
On that walk I developed courage, determination, self discipline and self-sufficiency, and my lifelong love of the outdoors was born. That walk instilled in me the concepts of teamwork and community, of setting and reaching goals. The strengths I developed that July when I turned 13 have remained with me throughout the years. That walk that took me over 28 miles in two days started me on the pathway of my life.