On December 28th, I was super excited as I drove my car to meet Michele…
I’ve known Stacey During, my hiking companion for the 30th week of “A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail” for 30 years, but until today I had never had more than a 5-minute conversation with her. Let me explain. In 1991, shortly after moving to Hagerstown, MD, I found Renee Doub, the world’s best hair stylist! She’s been cutting and coloring my hair ever since. I always considered myself lucky when I arrived for my hair appointment and Stacey, who has worked alongside Renee forever, was the one to shampoo my hair. It would give us the briefest window of time to connect and chat. If I’m honest, I always wished it took longer so we could talk more. Plus, who doesn’t love having a professional, like Stacey, wash your hair and massage your scalp…the longer it takes the better, I say! So, you can probably imagine my pleasure when I finally got to spend some extended time with Stacey as we hiked the Appalachian Trail on a beautiful summer morning!
Heading north on the AT, we stopped to take the first photos of the day in the field of wildflowers just north of Route 77. It was quiet and peaceful as we took in the beauty around us…the sound of bird calls wafting through the warm air and the sun, still low on the horizon, shrouded by early morning clouds. At that moment, Stacey realized she didn’t have her phone and said she wanted run back to see if she left it in her car. In no time flat Stacey returned with her phone, which she found on the roof of her car!
Regular readers of this blog probably know that each week my hiking companion selects the day of the week and the time of day for our hike and also sets the pace and determines the turnaround point. Given how quickly Stacey fetched her phone I figured our hike was probably not going to be a leisurely 3 ½ hour walk, but I have to admit I was surprised when Stacey said, “I thought we’d walk at a brisk pace or maybe even run a little.” I knew Stacey was a fitness buff, I didn’t know that she had agreed to train for the JFK 50-Miler in order to support a friend who wanted to compete in the event. Obviously, Stacey is a good friend, and an inspiring woman who is adventurous, likes a challenge and is confident in her ability to set and achieve her goals.
We took off at a good clip, stopping only to take a few quick pics. One of my favorite pictures of the day was of the “fern forest” in the powerline field…at least that’s what I’m calling it. I’m not kidding…somehow between the third and fourth weeks of July, the ferns proliferated to the point where they crowded out almost every other plant, leaving room only for wild blackberries! Of course, we had to pick a few berries to sample the bounty of the trail…yummy! My other favorites photos were of Stacey striking the “strong woman” pose and Stacey next to the lichen-covered rock wall. With her pale gray-green tank and dark forest green shorts, Stacey looked like the goddess of lichen, her lovely smile standing out while she blended in with the natural surroundings.
As we descended the incline toward Warner Hollow, I actually ran a little of the trail just so I could say that I honored Stacey’s request…Yay for me! I’m glad I slowed down again because I would have missed the May Apple, which I had recently learned is the favorite photo of Eastern Box Turtles. Stacey and I reminisced about all of the turtles we found as children and agreed that it was sort of sad that we don’t see turtles anymore. And here’s the weird thing…that very day, after returning home from the hike, Stacey saw not just one Eastern Box Turtle but two at her house! I love those kind of coincidences…life is so wonderful, wild and weird!
We made it from the car to the stream in less than 45 minutes…which is a record for me! We took a few photos by the water and chatted briefly with thru-hikers from Massachusetts but didn’t lollygag because Stacey needed to get home to complete her weightlifting workout! It turns out, our hike was just the warm-up for Stacey’s workout!
Hiking along, I got to ask Stacey all sorts of things that I never had time to ask her at Bella Salon. I now know that she is happily and contentedly married to Bryan and they have two son’s Dillon and Jared, of whom they are incredibly proud! I got to hear about her granddaughter, Hazel, who sounds like the joy of her life! Like the trail, our conversation took many twists and turns. We discussed the new roles some women adopt during the PRIME time of life, those of mothers-in-law and grandmothers. We were not the first, and definitely won’t be the last, to marvel over the joys of being grandmothers. More than anything we both want to support to our adult children as they care for and raise the next generation. Knowing that all relationships are unique and recognizing that there is no one right way to demonstrate/communicate this desire, we concluded that it would be wise to take our cues from our adult children and their spouses rather than assume we know what they need. Stacey wisely pointed out that what may be intended as kind and loving could be perceived as overly involved and bossy. I followed up by sharing one of my more recent mantras: “There’s a big difference between intention and impact!” Are we two wise women in our prime, or what?
As we approached the end of our hike, I asked Stacey if she had advice to share with women who want to get fit but need encouragement. Modest as ever, Stacey said, “I’m not an expert but I think the key is consistency. It doesn’t matter what sort of exercise you do but do something every day.” She went on to say, “I’ve always been shy. It’s taken me 47 years to come out of my shell, but I did it. I just had to keep working at it. It’s the same with exercise.”
With that we stepped out of the woods, took a few more photos as we walked across the field of wildflowers and arrived back at our cars in a record 1 hour, 35 minutes! Obviously, I didn’t spend as much time with Stacey as I thought I would, but it sure beat 5 minutes! Not to worry, Stacey invited me to hike the Black Rock Trail, which means more time to chat with Stacey…lucky me!