On December 28th, I was super excited as I drove my car to meet Michele…
Even before meeting Kim Sherbrooke, my hiking companion for the 41st week of “A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail”, for the first time, we bonded over grandchildren, texting back and forth to reschedule our hike so I could go to New York to meet Simon Henry, my newborn fifth grandchild. On the day of our hike, as we headed across the field, I quickly learned that Kim, a grandmother herself, recently experienced the same sense of anticipation of holding a new grand baby for the first time. Her son and his partner, who live in Chicago, recently gave birth to their first child. Due to the pandemic, Kim and her husband, Jim, obtained negative COVID tests and quarantined for two weeks before driving from Baltimore to Chicago to finally cuddle the newest member of their family.
The weather was cool and WINDY! We could hear the leaves rustling and the tree branches creaking. Kim and I both wore several layers, and it was the first time since last March that I work a knit cap to keep my ears warm. The sky was bright blue with cumulus clouds, heaped up and puffy, like cauliflower. The shrubs lining the field were showcasing a variety of different color berries…red, yellow, orange and a lovely gold. Though there were not many blooms to see, the dried stalks and seed heads from previously blooming wildflowers, and especially the milkweed, seemed to beckon us to slow down and appreciate their muted colors and interesting textures. I like thinking that the colorful flowers that gave me such pleasure this past summer would now provide sustenance for birds throughout the fall and winter.
Continuing down the trail, I got to ask Kim about her work. Six years ago, she was offered the position of Chief Operating Officer for the Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians. Kim said, “Though it was a great career opportunity, it was still a difficult decision because it meant being further from my daughter and three grandchildren.” It’s no surprise that Kim, a woman of many talents, manages to see her grandchildren and be an integral member of the leadership team that coordinates the practices of all physicians associated with Johns Hopkins regardless of entity or location. She helps to ensure that the necessary resources are in place, allowing all physicians to better care for patients and support the mission of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Committed to caring for the whole patient, the Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians intentionally documents social determinants of health, including the importance of social connections. I find this particularly interesting because I started “A Year of Hikes” to cope with my own sense of isolation and to provide women a safe way to socially connect during a worldwide pandemic. It may just be my best idea, EVER!
Descending the incline by the lichen-covered wall, I asked Kim about her family and growing up in Indiana. She’s married to Jim, an aerospace engineer and they are the proud parents of two adult children. Their daughter is an OB-GYN in Michigan and their son works in marketing as a brand manager for Jack Daniels. As a little girl, her family lived on a large farm, where she and her brother, Kevin, helped with farm chores. She remains close to Kevin, who still lives in Indiana where he works as a construction supervisor. Kim said, “We are like the moon and the sun, very different but compatible.” That’s a good thing because after losing both parents on Mother’s Day, one year apart, they have each other as they begin the difficult process of handling their parents’ estate. As I photographed Kim standing by the pale and dark green rock outcropping, I wondered if, when going through her parents’ estate, she will find a picture of an earlier version of herself standing in a green farm field.
Hiking along we saw several varieties of fungi but nowhere near as many as last week. With the wind blowing and the air dry, the conditions were not as favorable for the mushrooms and fungi. We crossed the powerline field, noting the burnt orange color of the dying ferns and the fast-moving clouds overhead. The leaves on the trees on either side of the field were still mostly green, but with just a hint of yellow and red there was the promise of breathtaking beauty in the very near future.
Entering the woods on the other side of the field, I was pleased to learn that Kim decided to participate in a Year of Hikes because she had not yet hiked on the Appalachian Trail. When I asked Kim where she had hiked, you can imagine my surprise when she said, “After visiting Tibet and Nepal and climbing part of Mount Everest, I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail.” WHAT!!!! Of course, I had a bsillion questions, like when, where, how and with whom! Let me just say, after spending a few hours on the trail with Kim, I have been bitten by the “travel bug!” Kim shared fascinating stories of her eight-day trip to Tibet and Nepal with her friend and colleague and her travels with her husband to Costa Rica. I absolutely love meeting different women on the trail and seeing how they expand my horizons!
As we approached the site of the “strong woman” pose, a guy, who was hiking up the trail, gave us a rather quizzical look. After a brief explanation, he was game and took a photo of Kim and me using all our strength to lift that heavy tree! I’m hoping that at some point in the future, I will get to travel to some exotic place with Kim and strike the pose there, too!
Down by Warner Hollow, the sunlight shining from above created mirror images of the trees in the water. It was so pretty! We took a couple of photos, admired the tinkling sound of the stream, and then began the climb back up the hill. As we walked, we began talking about our mothers. I asked Kim what memories she treasures most about her mom. Kim said, “I will always remember my mom’s incredible work ethic. In addition to caring for a family and helping with the farm, she worked as a bookkeeper to help make ends meet.” Kim also admired her mother’s ability and creativity when it came to the fiber arts. Kim’s mother sewed, crocheted, knitted, quilted, and embroidered, creating not just functional items but beautiful works of art that expressed who she was. After her mother passed, Kim began organizing her mom’s crafting room and found 7 different sewing machines and an unfinished quilt. She brought one of the machines and the unfinished quilt back to Baltimore, which she completed for Alia, her granddaughter. I told Kim a similar story. My mother-in-law started a cross-stitch for her first-born son, my husband. She gave it to me, and I said I would finish it for my first son, her grandson. That never happened but I did finish it eventually…it now hangs in my first granddaughter’s bedroom, my mother-in-law first great grandchild. Moral of that story… “Never say never!” and “Good things comes to those who wait.”
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I don’t know the answer to that philosophical question, but I do know that If you are hiking the AT on a windy day and three trees come crashing down across the trail you may not hear them fall but you will definitely have to go under or around them or climb over them to get back to your car! That is exactly what happened as Kim and I neared the end of our hike. We made it back, safe and sound…and with a great story to tell.