October 29, 2009
Central Virginia is packed with places to take in a scenic stroll, but an ambitious Earlysville woman wanted to take it a step further. This week's hero took her backpacking hobby an extra mile--2,178 miles to be exact.
Last March when Marit Gay embarked on the nation's longest footpath from Maine to Georgia, she had no idea her journey would inspire others.
As her fingers flip through the photos, Marit Gay reflects on a journey that changed her life.
"I didn't realize how long it would be. I kind of thought it would be a couple months," says Gay.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail would prove to be a five and a half commitment for the 49-year-old wife, mother, and substitute teacher.
"Both my girls, one was in college, the other was doing her second year abroad, so they had their own adventures. Both had done a year overseas, and I thought it's my turn," says the Appalachian Trail hiker.
Gay would also take to the trail with two other middle-aged women and mothers who want to tackle the challenge.
"It was cold and wet, and you have on one pair of clothes during the day and one at night. You have to wake up in the morning and put your wet clothes back on," she said.
Gay says about 2,000 people a year attempt the Appalachian Trail. Only about 15% make it.
"I'm really proud of the fact that we made it to the end and were strong the whole way though," said Gay.
A strong finish is somewhat of an understatement. Gay finished ahead of schedule by two-and-a-half weeks. The hike helped her realize what's really important in life, she says.
"To live simple and just appreciate everyday, and every minute. Look around you and take time. In our busy schedules we don't have time to just reflect everyday, and that was really a special part of the trail," says the hiker.
Gay says she did the hike for herself, but encouragement is what she can now offer others.
"I think the modern day woman can do anything."