Heed the call of the trail

Last modified: 4/7/2014 6:50:02 PM
Charlotte R. Miller, 24, sits on the floor of her mother, Kristin Frykman’s home in Alexandria, Virginia. She pushes her long dark brown hair away from her face and examines the items strewn before her: a lightweight orange tent, a black moleskin journal, bear mace, a water purifier, a bird call.

In total 30 pounds of gear, dehydrated food, and water. All the items that Miller will be carrying as she hikes the bottom half of the Appalachian Trail, from Springer Mt. Georgia to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia - 1,018 miles.

For Miller this trip is big – not just in miles.

She smiles as she refers to the trip as her “American version of a walkabout.”

“It’s definitely a spiritual journey. Like, an adult coming of age,” she said.

Miller grew up in Peterborough attended The Well School, then the Dana Hall School – an all girls boarding school near Boston – and graduated from Drew University in Madison, N.J. in 2011 with a degree in political science.

Miller said that while she was in college, she missed the peace and stillness found in the woods of the Monadnock region. The idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail had been “tickling the back of my mind for years,” she said.

Last April, Miller began saving money and researching the gear she will need for her trip. To get ready physically, Miller has been going to a crossfit gym to get in shape for the anticipated 10-20 miles she hopes to hike each day.

In addition, she has been reading books and blogs including A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller.

At a presentation to students at The Well School on Tuesday, Miller demonstrated what she encounters she encounters a bear on the trail.

She raised her pack above her head and stomped her feet and made loud noises.

“You want to look big,” she explained to the stunned crowd.

That tip and many others, Miller said, were gleaned over the past year of preparation.

Although Miller is excited to be hiking alone – to be reconnecting with nature and herself – she also wanted to the trip to be part of something bigger. So, she decided to use the trip as a fundraiser.

Miller will be hiking to raise funds for the nonprofit organization Hike for Mental Health. So far, she has raised $2,420.

Miller said she chose to support Hike for Mental Health because the organization is responsible with funds, donating 80% of funds received to scientific research and the other 20% to the preservation of wilderness trails.

Is she scared?

Not of the big things, like weather or bears. “I’m worried about the stupid little things, like a rolled ankle, that might force me to stop.”

Miller said the hike is also a way to face one of her biggest fears.

As a sophomore in college Miller was diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease. “I was sleeping 20 hours a day and had no short term memory,” she explained. “I know there will be ticks on the trail. Hiking will be a way to challenging that fear of getting Lyme again.”

Getting ready to hike has already taught Miller something – she isn’t alone.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of friends and family,” Miller said. Miller refers to her mother as her “rock.” It is her mother who will drive Miller the 10 hours from Virginia to her starting point in Georgia. “She was my biggest supporter emotionally, spiritually and financially.”

Her father Steven Miller was a Civil War re-enactor. during her childhood; at least part of her love of nature and the outdoors stemmed from their trips together to reenactments, camping out under the stars.

“He’s jealous,” Charlotte said. “He would love to be going with me.”

Anticipating that at some point she will hit a wall and might not feel like continuing, Miller has created an inspirational journal.

In it, she has photos and quotes, a letter from her friend telling her to have a “hike-tastic time,” and a handwritten letter from her mother. She also printed out notes that people leave online when they make a donation to her fundraising effort for Hike for Mental Health.

“Some of the people making donations I’ve never met before. When I look through this journal I see there are dozens of people behind me.”

On May 29, Miller will celebrate her 25th birthday on the trail.

But today – three days before she starts her trek – there is a lot left to do. In addition to trying to reduce the weight of her pack, Miller is trying to locate businesses along the trail that will receive and hold packages for her.

“Resupply stations,” she explains, “aren’t actually that easy to find. Most places will hold your mail for a fee like $4-5, but it’s hard to know exactly when you will arrive.” When packages are sent to Miller they will need to note that she is an, “AT Hiker with an estimated arrival date.”

Once Miller arrives in Georgia she will need to hike almost nine miles to get to the Appalachian Trail head.

“It’s like a test,” she said. “Like, if you can do this you can start.”

Follow along with Charlotte on her hike at http://chattywren.tumblr.com/


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