Jeff Ryan, Author & Speaker

Photo of spring flowers in woods

The First Hike

It’s been an excruciating few weeks here in Maine. And I only have myself to blame.

I fall for it every year. You’d think that coming up on six decades of going through this would make me older and wiser. But so far, I’m just older.

The problem is, of course, the promise of spring.

First, the sun gets higher in the sky. Then, nudged along by daylight savings time, it actually stays light past seven at night.

“Oh, boy”, my over developed hiking brain says to me, “it’s almost time for a long walk on a snow-free trail.”

But my over-optimistic forecast always turns out to be a cruel joke.

We almost always get an April wallop of snow. This year we got two of them that buried us under a foot or more. The second was the toughest to bear. And it wasn’t the accumulation in this neck of the woods that brought on the angst.

My buddy, Wayne and I had decided to hike part of the New England National Scenic Trail in Massachusetts. That area generally gets less if any snow than we do up here in the northeastern-most corner of America. But the second storm turned the world on its head. Massachusetts got the brunt of the accumulation. So, we postponed the trip for a week.

I had already spent late February and all of March making the best of the winter that arrived like a late dinner guest, then refused to go home even though the hosts were straining to stay awake. I browsed my shelves of guidebooks, read a few, then ordered a few more. I can never be too careful in this regard — the hedge against my furnace of dreams running out of fuel. I inspected every piece my gear. I even patched and waterproofed my tent, hoping to coax an incredible 23rd year of duty out of it.

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For the past few days, I’ve been acting like an Irish Setter sitting by the back door hoping against hope that my owner will let me out. Three nights from now we’ll be back on the trail and back in the tent. Our pace will slow back down to that of Mother Nature herself. A time to walk. A time to heal. The days will be marked by sunrise and sunset instead of manmade “to do” lists.

And will be good.

Jeffrey H Ryan is an author, adventurer, photographer and historian. He has written several books about his outdoor exploits, his fascination with hiking trails and the people and places found just off the beaten path. His debut book, Appalachian Odyssey: A 28-year hike on America's trail was hailed by the former Executive Editor of National Geographic as "a classic of nature and travel writing" and set off a national tour (in a 1985 VW camper, no less). His books are known for weaving a deep appreciation for history into walks across contemporary landscapes that give readers the feeling they are hiking right alongside. When Jeff isn't trekking, chasing down a great story or spinning yarns from his keyboard, he enjoys sharing his adventures with audiences who love the outdoors. He spends much of his time in his beloved native state of Maine.

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