Hike Your Own Hike
Carol Vassey is the Senior Firm Administrator for Kilpatrick Townsend. Outside of the office, she wears many hats; she is a mother, grandmother, missionary (who has led and participated in many mission trips to Haiti) and the list goes on. However, it’s her hiking boots, not hats that led us to sit down and speak with her about another passion of hers. Carol is an avid hiker who has set out to hike the Appalachian Trail.
LM: When did you begin hiking and what is it that you enjoy most about the activity?
CV: My first true “hike the A.T.” section hike was in May of 2013 – but truth be told, over the last 25+ years, every time I could intersect with the A.T. on a family camping trip, I did.
LM: When did you decide you were going to hike the Appalachian Trail?
CV: It’s been a dream since I learned about it as a Girl Scout – and I did a few overnight hikes on the Trail as a young(er) adult. I tried to interest my husband in doing the A.T. but his answer was always the same: ‘you can do that when I’m dead.” He died in 2007 and I knew I would hike the entire trail ‘someday.’ When you start to lose family and close friends, ‘someday’ becomes ‘now.’ Since I cannot take 6 months off from my life, I am hiking it in sections. My goal is to have completed the entire trail by age 70!
LM: What are three things you have to take with you on your hikes?
CV: You certainly REQUIRE more than 3 things – but my top three are a good water filtration system, REALLY GOOD boots and a warped sense of humor (because you will actually be pooping in the woods).
LM: How much progress have you made so far?
CV: I’ve hiked all of GA, most of NC (I have done 204 miles) and 120 miles in Maine thus far. The Trail is 2,179 total miles so much is still ahead of me.
LM: Are there any lessons you have learned in the office that you carry with you on the trail?
CV: Absolutely! First, don’t sweat the small stuff. Secondly, and most important, follow your gut instincts. Slow down when you think the situation calls for it, and move ahead when the atmosphere is promising. Sometimes you must move past some very frightening ‘trail magic’ (did I mention the two rattlers in the middle of the GA A.T.?) but use your brain and not your emotions.
LM: What’s one of the biggest misconceptions you had about hiking before you started?
CV: My family was concerned about safety on the A.T., as was I. My experience has demonstrated to me that most people on the Trail are ‘normal people’ and look after each another. My children insisted at first that I carry a small Taser but I left it at home after my second hike (no reason to carry that extra weight). The other misconception was that the Trail would be difficult to follow. Those white blazes work and it’s easy to see where the Trail is headed – even if it is straight up (or down) a 4-story pile of rocks!
LM: Do you hike alone or with a group?
CV: My preference is to hike solo; however, my son, youngest daughter and several of my older grandchildren have hiked a few shorter sections with me.
LM: What does completing this hike mean to you?
CV: For me doing the Trail is a dream I have had in my soul for a very long time. Hiking every mile at my own pace – ‘hike your own hike’ as they say – enjoying the solitude of nature, the absolutely breath-taking scenery, the rare wildlife (I see scarlet tanagers and mushrooms in colors you can only imagine) plus meeting people I would not know if I sat at home or in front of a computer.
LM: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start hiking?
CV: If you can get past the repetition of hiking up and down a bazillion hills, while carrying everything you need on your back, I will say that if this is an adventure you want to have, go for it! I am not young and if I can do it, anyone can. Passionate blind hikers with their seeing-eye dogs have done the A.T. The Trail has been conquered by amputees and long-distance runners. Yes, you will invest in some fairly expensive gear but you won’t care after the first 100 miles. You will experience aspects of life that most people will never imagine. You will be richer, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. And you will be always possess your memories of the Great American Hiking Experience.