by Lindsey Rudibaugh
My family has a long tradition of celebrating the first day of spring with a picnic. No matter the weather, my mom loads up picnic baskets with chicken salad sandwiches, a variety of other mayonnaise-based dishes, puppy chow, root beer, what we call banana dip, and plenty of bananas, among other treats. We spread out a checked tablecloth — on the grass if we’re lucky enough to have warm weather, on someone’s living room floor in the more likely event of snow/wind/general wintry weather — and we savor. We savor the flavors that we haven’t had in months, and we savor each other’s company. I often call the annual Spring Picnic my favorite holiday. It’s an immediate family-only event, and significant others are only included once they’re really significant. The menu is simple, the guest list is simple, and so, we get to simply enjoy without the stress often associated with more grandiose holiday celebrations.
This simplicity is what Travis and I wanted to capture on our wedding day. We wanted the focus to be on good food and good people who genuinely wanted to spend time together. Hence, we started planning our spring picnic-esque wedding as near to the first day of spring as we could manage. (We started this planning after Travis proposed — a great story oddly full of patriotism that we’ll happily tell you all about if you ask.) Pugh Cabin, a tiny rustic venue in Malabar Farm State Park, turned out to be an ideal spot. It held a maximum of 50 people including the two of us and it was near Mohican State Park which is where we both remember first falling in love with the outdoors. (For Travis, that was the result of trips down Mohican River with his dad; For me, that was the result of selling enough Girl Scout cookies to win a free trip to summer camp.)
We considered having all of our guests sit picnic-style on the floor, but in the end we decided to have our own private picnic in front of the fireplace.
Our wedding, similar to the way we’re feeling about our impending thru-hike, humbled us. We couldn’t invite everyone we’d ever imagined having at our side for the big day, but everyone who came added a little bit of magic. My sister bought a mannequin head to practice hairstyles since she lives in Virginia and couldn’t practice on my actual head. Our moms baked desserts. Travis’ brother got ordained so he could officiate. My family built a photo booth. Our friends flew in early and helped with countless details, other friends tended bar for free, another friend created piano arrangements of our favorite songs and played them for the ceremony….This list goes on. Getting us hitched was an incredibly collaborative effort.
The whole wedding day tribe, just after we exchanged our vows. Present: Selfie sticks, 1. Sticks in the mud: 0.
The same can and should be said of our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. We have yet to take our first steps, but we’ve already lost count of the number of people who have helped us get this close to embarking. Our student personal trainer joined our team in September and has helped us tone tiny muscles that we might have otherwise missed. My mom is serving as our Trail Mom, meaning the person responsible for mailing us our resupply boxes. Co-workers have given us books to read, and sales people at outfitter stores have gotten completely distracted from work as they tell us about their own AT experiences. Volunteers are cat-sitting for us, friends have gone on training hikes with us, and our doctor gave us a just-in-case antibiotic prescription. We’ve been offered a free place to store our belongings while we’re hiking and a free place to live afterward. People we weren’t able to invite to our tiny wedding have never-the-less gifted us things from our Honeyfund list, things like first aid, winter coats, sleeping bags, and wool socks. Kindness has come at us from every direction, at times rather unexpectedly. Everything we read tells us that once we’re on trail, this will only continue. Trail magic, as it’s called, is kindness offered up by strangers, weekenders, past thru-hikers, trail town residents: a fresh-from-the-fire hotdog, a cooler full of cold beverages, a trail-side omelette, or some simple fresh fruit.
I’ve never been particularly good at asking for or accepting help, but recent experiences have reminded me that the greatest accomplishments are not achieved alone. I’ve never felt more committed to the goal of bringing Tenderfoot to life; serving our region through living our mission will be our long-term effort to say thank you for the hours spent helping us prepare, the money donated, the time spent reading our posts and cheering for us. We hope you’ll hang in here with us a while longer because we have quite a ways to go. 2,190 miles to be exact….