In February of 2022 my Mom, Marilyn, called me and said she wanted to go on adventure together…. Fun, I said! What’s the plan? She proceeded to tell me it involved walking 40+ miles across the state of Vermont, so we could look at some leaves (and other cool stuff!). But the best part is we would get to sleep at historical Inns along the way and we didn’t even have to carry our own packs! Awesome, let’s book it, I said. Listen, Mom always had these wild plans for us and I always agreed, because she was not only my Mom, but also my best friend.
Fast forward to October 2022. FINALLY our girl’s adventure had arrived. We were SO excited. For months, we had spent time planning, hiking, training, and shopping for rain gear just in case. We hit the airport and flew in a couple of days early so we could explore Vermont and make the most of our trip. We literally did it all – Burlington, breweries, Ben & Jerry’s, Mt. Killington, a distillery, maple syrup sugarhouses, and Woodstock!! And then we headed for the first Inn, anxiously checked in and awaited our first dinner, met everyone in our group, hit the sack early because we had 11 miles right out of the gate the next day. We were PUMPED. The next four days we spent hiking together were some of the best of my life. We laughed, we talked about everything, we saw incredible natural beauty all around us. We may have actually cried laughing over our sore muscles. We ate incredible food and drank tea by the fireplace. We talked about our favorite times together. We enjoyed every single nook and cranny that this trip had to offer.
On the flight home to California, Mom said she wasn’t really feeling well, and I told her well it’s no wonder… We just hiked practically to Canada and back *we both giggled*. Two months later in December, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of terminal cancer and over the next few months I saw repeated testing and chemotherapy treatments suck the life out of her. The strength and perseverance she showed throughout this trial was nothing short of inspiring. On August 31st, 2023, we said our final goodbyes as she put her hiking boots on for the very last time and headed off on the trail to Heaven, where I hope she will be waiting for me when we meet again.
This photo submission and story isn’t one I wrote with the intent to win a prize, or devalue anyone else’s experience. I share this photo and story, to honor my Mother and keep my good memories of her alive. This photo of her next to this road sign *PAVEMENT ENDS – WINDING GRAVEL ROAD NEXT 9 MILES*, taken on the first morning of the first day of our walk, is just a true and absolute representation of the person she was. Life can be a long road, sometimes filled with unexpected obstacles and twists and turns, but she was always up for the challenge and she taught me never to give up.
You should really know that this Inn-to-Inn walk turned out to be a core memory for both of us that I will cherish for the rest of my time on this Earth. And one day, as the grief settles, I hope to complete the walk again. And even though it will be difficult, I know she will be by my side every single solitary step of that winding, gravel road.
Photo by Merissa from Orangevale, CA