The Whole Legend Thing
Korongo blogger Mary Anderson is making a solo thru-hike of the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. She has finished the southern half and is now headed south in Montana. She about 1,000 miles to go. —ST
I am a legend out here. At least that is what they tell me. A group of hikers pass me and ask, "Are you Mary Badass? We've heard about you." I ask what they have heard, and they say that I am "killing it."
I am walking down a remote dirt road in Montana and trail angel Frank drives by, bringing some hikers back from town almost 20 miles away. "Mary!" he says to me.
"How do you know my name?" I ask him.
"I've been told to keep an eye out for Mary Badass," he replies.
It's weird being a legend. I admit that for some part of me the recognition feels good. It stokes my ego and makes me feel less alone. But in reality, I know I am a legend because I am old. I am in no way "killing it." A big day for me is about half to two thirds of what these other hikers are doing. I can't begin to keep up with them. But the fact that I am older than most of their mothers gets to them. And the fact that I hiked the Appalachian Trail in winter and the Pacific Crest Trail before there were trail apps seems to seal the deal. "You did it with map and compass?" they ask incredulously.
It makes me realize that being the kind of legend these kids see me as is nothing special. It is just different from the norm. Certainly I am odd out here, with my ancient wool shirt instead of the nylon puffies they all carry for warmth. But lots of people have gone before me, finding their way through the world with map and compass.
I am glad to give them something to aspire to when they get old. I'll answer their questions of "What do I have to do to be able to keep hiking when I am old?" with some amusement. "Just keep going," I tell them. "Don't stop. And try not to have as many injuries as I've had." But I also try to assure them they don't want to be like me when they get old. If only they knew that the confusion they feel in their lives doesn't necessarily go away when you become a legend.
This whole legend thing got me thinking about what I really want my legacy to be. While I am glad to give the younger folks out here something to aspire to physically, I wish I had some larger wisdom to share. What I'd really like to leave behind is a life lived from the heart. I want to know I tried my hardest to be kind and generous. I want to live gently on Mother Earth. And I want to be kind even to those who have been unkind to me. It is something i am working to accomplish each day.
I still have one thousand trail miles to go, which sometimes seems like a lot. I think the journey toward really living a loving life will take a lot longer and be more difficult than those one thousand miles of walking.
Above: Mary (center) with a group of women hikers whom she met on the trail in Montana.