Rocky and Her Friends–Nicola Dragonetti

I first heard about this opportunity one day in class. Mike handed me an article and said “Read this. I think you might find it interesting.” I read the article about Dr. J and her dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail and immediately decided that I wanted to be a part of this experience. When I started telling my friends and family that I would be carrying someone while hiking, they all had similar reactions: they thought it was an awesome idea but said I was crazy for wanting to do it. After hearing everyone’s reactions, I started thinking that maybe I shouldn’t go, that I wasn’t strong enough to survive 10 days on the trail. But I didn’t let my fears stop me and before I knew it, I was on my way to Shenandoah National Park.

On the first day, before we left the campsite, we practiced carrying Dr. J. Even just walking around a few feet was difficult and my fear about not being able to do this came back. But it was too late to back out and I knew that this experience would be worth it. My first rotation of carrying Dr. J on the trail consisted of a rather steep incline full of rocks (which turned out to be a recurring theme for me throughout the trip, hence my trail name Rocky). I had to take a few breaks to catch my breath, but I made it through my 10 minutes with less difficulty than I had anticipated. As the days went by, things started to go more smoothly, and you could see the dynamic of your group changing. We started out as a group of random strangers, turned into a team that had to work together, and eventually became a family.

We encountered many different people throughout our hike, but there was one couple that sticks out in my mind. The couple was curious about what we were doing, so we explained that we have a group of six but only four of us carried Dr. J. The man asked the guys how long they carried for and they said 10 minutes. Then the man turned to me and asked the same question. I just kind of laughed and said that I also carry Dr. J for 10 minutes. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys, so I’m used to being the only girl participating in physically demanding activities. Before this point in the trip, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was the only female in the group that was carrying Dr. J. I didn’t start this adventure with any specific point to prove, but I showed that women can carry someone up a steep mountain full of rocks just as well as men can.

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with which to share this experience and I wouldn’t change any part of it. Being able to spend 10 days in the wilderness was rejuvenating and reminded me to appreciate the simple things in life. The hike was difficult, but I learned that with teamwork, dedication, and encouragement, any goal can be accomplished. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to go on this adventure and meet such amazing people. And to all the people who said I was crazy for doing it, yea maybe I am a little crazy. But you don’t get this type of experience unless you push beyond the boundaries of what you think is possible.

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