Since I was seventeen, I have wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, two thousand one hundred sixty eight miles. When I graduated from high school, I planned the trip for the summer before college, but my parents said if I went they would disown me and more importantly not support my educational goals financially. I stayed home and worked in the lumber yard that my father used to work at when he was eighteen. Soon, life got in the way as it always does, and I forgot about the AT, though the trip remained in the crevices of my mind as an unrequited ghost. One day, I always told myself. One day.
Then, approximately six years ago I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a problem I’ve dealt with since a teenager, but not knowing what it was, a child of the seventies and eighties. As I got older, I simply got more tired, and I thought this was how things were supposed to be: your body wears out. The night I woke in the garage sitting in the car in my underwear, keys in hand, not knowing if I had just left and had come back or getting ready to leave, a trip to the doctor was in order. Whatever slim hope I had of hiking the AT straight through and unsupported were completely dashed. I was now tethered to a machine that required an electric power source.
The CPAP weighs a few pounds, is bulky, and comes with a hose that is attached to my nose at night. Even with carrying a solar charged battery, taking this machine with me on a 2000 mile plus hike is impractical. Heck, taking the machine through baggage at the airport is impractical, and people stare at you in the security lines for holding them up, because the TSA people take apart the machine to make certain it’s not a bomb.
Additionally, since graduating with my master’s, I’ve been filling out a ton of job applications. Each application has the same section asking if I am a disabled American. Sleep apnea is an official American with disabilities condition, but I have never considered myself disabled until I moved to New Hampshire and my home sits two hours from the AT. I can taste the dust and rocks, the humidity, the sweat involved, and I imagine the stoner Rastafarians I’d run into along the way. I’ve been marking on these job applications that I’d rather not discuss my medical issues, which is in effect saying I have a disability without really saying I have a disability. It’s like pleading the fifth in a trial. So I really don’t want to talk about the Appalachian Trail.
Then I found these puppies:
Yep. That’s a CPAP. You tape them to your nose like a Band-Aid, and throw them away in the morning. Thank you Provent! No power cord, no hose to the nose, no more delays in airport security lines.
More importantly, I can ride the Greyhound down to Atlanta, Georgia in mid to late May 2016, hitch a ride to Dahlonega, and hike all the way back North.
I’ve never let my disability, which I have never in the past considered to be a disability, stop me from doing anything. Now that I am labeled though, it is difficult to think otherwise—that I have to sleep in for those few extra hours, that I can’t have a normal job because I have to take naps, that insert <appropriate excuse>. Walking over two thousand miles is daunting for normal people, but then most people who walk the AT aren’t all that normal.
And there are amazing people out there like Rachelle Friedman. Though I doubt I’ll ever do a Victoria Secrets Lingerie photo shoot:
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