By BILL LOOP
The Wellington Daily News
Talk about a college thesis.
Megan Taylor hikes the Appalachian Trail – 2,186 miles covering 14 states. From Maine to Georgia, the 28-year-old puts one foot in front of the other...
… Over and over and over.
She completes half of the pilgrimage in 2011, and recently completed the second leg this summer.
The journey is not only a personal goal, she's earning college credit.
Taylor holds a bachelor's degree in outdoor recreation from Southern Utah University and is working on her master's in experimental education at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
Daughter of Wellington's Lannon "Lanny" Taylor, a retired Kansas Highway Patrolman, Megan (like her father) served the people – six years in the Kansas Air National Guard.
"In the Air National Guard I was in Life Support, dealing with survival equipment. If an aircraft were to go down over land or sea, we taught the aircrew how to survive in those situations," Taylor said. "The last three years I was a weapons instructor, teaching each personnel how to shoot, clean and maintain their weapons."
Taylor strives in adverse situations.
"My specialty was water. I was in Pensacola, Florida. They would just take you out in the middle of the Gulf, drop you off, and come back six hours later."
Physically and mentally prepared for a hike of this magnitude, it's still natural for parents to worry about their daughter.
"My dad was the worst. Pros and cons of a cell phone – they are nice to have, convenient. But if you have a phone, your parents expect to hear from you," Taylor said.
The trip is anything but easy.
Taylor is a petite woman. At 5'4", she carries a backpack that can weigh up to 60 pounds in the winter months. She encounters 14 black bears, four rattlesnakes and a variety of insects.
She climbs and descends an average of 10 miles a day on the unforgiving trail.
Most nights are spent in a hammock or tent, depending on the conditions. Man-made shelters line the trail every eight to ten miles, offering a short reprieve from the elements.
The weather proves taxing. Taylor encounters a record-breaking blizzard and monsoon-like rainstorms.
Also, a substantial amount of her hike she walks alone.
But Taylor takes it all in stride – step by step, day by day.
As the miles steadily weigh on her shoulders and feet, three comforts of home dance in her weary mind.
"A hiker wants food, a shower and a bed. That's it. There were times I didn't know what I wanted more. When I would go into a town, I would be eating food as I was showering."
Page 2 of 2 - Taking her last steps on the Appalachian Trail, Taylor is relieved, but a sadness takes over. Leaving the trail proves harder than she imagined.
"It's sad. There are many tears shed. You don't want it to be over. However, I think I was ready to go, to step off. You hike 2,186 miles, to walk away from it for good … it was therapy."
Taylor has a bucket list of adventures ahead. She understands there will only be time for so many.
After she earns her master's degree, she plans on continuing her education in outdoor recreation at the University of Utah.
One piece of advice she offers hikers?
"It was given to me my first week on the trail and I've never forgot it.
'Never give up on a bad day.'
For every bad day, there are thirty awesome days."
Well said, Megan. And that is life advice that can be followed on and off the trail.