By Leilah Grace
These past 8 weeks have been an unexpected adventure. Rue having the opportunity to be on the east coast has been this incredible chance for the executive director and vice president to go on adventures and collaborate in person on building the APT. No more meetings over zoom, phone calls at odd times as we juggle a 3-hour time difference or worrying about charging a dying phone on a long call. We have had this time to meet in person, share meals, laughter, and connect to create a more unified vision of the APT. The distance has never been a true hinderance, yet the proximity has revealed some of the challenges we have faced in new ways. Over this period, we have even been able to gather the entire APT board together in person, a first for our organization! We look forward to recreating this again in August at our Homecoming event.
Rue and I had our first backpacking trip in April where we hosted the April happy hour from my tent. I would be lying if I did not admit that I was nervous heading out on that trip. Here I am a backpacker with less than 500 miles on my pack and there’s Rue with tens of thousands of miles on his packs. The trip was light and fun, interspaced with moments of close deep connection as we reflected on the past 2 ½ years. We completed several day hikes, short and long, where we spent time discussing the APT, the final 700 miles of the first scouting hike, and simply sharing the stories of our lives in person as we enjoyed the roots and rocks of Appalachia. An already solid friendship and partnership has grown over these weeks. I am excited for him to return to trail and finish the first scouting hike, yet I will miss the shared adventures.
In 2020 Rue stayed with my family twice over that summer where we met for the first time, and I had the privilege of returning him to trail both instances. This week I will repeat that, only instead of leaving him in a Kroger parking lot or a trailhead I will be delivering him to the airport where he will begin the final leg of scouting hike. I will leave him with the words I have always said at these junctures, “I’ll see you in Oregon.”
Each separation was a challenge and I anticipate that this one will be as well. I offered to help Rue in December 2019 because I could see that he was overwhelmed and needed something. Unsure of what I could offer but knowing I needed to offer I did. I remember sending him a message when he agreed that I hoped we could be friends, not just business partners. There is no way I could have imagined that we would be where we are today, business partners and best friends. We each pour our hearts into this organization and through that the APT is where it is today, along with all of the efforts of Dani, Suzanne, Yvette, and each of you. Thank you for supporting us, thank you for supporting Rue, thank you for supporting me.
I’ll see you in Oregon.