You never realize how much it rains, until you spend all your time outside.

On the days it didn’t rain, my feet were wet from a ford across the Linville River and an unsuccessful rock hop at Harper Creek: the recent precipitation has caused the streams of southern Appalachia to roar louder and ripple brighter: the impact of millions of raindrops joined together.

The storms have been challenging and it has made the experience more encompassing. Water seeps into my slightly pressed lips, pelts my rain jacket, and forms wrinkles on the tips of my fingers. I may not see many views, but I feel, hear and taste the trail more when it rains.

Hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail with my family in tow has been more demanding than a traditional thru-hike. Before I get out of the car in the morning, I nurse my son. As soon as I get picked up in the afternoon – often after 20 or more miles – I nurse again. Then I make sure everyone else is fed, I give my kids a bath, help my daughter brush her teeth, read books aloud and pray that my kids fall asleep. When they are quiet and still I take a shower, pack for the next day, and try to blog without falling asleep. Don’t be fooled by the family pictures on Instagram. What we’re doing isn’t cute; it’s hard — and important.

Brew and I are committed to trying to raise awareness and funds for the Mountains-to-Sea-Trail. We want to connect our people and connect our state with a common backyard. The biggest challenge is obtaining partnerships, easements, and land parcels. There has to be strong support and unity in order to move forward with our state’s footpath. When I see Charley running down the trail and Gus flailing his hands and legs as he rides in a kid carrier on Brew’s chest. I feel the significance and urgency of conservation. Momma may be the hiker; but this is their trail.

I hope our journey illustrates that adventure is possible with young children. Complicated, but possible. This past week, Gus threw up, spiked a fever, and had a string of sulfur-smelling diaper blow-outs. I struggled with guilt, when I left my crying infant with a “mostly well” husband to put in my miles. We have had to learn to heal and adapt on the move. But the trail has given us more time together as a family than what we have at home. It also forces us to communicate, ask for help, and lean on our family and friends.

Hiking through Linville Gorge I observed water twisting, turning, pooling, and cascading; adapting as needed in order to move forward and meet the ocean. And when I climbed Table Rock Mountain and gazed down on the deep valley below, I was able to witness the long-term impact of persistent fluidity.