How Pancakes Led to Planning a 2194 Mile Walk in the Woods

The Realization

It was a Sunday morning in September, I was flipping pancakes. My wife was upstairs, presumably dreaming about pancakes, and I thought to myself, “What would I be doing if not this?” At the time, I was working for one of the largest bikeshare logistics companies in the US as an ops manager overseeing a team of about 20 employees in Boston. What came immediately and without hesitation: I’d hike the AT. 

Fast forward 20 minutes, over the sound of pancakes being enjoyed, I said to my wife, “So I was thinking I might quit this job and in the spring—”  She shot back, cutting me off: “Hike the AT? Do it, I think it’s a good idea.”

Wow! There it was, the only permission I needed, granted without pause. I immediately suggested we drive to Jaffrey, NH. It had been years since I had even been on a day hike, but I wanted to see my favorite place in the world: Mount Monadnock, which had been the precise place that had inspired the desire to even consider a thru-hike, ten years prior. Though we did not hike that day, we drove up, parked at a local outdoor sanctuary with a beautiful view of the summit of Monadnock, and it became clear. I had some work to do. 

How Did We Get Here?

Let’s rewind here a bit. Obviously, my wife and I have been experiencing some of the same struggles as everyone else had during the pandemic, including but not limited to toilet paper shortage, lack of bike supply, and deficit of late-night diner food. To add to that, we had moved from Massachusetts to California in 2020, and then back in early 2021, I had changed jobs twice already, and had been diagnosed with OCD 5 months prior. Add to the list of life-changing events – going away for up to six months for a long walk in the woods, because that is what most people do, right? 

Zach, what are you doing? 

The inquisitive reader would likely stop me here and ask “Zach, why, after all of that, are you considering doing this?” A question that many of my friends and family, maybe out of courtesy, have not solicited yet. So, here it is, I want to complete something. I feel that I need to do this for me and my wife. 

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote an essay in creative non-fic called “the Anatomy of a Quitter” where I recounted my childhood karate class, and how my love of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 had been greater. Of course, none of this has to do with a thru-hike specifically, though the tendency that I’ve had for noncompletion has always been pretty static. I’ve left too many jobs before I should have, didn’t complete my MBA, gave up on getting my black belt, etc. Quickly approaching 30 years old and feeling like I haven’t accomplished much, I wanted to do the toughest thing I could think of. Something that would afford me some time to be with myself to think about who I am, where I fit into the world, and what I could do next. I wanted to prove to myself and grow the discipline to show up and see things through, even in the toughest and most inconvenient of times.

Thank you for following.

If you’ve made it this far into this blog post, thank you for being here. I hope to regularly update this with my progress and some of the lessons I’ve learnt during the course of my trip. I am actively battling OCD, anxiety, and depression, and as such I anticipate that my mental illnesses will follow me onto trail. I plan on being completely open and totally candid about what it is like to take on such an endeavor while dealing with a host of mental illnesses. It’s a deep personal belief that all people deserve to be included in the outdoors and that mental illness should not necessarily be a hindrance to those that have a desire to be in nature. I hope that you’ll find my writing funny, inspiring, and encouraging.

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Comments 7

  • Monroe DeVos : Dec 19th

    Do it…!

    I’m now 67 and my twenties were the Do It years.

    – US Air Force 4 years
    – 8 1/2 months in a Greek Prison
    – 3 years traveling as a street musician in Europe, living in Morocco, spent time on an Ashram in India, trekked the Himalayas
    – Got my BA and settled on a career
    – Later on completed the first part of The Appalachian Trail by finishing the Georgia portion.

    Do It….!

  • Monroe DeVos : Dec 19th

    Do It…!

    • Dean Beaty : Dec 20th

      I’m 69, lost my beloved wife Arline November 12,2020. Trying to bear the unbearable. I will start my thru ?‍♂️of the Appalachian trail February 15th, 2022 in honor and tribute. USAF Vietnam veteran. My health is good, barring serious health issue, I will climb Mt. Katadyn sometime in late July or August. I look forward to meeting all the 2022 thru hikers. Wish ALL success, let’s all encourage and help each other accomplish that goal. Hope we set a record for completion percentage.

  • Chris : Dec 20th

    You got this. I understand mental illness. My advice is one step at a time…no pun intended. See you on the trail.

  • Michael : Dec 22nd

    Well said. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts and experiences…until I join you on the trail next March. Enjoy.

  • Jon Dauble : Dec 22nd

    Good luck! Heading out January 17th from Amicola. So stoked for everyone doing this adventure. Hope we run into each other.

  • Just Bob : Dec 27th

    Pancakes never tasted so good huh?

    As echoed before: Just DO IT !!!!!!!!


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