93 ‘Til Infinity

March 2020

It’s hard to say exactly how I was feeling back then. I remember I was watching a basketball game when the camera cut to Mark Cuban reacting to something on his phone. He looked awestruck as he read the news of another game that was being played simultaneously that had suspended play at halftime due to a potential Covid-19 outbreak.  For the first time, I started to come to grips with the reality that the world was about to change. To what extent, I was still unsure.

I had made a plan back in 2017 when I moved across the country from Massachusetts to Phoenix, AZ. I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail in three years’ time. The plan gave me plenty of time to save money, buy some gear, and prepare both physically and mentally for such a grand adventure. The time had finally come, only to be met with opposition of a caliber too big to overcome.

The trail had always been something on the periphery of my mind. I grew up in Northeastern Massachusetts. Georgetown is not truly in the “North Shore” but close enough for all intents and purposes. At a younger age, I was familiar with many parts of the trail in New England. My family and I visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire several times. We even have a hunting cabin up in Maine close to the Kennebec River. It’s just about a mile or so away from the trail as a crow flies. I had heard the term “Appalachian Trail,” and I roughly knew it was something that went as far south as Georgia, but I never made the connection that someone could walk from one end to the other in a journey we call thru-hiking. It wasn’t until I was handed a copy of the somewhat infamous A Walk in the Woods that the idea of actually being able to hike it in its entirety was formed.

My cousins and me on a trail in Maine.

As it does for many in the community, it became an obsession of mine. I secretly plotted the idea of a thru-hike as I slowly started to gather gear and researched every part of it I could. Part of me knew the idea was crazy. At least crazy to some, but I felt a call that I never had felt before. Eventually, I opened up to others about the plan, which was more or less my full commitment to it.

But alas, I had to accept that it wasn’t my time in 2020. Part of me still wanted to hike as news came in about nearly everything shutting down. I’d be safer out on the trail, I thought. The email from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy ended any notion I had of a thru-hike as it requested people on the trail to get off and requested others with plans of a hike that year to stall their plans. I had to move on, accept my fate, and pivot to something else. After all, my hike wasn’t serious in the grand scheme of things happening in the world. I used my money saved for the trail to buy a car, packed up my things, and took a job out in Yellowstone National Park for the summer. It wasn’t the trail, but it would do for now as I reorganized my future plans. The trail wasn’t going anywhere.

Life of a Parkie

What was supposed to be just three months in Yellowstone turned into three years of working and traveling around the country. A “parkie,” for those unfamiliar, is a nomadic individual who takes work that offers housing, and in some cases meals, in and around national parks or other places of natural beauty. Living this way was a whole change of pace for me. Though I wasn’t getting rich taking these jobs, I was enjoying my time exploring all these new places. The lifestyle had filled the void that had been left from the trail, and the raging fire from within that the trail used to be turned into a small flicker. But it never was truly extinguished.

Sequoias are some big ol’ trees.

I went from Yellowstone to a dude ranch in Arizona, where I met the love of my life. We left the ranch together as I sold my car and moved into hers. We lived like vagabonds in the American West as we checked off locations we had always wanted to travel to. Travels led us to unreal beauty like that of Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon. They also led us to silly roadside locations like Roswell and the world’s largest Bass Pro Shop located in the former Memphis Grizzlies pyramid-shaped stadium. We took a job amongst the largest trees in the world in Sequoia National Park until we were run off by wildfires. We took in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and Yellowstone once again until we eventually took a job in Everglades National Park. This is where the trail crept from the back of my mind back to the forefront.

I thought in some ways I had moved on, but the call was back, and plans hatched anew.

Thirty Spins Around the Sun

Champney Falls in the White Mountain National Forest.

After spending the last year working at a resort on Lake Champlain and now up in the White Mountains, once more I’m ready for the trail. The time feels right, and in March, I’ll be joining the herd of dreamers heading north from Springer to Katahdin. I’ll be turning thirty years old in April, which in some ways feels significant and in others is just another number to attach to my person. I look forward to all aspects of the trail. I look forward to the moments of bliss and appreciation as I take in new and old views. I look forward to meeting others on the trail who are of like minds. I look forward to being pushed by difficult climbs and miserable weather. But mostly, I look forward to living life on purpose and traveling at the speed of a human being.

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Comments 6

  • Jessica : Feb 3rd

    So proud of you and excited to follow along in your adventure <3

  • Scott Riggins : Feb 3rd

    Safe travels Luke. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventure!

  • Andrew Harmon : Feb 6th

    Can’t wait to see you tackle this feat Lukey! Looking forward to joining you for some hikes in Western MA, and always know you have a bed and hot shower here if you want it!

  • Peepeepoopoo69420 : Feb 6th

    This post is almost as ? fuego as the one that ran you away from them big ol’ trees.

  • Debbie Harper : Feb 7th

    Good luck Luke! Something I always wanted to do.
    My friend Terry hiked the trail after she and her husband retired. She’d also like to follow you. She wrote a book!
    Deb Harper, Hamilton Terrace

  • David Crihfield : Feb 9th

    Good luck Luke. I can’t wait to read about your journey.


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