A Few Miles on the Horizon
Hey everyone! I’m Justin, and I’m super stoked about blogging during my thru-hike in 2022! Here are some random obligatory facts/things about me:
- I grew up in western North Carolina just outside of the Smokies.
- Cheerwine is hands down the best soda out there.
- I love to read and write.
- Music inspires my soul.
- Hats should normally be worn backwards.
- I’m a firm believer that everyone should be shooting for the moon.
- Most things aren’t really that big of a deal ya know?
Like most others who were born and raised in Southern Appalachia, the mountain way of life runs deep. Playing in the woods as a kid led to discovering my passion for hiking and the outdoors in high school. I learned quickly to never take time spent in the mountains for granted. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and moved away from them for the first time that I really understood how important they were to me. I made up my mind that I would get back to them as soon as I possibly could, and now four years later that’s what I’m finally doing!
I’ll be transitioning out of the Army in the spring and starting SOBO on the Appalachian Trail shortly after. I can’t think of a better way to say “I’m home!” than to take a few months walking on the trail that runs the length of the mountains that mean so much to me.
How It Started
Thru-hiking the AT isn’t something that I just randomly decided I wanted to do. It was one of those things that grew on me over time. When I first started hiking many years ago, I paid no mind to the thought of even going out for more than a day at a time. I was totally satisfied with hitting some random trail that I found on Google and then calling it a day to go back home to shower and lounge out on the couch. It was during my first overnight trip which just so happened to be on the AT that I really became fascinated by the concept of thru-hiking. My best friend and I were going on a section hike from the NOC to the Roan Highlands…
Spoiler – we didn’t make it, like not even close…but that’s a story for another post!
On the one night that we did spend out there, however, we met these two guys who were at the beginning of their thru-hike. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a word of what they said in our conversation. There was one thing about that interaction, however, that provided the first spark for my ambitions of a thru-hike. It was the way that they carried themselves so freely and seemed to be so content. I remember thinking, “one day.”
How It Ended Up
For a couple of years, I totally lost sight of my goal to hike the AT. I became lost in the monotony of life and the whole “work, eat, sleep” mentality became very real. Don’t get me wrong, I was still living life to the fullest and doing so many cool things. Something was just missing. I had hardly been backpacking since graduating college, but then all of a sudden something compelled me to get back out there.
In March of this year, I went on a pretty spontaneous weekend trip from Amicalola to Neel Gap. Suddenly, I was back in my element. I was around so many people just starting their thru-hikes, and I remembered back to when I was a totally inexperienced backpacker who met a couple of cool guys on the AT and said “one day.”
Well, that “one day” is finally almost here! My contract with the Army is almost done, and instead of transitioning into another job right away (lame), I’m going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail instead (way cooler). I can’t wait to get out on trail and share a few experiences along the way!
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