And So It Begins …
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small” – Richard Branson
It has long been a dream of mine to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). The idea first came to me while on a mission trip to Haiti in 2015. One of my best friends – Matt “Downhill” Peltz – loaned me Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods.” For those unfamiliar, Bryson’s book chronicles his attempt to thru hike the AT (complete the entire 2,200-mile trek in one calendar year). The book was educational, funny, and, most of all, inspiring.
Upon our return from Haiti, Matt and I started making plans to begin our own “walk in the woods.” We were both at points in our careers where we could ill afford to take the requisite 5-6 months off work to thru-hike. Therefore, we decided to break the trail into more manageable segments and “section hike” the AT instead. To begin, we decided to start our trek by spending 6-7 days on the trail at a time and see just how far we would get. Based on our progress, our schedule could always be adjusted at a later date to make realistic progress toward our goal.
Given that neither of us was really all that familiar with hiking, nor did we possess the necessary skills to survive in the woods, we thought it best if we recruited a few others to join our adventure. It took a year to round up three other willing souls and plan our first segment (Springer Mountain to NC/GA state line). Truth be told, we had as much fun planning the hike as our actual time on the trail. Downhill had a field day researching the latest gear and technology and then making suggestions as to the optimal configuration. I spent time reviewing the terrain and developing the logistics for our trip. At long last, our journey was about to begin!
AT Section Hikes 2016-2021
Our first week on the trail was filled with just about everything you could hope for. Good weather, great conversation, challenging climbs, and a couple close encounters with bears that I would have preferred not to have had. Hiking with a group of 5 proved to be more challenging than I would have thought. Each of us came to the hike with different expectations that didn’t always align. It was then that I learned the concept – hike your own hike (HYOH). Long story short – the following year, our group shrank to three. In the years that followed, Downhill and I were all that remained of the original crew. Ultimately, we were able to section hike about 500 miles of the AT before Downhill tragically passed away.
And then there was one …
“You want to do what?!”—my wife
I recently informed my wife of my desire to thru hike the AT in 2023. At first, I think she thought it was just a phase I was going through. Perhaps my midlife crisis (who knows, she could be right). But after seeing my persistence in research, training hikes, and gear acquisition—I think reality has finally set in. She is now resigned to the fact that I have officially joined the AT class of 2023.
I will hit the trail in February. I am grateful that The Trek is willing to let me share my experiences with my family, friends, and other hiking enthusiasts. Once on trail, I hope to have the energy to chronicle my journey and answer your questions. If you are looking to follow an inexperienced AT hiker that really doesn’t have a clue what he’s in for—I’m your guy!
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