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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Comments 21

  • Madi Voigt : Nov 6th

    Can’t wait to follow along!

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      Thanks Madi – stay tuned!

      Reply
  • David Firari : Nov 6th

    From one inexperienced AT hiker to another, congrats on pulling the trigger and committing to a thru-hike! I’m also starting NOBO in February 2023. Hope to see you out there!

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      That’s great David. I hope our paths cross. Good luck on your hike.

      Reply
  • Bill Winters : Nov 7th

    Good luck! I’ll be following closely. My wife and live next to the Smokys and have hiked almost the entire 900 – still have 3 trails to go. We have began prep for the exact same endeavor. We backpack quite a bit but are a bit intimidated by backpacking for 5 months straight through. If you run into a need in the Smokys area, let me know. Have fun!

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      Thank you Bill. It’s good to know that in a pinch I have somewhere to turn. I too am intimidated by the 5 months. My longest stint in the woods is 10 days and I thought that was hard. I’m hoping that there is a point at which it becomes easier and I just hadn’t reached it yet (please let that be true!). Perhaps I will see you out on the trail. Thanks for following.

      Reply
  • Wanda Hale : Nov 7th

    Congratulations on the decision. I dream too. We do hike quiet a bit in short sections but no backwoods camping yet (we camp in campgrounds trying to figure it all out). Will be following your journey.

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      Thanks Wanda – I appreciate your support.

      Reply
  • Raycraft Craig : Nov 7th

    Hopefully I’ll join you for a few weeks after the snow melts!

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      I’m counting on it! Stop by my house before hitting the trail, I have so gear that I would love for you to carry for me 🙂

      Reply
  • Michael Clark : Nov 7th

    Looking forward to following along and even more excited about the lifetime’s worth of great stories that are sure to come out of this adventure.

    Reply
    • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

      I hope to supplement the bicycle trip stories with something from this century. I would love to get all the sibs on the trail for at least a day somewhere. I know you need to recover from the marathon, but you should be good by the time I launch!

      Reply
  • Paul Rhoades : Nov 7th

    Looking forward to following you on this adventure,I will be retiring at the end of 23 and am planning on a February 24 date to start the AT . I have done done about a dozen one week hike’s around Michigan California Alaska and Peru but never 5/6 months on one trail!!But have been dreaming about it for a long time.

    Reply
  • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

    Congratulations on your upcoming retirement Paul! As you are an experienced hiker, you know that it will take just about all the time you have remaining in your job to plan and prepare for your own through hike. Should make the time fly by. I know I personally benefited from and enjoyed reading this years AT Class’ posts. If you follow along with me, I am sure that I will be able to share new and exciting ways to screw up and (hopefully) recover. Thanks for your support and good luck on your own upcoming adventures.

    Reply
  • Tony Rose : Nov 7th

    I am so jealous. I’m a newbie at 66 and starting with a 70 mile hike at Laurel Highland Hiking Trail in May 2023. Be safe and have fun.

    Reply
  • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

    You know what they say Tony – a journey of 1000 miles (or 2000) begins with a single step. Sounds like you will be out making some memories soon. You be safe and have fun too.

    Reply
  • Walt Kolb : Nov 7th

    Best of luck. I have not yet pulled the trigger. I have almost everything I need to do it. Plus pretty good physical condition. I’m living south of Raleigh NC. Just waiting for the right time.
    Walt

    Reply
  • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

    No time like the present Walt. Let’s make 2023 the year!

    Reply
    • Walt Kolb : Nov 7th

      You are right. I am retired and need the next adventure in my life. email me directly to further discuss.

      Reply
  • Sue : Nov 7th

    I look forward to your tales and tribulations. You got this!!

    Reply
  • Bill Clark : Nov 7th

    Hopefully more tales than tribulation! Thanks

    Reply

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