Another Blogger Joins the Roster
I’m absolutely ecstatic to be among this year’s class of Appalachian Trail bloggers. I know that reading trail logs (particularly on The Trek) was beyond helpful for me when thinking about (and eventually planning) my own thru-hike, and I’m delighted to be able to share the many thoughts and experiences I’m bound to have in the months ahead.
Who am I, Anyway?
My name is Jasper (no trail name yet, though I hope to find one), and I’m a late-20-something from Massachusetts. In the non-pandemic-y times, I was a ‘multi-hyphenate’ theater artist with a not-so-hidden love of hiking, camping, and the outdoors. With theater still suffering the effects of the pandemic (and the threat of new variants like Omicron making the immediate future uncertain), I’m embarking on a journey I did not expect to have but often dreamed about.
On February 24th I will begin the adventure at the Amicalola Falls approach trail, and I hope that this blog will allow me to bring you along for the many ups and downs that lie before me. (Yes, that’s a little ‘equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times’ humor for you, there.)
Growing up about an hour away from the AT, I feel as though I always knew of its existence to some degree. For most of my childhood and teen years (until it’s unfortunate closure in 2009) I attended a small overnight camp for a couple of weeks every summer, and I can still recall some of the very cool, outdoorsy counselors talking about the Appalachian Trail here and there. It became something I had a peripheral awareness of, but had little understanding as to its true magnitude.
Years later, when working in New Hampshire as a camp counselor myself, the AT creeped its way back into my mind– A coworker on staff had done a section hike before arriving for the season, another co-worker’s friend had thru-hiked the summer prior. It felt as though everyone had (or knew someone who had) a connection to the trail– I began to read and learn more about it, and eventually hiked a few short sections on my own.
At the time, thru-hiking as a goal didn’t seem like a practical option for me for a number of reasons. Time passed by, life shifted underneath me, and I placed my interest in long-distance backpacking squarely in the mental realm of ‘impossible’.
So How is this Happening?
Fast forward to 2020.
During the first year of the pandemic, my partner and I spent large swaths of time traveling between Massachusetts and Virginia to live with and assist his elderly parents. Driving along the edge of northern Appalachia and the Blue Ridge Mountains had me thinking (and talking) about the Appalachian Trail once again.
One day (following another one of my AT-blathering episodes) he looked at me and very simply asked “So… Why don’t you just… Do this?”
It’s with his encouragement, patience, and assistance that this idea became a reality and a plan.
I’m lucky to say that I also have an incredibly supportive network of family and friends (and even friends-of-friends!) who are cheering me on.
This summer and fall I had the opportunity to use a few trips as shakedowns: One weekend spent at a few campsites down in North Carolina, another exploring in the Smokies, and a third spent on the AT/Long Trail in Vermont. (The next time I see Clingman’s Dome/GSMNP or the fire tower on Stratton Mountain, it’ll be as a thru-hiker. Surreal.)
I’ve also joined my local chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club and dove right in. I’ve worked on a couple of trail crews on the AT boundary here in MA and helped make accessibility improvements on the New England Trail, as well as an overnight backpacking excursion. (Which taught me that my 20-degree bag absolutely needed to be swapped out for a 0-degree before I head out… That was a chilly, unexpected 28-degree autumn night.)
I’m hoping to get in at least one more overnight shakedown before my departure, but for the most part my training this last year has consisted of hiking, hiking, and more hiking. (With a little bit of yoga/stretching and strength training mixed in.) Longer day hikes by myself, shorter ones with friends. Always with my pack, some gear, and a couple of 5-pound weights thrown in for good measure.
Thank you to Zach and The Trek for providing me this space to share my journey on-trail. I hope you’ll follow my little winter-start adventure, and I’m excited to share with you some bits and pieces along the way.
Stay tuned for more posts about gear, prep, and on-trail goodness.
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