I Was Born For a Storm And a Calm Does Not Suit Me: 2018 Thru-Hiker Intro

Who are you and why are you quoting Andrew Jackson?

My name is Brandon Chase and I’m planning a NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Even though many 2017 hikers haven’t yet finished, I’m too pumped about this not to get started on documenting my journey!  

The Old Hickory quote is one of my favorites from a true American hero and badass. I get chills down my spine when I read it, similar to how I feel about completing the AT.


Why are you here?

The AT holds a special place in my heart. Growing up on Mount Desert Island, off the coast of Maine, my family used to load up our station wagon and bumble along I-95 to make the two-hour drive to Baxter State Park every year and spend Labor Day weekend in leanto #6 at Abol Campground. I have fond memories of chopping firewood, roasting marshmallows, and dipping my toes into the bone-chilling Chimney Pond. While we never did hike Katahdin together (I did years later on my own), I knew deep down that one day I would conquer the trail in its entirety.

On one particular trip, I must’ve eaten a bad hotdog because I woke up in the middle of the night with an awful stomach ache. Within just a few minutes, I had completely tossed my cookies all over both me and my brother’s sleeping bags, soiling them beyond use. My dad, bless his soul, scooped up the sullied sacks, rammed them into a trash bag, and headed off to a 24-hour laundromat in Millinocket (probably spotting some hiker trash along the way). My brother, mom, and I packed into the remaining bags and were sawing logs by the time my dad eventually reappeared well after sunrise. This was perhaps not as enjoyable of a trip for him, but it certainly was for me. I hope to not repeat this experience too many times during my thru-hike.

My kind of family vacation! Post hotdog, pre-puke.

Fast forward two decades, and I’m standing in the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus. For the last 5 years, I’ve been employed as a Foreign Service Officer (diplomat) with the U.S. Department of State, where I work at our embassies abroad in service of our nation’s foreign agenda. Prior to serving in Cyprus, I spent an exciting two years at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where relations were strained following the Arab Spring revolution in 2011.  After an extended period abroad, I’ve decided to take a short sabbatical in order to pursue my long-awaited AT dream, jump off the hamster wheel for a while, and reconnect with my home country and state before going back overseas for my next assignment in Islamabad, Pakistan. What better way to accomplish all of this than walking 2,000 miles to get home?

“Flag Day”, a ceremony at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia where newly-minted diplomats receive their initial overseas assignments. I had just received my assignment to Egypt.

Although my story isn’t one of overcoming unbeatable odds, I hope to provide some insight into trail life as a frugal repatriate. An engineer by training, I love to optimize all aspects of life and knowing that I planned to hike the AT has allowed me to slowly collect and test my gear over the past year to ensure I hit the trail with items I am comfortable with and confident in using.

Hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland and testing out my Osprey pack, OR pants, and Black Diamond poles, all of which I plan to use on the AT.

I also enjoy writing and sharing my musings, so TheTrek.co is a fantastic outlet for this endeavor. Stay tuned for articles I plan to write about how to cut costs (but not quality) on your gear!


I’ll be honest–I’ve never done an extended hike of more than 7 days in duration.  That being said, I have hiked the likes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Poon Hill in Nepal, and the West Highland Way in Scotland. The AT, I know, is an entirely different beast that will provide new opportunities and obstacles that I am excited to face. 

Low visibility at Africa’s highest point.

Over the last year and a half, my fitness activity of choice (other than hiking) has been trail running and ultramarathons. I find it to be the ideal activity for me in many ways, in that it’s faster than hiking but much more scenic and enjoyable than running on pavement. Although there are a limited number of races in Cyprus, I recently completed (and won) a 50k ultramarathon and have finished several marathon-length trail distances. Come October, I will be participating in the Buff Troodos Mountain Ultra 80k race here in Cyprus and am feverishly training for it this summer.

Rounding the corner of a mid-summer trail marathon, where temps peaked at over 100 degrees!

Thru-Hike Timeline

I have the ambitious goal of completing the Appalachian Trail in 100 days. While time isn’t necessarily a limiting factor, I want to push myself mentally and physically to points yet unknown. While most people hike more slowly, many have done it even faster. I understand and accept that I will miss out on some of the coveted experiences of ‘trail life’, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to find my limits and, as they say, “hike my own hike”.

Just another day in paradise.

With many months still remaining before I start I am in the early stages of considering daily mileage, food drops, hotel overnights, and everything else that goes into planning a thru-hike. TheTrek has been a great resource for my research, and I hope to be able to contribute my findings one way or another to help someone else on the same path.

Follow along!

Although I will document my AT experience primarily here on TheTrek.co, I also write a personal blog about my Ultramarathon training and travel adventures. You can follow me on Instagram too! I’m looking forward to this journey and can’t wait to get started.

Fish watching in Baxter, circa 1995.




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Comments 2

  • Mark Cummings : Oct 15th

    Nice write up.

    • Brandon Chase : Oct 16th

      Thanks, Mark!


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