After Years of AT Dreaming, Maybe Someday Becomes Today
Ever since I got my license, I have been picking up thru-hikers hitching on the side of the road. It always gives me a Good Samaritan feeling and I was able to vicariously live through the stories they would tell me. Yet almost without a doubt, I would end up having a very similar conversation with every single one of them:
“You guys are so impressive; I’ve always wanted to hike the AT.”
“Well, why don’t you?”
“Oh, I can’t” Insert list of whatever reasons I had that year.
“Of course you can! If it’s something you really want to do, you can make it happen.”
I’d always smile and nod, bid them goodbye, and drive away (with the windows down to air out my now rank car).
I was born and raised in the mountains of Western Maine, right along the AT. I grew up at the foot of the Bigelows before moving to the crossroads of the Mahoosucs and the Whites. There’s something special about Maine and New Hampshire, and for the longest time I was content with just hiking in the area (though, to be fair – the terrain and views in my region are pretty unparalleled and seemingly endless). So while the AT was always something that was present in my periphery, it was a “someday” dream. Like most students I was always broke and endlessly busy and I had plenty to hike nearby. So while thru-hiking was something I always wanted to do, it wasn’t an immediate priority.
Change of Reasons
I’m starting to think a little differently. Last summer, despite having to work constantly, and despite having to leave for school in mid-September (cutting off the best hiking season in Maine: fall), I managed to complete all my summer hiking goals: to solo hike every one of the New Hampshire 48, to solo hike the 100 Mile Wilderness, and a solo one-day Presidential traverse (we’ll get into my love of solo hikes in another post). I even skipped my first week of classes to get in an extra week hiking up in Baxter.
I felt so accomplished – things I had tentatively set out for myself to do became a reality. Of course, I had to hike rain or shine and on all of my days off (and even some where I had to go right into work after). But to me – it was so worth it. Hiking was the best way I could think of spending a day off. The tired feeling I got at the end of a long day – or after several days of overnighting in the Whites – was amazing. It was draining in a way that was so different than the tiredness you get after a day in the office or at school. And standing at the top of a mountain? It’s almost indescribable. After such a fulfilling summer of hiking, in my mind I knew that my next step had to be the AT.
No More Excuses
The money I could save if I didn’t spend foolishly during the school year – I already own all the gear I need, and I know I really am fine sleeping in a tent for a month straight because I’ve done it before (so long as I do get some laundry and a few showers in), so my motel costs should be pretty infrequent (plus splitting costs with other hikers helps). Plus, once I get up to New England, I have plenty of family and friends who live along the trail and can provide support. Going back to school might be tough since I won’t be working all summer, but hey – to me it’s worth taking a little more in student loans to help cover that. Timing would be tough – I don’t get out until the first week in May and have to return late September – but if I push those dates slightly, I should have just about five months. I know from my experiences in Maine and New Hampshire that I can bust miles, especially on easier terrain, even with a pack. This was something I could do. This was something I would do.
So, mind made up, I’ve started planning. I’m committing.
And I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more excited in my life.
If you’re interested in following along with more of my life, hikes, and trip prep, you can find me on Instagram here.
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