An Eagle’s Trail to Mount Katahdin

An Early Beginning

My trail to Katahdin began on a hobby farm in west Michigan before the common advent of such things as cell phones, handheld video games, or personal computers for young kids such as myself. Instead, we had to rely on our imagination; we had to go outside; we had to explore. It is to this upbringing that I credit my love of adventure and the outdoors. It wasn’t long before my dad and I joined a local Boy Scout Troop – Troop 21. Through Scouts, I learned the essential survival skills that became the basis of my lifelong pursuit of knowledge and adventure.

A Growing Desire

The monthly outings where we focused on activities like canoeing, camping, orienteering, or backpacking were like throwing gasoline on the fire of my growing love for nature. Some of the best outings were the week-long High Adventures where we would go somewhere different – somewhere awesome. One year we spent a week canoeing in Boundary Waters MN, while two others we spent backpacking: one in Red River Gorge in KY, and the other across Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in MI.

As Scouts, we didn’t just attend these outings, we planned every part of them. This gave us a sense of responsibility and taught us the skills we would need for the future when we were on our own. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout at age 15, and continued to be active with the Troop until I aged out on my 18th Birthday.

Sparked Interest

Throughout my college years I continued adventuring with my dad or friends whenever possible. My dad and I spent a week hiking across Isle Royale National Park on the Michigan-Canada border, hiked large sections of the North Country Trail, and even managed to do some trekking on the Maine coast. It was while on the trip to Maine that I was first inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail. We were driving towards the coast and just happened to cross the AT while listening to an audio-book version of A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – something my mother had given me for Christmas.

From then on, the idea to thru hike the AT was branded in the back of my mind. It went from a fleeting, discarded thought to full blown, dedicated pursuit in little over a year. I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, and this seemed like the ultimate challenge. But it was more than that, I had developed a passion for the trail; the beauty, the serenity, the camaraderie – they called to me on a deeply spiritual level.

Thoughts Into Action

Before long, I began re-thinking my gear collection. Sure I had gear, but it was old, bulky, heavy equipment – bought without heed to weight or size. I carefully scoured the internet for articles on lightweight and ultralight backpacking; there was simply more information than I could comprehend. As I whittled away at the articles, my knowledge and understanding of all things backpacking grew exponentially. I soon turned from general information articles to gear reviews, and after hours upon hours of reading I began to amass a solid new collection of equipment.

The new gear was soon put to the test through several shakedown hikes. They included: a solo hike in the Porcupine Mountains, a weekender along the Manistee River Trail, and a week in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – during which I am proud to say I was able to introduce two newbies to the sport of backpacking. The shakedowns went off without a hitch, and the chosen gear performed almost flawlessly.

The Final Approach

Here I am, twelve days from my departure, and raring to go. I have the camping reservations for Baxter State Park set, and all of the necessary gear in my possession. I will be spending a week alongside my friend and our fathers exploring Baxter State Park before ascending Mount Katahdin to begin the journey. My friend will join me for the first two weeks on the AT before heading home and leaving me to continue the journey alone. From that point on, it will be over the Mountains and through the streams, to Springer Mountain I go… But, from now until I leave it’s just prep hikes, trail planning, and farewell’s to friends and family.

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