The Great Escape from Monotony; Why I’m Walking to Maine

Why Am I Hiking?

Such a simple question to ask for an unavoidably complex answer.

But first, let me introduce myself. I’m Wesley. I was born, raised, and have spent most of the 25 years of my life so far in Lafayette, Louisiana; a relatively small city somewhere between Houston and New Orleans. The flats. Swamps. Alligators. In other words, geologically about the farthest thing away from the mountains.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail has been a dream of mine, as for so many others, since the first time I was made aware of it; as a small child, hearing my dad’s own daydreams of hiking it, watching movies and documentaries. To a kid raised by parents who didn’t travel much, the mountains seemed about as far away as being on another planet. However, since growing up I’ve been privileged to have traveled a good bit around the country, mostly out West, on various weeklong road trips through the desert. Doing a bit of camping and hiking whenever feasible. Good hiking spots are a bit scarce in these parts, as we’re about a solid day’s drive to anything more than small hills. I guess because of that, there isn’t much of a hiking community down here. Aside from going hunting/fishing, most don’t see much reason to be out in nature. People here tend to be a bit scared of the wilderness, even. (Maybe it’s because of the rougarou.) To most, the thought of being alone in the woods without a gun is the stuff of nightmares. Louisiana people, at least to me, also have a tendency of dreaming big, aspiring to get away from here, to see bigger and better things, but always being a little too afraid to actually leave home—which, is exactly the position I’ve been in the past several years.

Since flunking out of college a few years back, there’s been a full-length map of the AT on my bedroom wall, at each apartment, or the various houses I’ve called home. A constant reminder of the possible awaiting adventures, fuel for the ever-growing feeling of wanting to escape. Just about every year I tell myself, “I’m going to do it next year.” Tell all my friends, spend uncountable hours soaking up as much as possible about trail life, watching gear reviews, pack breakdowns, reading AT books, slowly accumulating bits of gear. But that inevitable “something” always seems to come up each and every time. Some new reason why it can’t happen that year.  A new excuse. Whether it’s financial struggles, getting a bit too tied up with a girl, (admittedly, usually the case) or musical projects pulling me aside, the AT has eluded me up to this point. But, toward the end of 2019, something a bit different happened; in the span of only a few weeks, the band came to a halt, the relationship fell apart, the financials are working out, and work/life in general is getting all too monotonous. As if life is leading me in a direction, all too easily for once, opening everything up to finally make this dream seemingly possible.

The Mountains Are Calling

And I know what I must do: go.

The great escape from monotony. Moving forward, seeing new ground every day. Clean air. Quiet. Surrounded by the natural world. The ingredients for a clear mind. The mountains have a way of putting things into perspective; making you feel as small as you really are. A reminder that the challenges in our daily lives, put in place by made-up societal standards and expectations, aren’t all that important. To live on my own terms. To just live. That is what I find myself craving in life these days. An escape from the cycle. To seek something real, and honest. An ultimate, yet simple challenge to just walk 2,200 miles. To explore new places, meet and share experiences with like-minded people, with their own uniquely similar reasons for making their pilgrimage to Katahdin. All while trying to find something within myself. I don’t know what exactly it is that I’m looking for, but I’m more than convinced that it’s out there, and beginning in April, I will be too.

The Decision to Write

Through the years of reading everything I can ever find about the AT, I’ve followed various blogs on their own treks. (I can’t not mention here that I’ve read Appalachian Trials like three times. Thanks, Good Badger!)

Over the past few months of really putting the plans together for this hike, I’ve been pretty adamant that I actually did not want to blog, or otherwise have to worry about keeping up with any contact outside of the immersion of being on the trail. But, a bit inspired by the likes of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau, I can’t fight the want for this journey to be well-documented. The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I wanted to have a way to post what I write along the way, for family and friends to keep up. And I figure, while I’m at it, I could maybe return the favor of the writers and bloggers who came before me. In hopes of inspiring a potential future thru-hiker like myself, elsewhere in the world, while I walk from Georgia to Maine.

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Comments 1

  • Casey duhon : Feb 10th

    I’m also from Lafayette currently station in Breaux Bridge la. I’m departing off Springer March 1st. hope to meet you.
    laissez le bon temps roller


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