Hiker Intro – An Uncommon Beginning

Hello, fellow AT Trekkers! 

I am delighted to be selected to blog about my thru-hike. I have loved all the helpful information produced by the bloggers and vloggers here at The Trek, and I hope I can add to the valuable information.

Who are you, Mr. Hiker guy?

So you want to know who I am, what’s my story & why I am hiking the AT? Or maybe you don’t, but I’m going to spill regardless. 

I will turn 62 on the trail this year. No, I have not retired, I am self-employed, and I will be running my business while hiking. Thanks to the help of an incredible team of folks working together to let me fulfill my dream.

My life has been full, and I am sure I could bore you to tears with the jobs, the adventures, the stupid mistakes. It seems enough to fill several lifetimes. I wouldn’t say I like writing this stuff. I wish we were on the trail together trading stories, asking questions. Then I could gauge your interest – or not. But I must trudge on with this blog, hoping that you might be interested in all this stuff.

OK, so here goes.

Hiking/ camping experience?

My only real multi-day hiking experience was from a long time ago when I was in my 20s. I hiked with some friends in a side canyon near the Grand Canyon. During our week-long hike, I remember loving the simplicity of the hiking life. This was way before cell phones and laptop computers, but I still enjoyed the survival aspect of waking, breaking camp, cooking breakfast, hiking, looking for water sources, stoping for lunch, and looking for a spot to camp for the night. And repeat day after day. I loved it.

On the Black Forest Trail in Pennsylvania, a 42-mile loop trail, I hiked and camped again by myself. I loved both experiences and now ask myself why I didn’t do it more often.

For the AT, my self-appointed trail name is Tank. It’s a childhood nickname that popped up when a new friend called me that here in China. He is from New Zealand, and we both work here in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Beijing Resort. I put off hiking the AT for one year when I got this dream job to open an amusement park halfway around the world and perform in Mandarin Chinese.

In early April, I will return to the USA and hope to be on the trail soon after that. I will take my time with the trail, and once I am done hiking the AT, I will travel to Europe. My next bucket list item is researching and writing a travel book in Germany and Austria. 

But WHY the AT?

A younger me on the AT.

I lived in Virginia for many years, near the Appalachian Trail, and have section hiked it many times. Of course, I never really thought about it as section hiking. I was just up in the Shenandoah National Park hiking some incredible trails and happened to find myself on this thing called the AT. 

But when I moved away from Virginia to Houston, Texas, I missed the mountains, the trails, and the forest. But I found myself with no time, no money, and a spouse that said, ‘no way’ to me ever making my dream come true.

Then I got cancer. I am now cancer-free, but I thought my life was over for a few years. Now that I feel like I’ve received this gift of a longer life, there is no freaking way that I will put off my bucket list for a tomorrow that may not come. 

After nearly a year working in China, I find myself with money in the bank, no spouse to say ‘no’ to my dreams, and, hopefully, all the time in the world to reach for life’s possibilities.

See you on the trail!

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Comments 9

  • Wingnut : Feb 14th


    Congrats on realizing your dream. Proud of you and very happy for you. I attempted 3 thru-hikes at ages 64, 67, & 68. Illness, COVID, and impacts of Parkinson’s knocked me off each time after sections ranging from 700 mi to 1500 mi. Would not trade the experience of solitude in nature and camaraderie with wonderful hikers & angels for anything. And I hammock and love it. Getting your rig just right takes time and patience but with proper prep you will be delighted to be a hammocker on the trail; you will find you can set up most anywhere, you’ll learn to set up and break down quickly, and the quality of your sleep will be superb. Right choice for sure. Good Luck, Tank! Wingnut

    • Paul Shearman : Feb 14th


      Thanks for the encouraging comments! You sound like someone I’d love to hike with so if you ever decide to head back to the trail, let me know. Glad you like the hammock so much. I am so looking forward to becoming proficient with the setup and for some great sleep. All the best, Tank

  • Nickels : Feb 14th

    Big shout-out to the Black Forest Trail! One of the premier central PA loops!

    • Paul Shearman : Feb 14th


      Yay! It was a great hike. Fond memories. Thanks for the shout-out. All the best, Tank

  • pearwood : Feb 14th

    Sounds good, Paul.
    Assuming I can get my show back on the road I will celebrate birthday 72 on the trail.
    Blessings on your way!
    Steve / pearwood

    • Paul Shearman : Feb 14th


      I hope to see you back out there on the trail again. All the best to you, Tank

  • Peggy Ayers : Feb 14th

    I’m 60 and tried to go on the AT thru hike and get sidelined. I camped the grand canyon as a child too. I loved it. Going to try again this year. The no’s can be though to take. I’ve battled through chemo, too. I wanted a slow hiking buddy because I can’t stop smelling the flowers. But Solo it will be if I have to miss it otherwise. It’s such a gift in living, being outdoors! Enjoy, Tank

    • Paul Shearman : Feb 14th


      Thanks for the kind words. Seems we have a lot in common. If you find yourself back out on the AT, give me a shout. I too like to stop and smell the roses. All the best, Tank

  • Andrew S : Feb 15th


    In case you haven’t found it already, hammockforums.net is an incredible source of information about hammocks and their paraphernalia. There are sub-forums about hammocking on long-distance trails, including the AT.


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