Another Southbounder? Sheesh.
Hey there Appalachian Trials! Thanks for having me!
My name is Jeremy and I have been privileged by the purveyor of this website and author of Appalchian Trials, Mr. Zach Davis to enroll as a blogger and a member of the Appalachian Trials class of 2016! *Fireworks, clapping, celebration and such*
I’m going to try to use this post as my introduction to you, and hopefully explain who I am and why I’m here.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, there has been very little variation in my surroundings. I’ve done all the things that someone in their early 20’s might be expected to. I’ve been pretty responsible. There isn’t much going on today that I would really change. To be honest with you, all 23 years of my life have been pretty damn good. I’ve a shelter over my head, food to eat and a fulfilling job as a Paramedic. I’ve been able to pay for school as I complete it, drive a decent car and I have friends and family that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The point of my narcissistic rambling is actually pretty straightforward; I’m content and comfortable.
So why are you hiking?
To be frank, because I can. Life is too short to put off adventure. Too short to delay what we can only assume is the future. “Live life to the fullest, we are not promised a tomorrow” is a quote that has resonated with me for years. I’ve never acted on it in any extreme way and I plan on doing just that. I’m tired of hearing these great stories of adventure everyday and not having my own. I think it’s about time to go out and get it.
Just last year my girlfriend at the time and I were backpacking a 2 mile section of the AT in Lee, Massachusetts. On our way through the town stopping at stores and restaurants we had heard stories of thru-hikers. People were regularly hiking from Georgia to Maine, and right through our backyard. This was unbelievable for someone who has never heard of it, so we continued our day, laughing at this surely impossible account.
Three-quarters of a mile and 2 hours into the hike, we were spent. Our giant backpacks and cotton tee shirts were doing us no good in this terrain. Lighting up a couple of “break cigarettes” we marveled at just how hard this trail was. As we sat, smoked, and talked, a homeless looking dude with a ratty backpack and scraggily beard came bombing up the trail behind us. He stopped, introduced himself as Stretch (or some other “weirdo” name) and asked for a smoke. Despite my horrible reluctance, Sarah gave the hobo a cigarette and he sat down with us as we chatted. Stench readily explained he had saved $3000, sold his car, quit his job and was now hiking from Georgia to Maine. I didn’t ask nearly as many questions as I would have liked to in the time that Squanch sat with us, and just like that he was off, leaving us poor crippled day hikers on the bottom of the hill as he sprinted up a rock garden. Suddenly the idea of thru-hiking wasn’t a fairytale. Squelch had appeared from thin air and manifested the idea that we had only imagined in our wildest dreams.
I’ve thought a lot about that encounter from 2 years ago. I realized that I was unacceptably rude and frankly just a jerk. A lot has changed since that time. Sarah and I broke up, I changed as a person and the planning for a hike, just like Sasquatches, has taken over my life.
Do you have any sort of experience? 2,200 miles is a big leap for someone who just wants to.
Yes and no. Like many of my closest friends, Boy Scouts has been a huge part of my life. We were brought up playing with pocket knives in canoes on remote lakes to earn merit badges. We were brought up setting up tents in our backyards for fun. We were brought lighting towering bonfires in the woods and goddamnit it was great. That part of me is ingrained in my being as much as anything else. And while not directly correlated to thru-hiking, National Ski Patrol has provided me with some of the most knowledgeable outdoor instruction I will likely ever receive.
So to put it blatantly, I have zero experience thru-hiking. Every backpacking trip I’ve been on (all three of them) has been riddled with 70 pound backpacks and missing tent supplies. I’m not in perfect shape by any means and I have never considered myself an athlete. I have trouble with simple things like making tacos and crossing the street at appropriate times. I can tell you all about the process of cardiac depolarization and its abnormalities during a heart attack, but that may be less helpful on the trail than I’m hoping it will be. But it is these things that drive my adventure. The thought of not being able to do something has never slipped into my mind and the AT is no exception. And in the spirit of overcoming the psychological challenge the Appalachian Trail will likely pose and Appalachian Trials, I present my lists.
I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
- I want to experience the unpredictable and see the unfathomable.
- “Live today to its fullest, we are not promised a tomorrow”
- I have consistently failed with regard to backpacking.
- A ‘drop everything and hike’ approach is exactly the reset I want in my life.
- I want to know that I can endure and persevere under great stress.
- I’ve fallen away from a youth in the outdoors. Reconnecting to nature is important.
- I need more stories in my life. I love being able to tell a good story.
- I don’t have enough time to really practice juggling.
- The mysterious thru-hiker I met in Lee told me I should do it.
- I need to reconsider my aspirations in life and figure out what I want to work towards.
When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail I will…
- Have an adventure to share with others for as long as I live
- Continue to communicate with friends, new and old
- Plan my next big adventure, knowing I can really do anything.
- Have learned to adapt to a radical change in lifestyle
- Be able to juggle cinderblocks behind my back
- Have met some of the most amazing people on this Earth and involved them in my life.
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will…
- Have accepted defeat in the shadow of an unsurmountable psychological challenge.
- Have to explain to my friends and family why I ‘couldn’t do it’.
- Likely miss out on an Appalachian Trail moment that may have the ability to change my life.
- Spend the Fall semester working and not attending classes, or hiking.
- Not be a whole lot better at juggling.
- Forever have to hold onto the memory of my defeat, and struggle with a battle for some logical reasoning for my abandonment of this grandeur.
Starting as soon as my spring semester classes are done and Baxter State Park is open, I will be hitching a ride north to summit Katadhin for the start of my 2016 Southbound Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. I will be forgoing my Fall Semester of schooling to accommodate for this hike which I’m planning for about 5 months.
I’m still in the stages of planning the logistics, saving the money and buying the gear needed at this point in my journey. A lot of my planning is trial and error with techniques and gear. I have a pile of gear that needs reviewing that will likely be the subject of more than a few of my future posts.
I hope that you find my story at least interesting enough to follow along as I figure out what the hell I’m doing with my life here. We’re planning for updates at least bi-weekly, but we’ll see how that works. The pre-trail life is painfully busy.
P.P.S. If on the off-chance the random hiker I met in Lee finds this, I owe you a beer and a pack of smokes my friend. Get at me.
**Cover photo courtesy flickr.com via creativecommons.org
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