When I was a child, my mother would often kick me and my siblings outside, say “go play”, and lock the door behind us. Now, this was in the 90s when it was totally acceptable to leave your children unsupervised, and we were lucky enough to have a large (or so it seemed at the time), wooded backyard. We’d amuse ourselves by playing in creeks, building stick forts, and pretending we lived in the woods.
For 26 years my father was a Scoutmaster, so I’ve been exposed to hiking my entire life. Being from Atlanta, I’ve done various sections of the A.T., but nothing longer than a weekend trip. It wasn’t until high school, after I spent two challenging weeks with my dad hiking Philmont, New Mexico, that I realized I wanted to walk from Georgia to Maine with him. Completing the entire A.T. had always been something he’d mentioned in passing, but now, together, we decided to make the dream a reality.
The original plan was to hit the trail in February 2013. I was a semester ahead at the University of Georgia, so I’d take time off school while my father took time off work. Easy, right? Well, his employer didn’t think so. Plans fell through and we were forced to postpone. We tentatively said we’d try for the following year. Even though I wouldn’t be hitting the A.T. that semester, I’d pushed myself hard in college and was overdue for an adventure. So, logically, I packed what would have been my trail backpack and hopped on a plane to study abroad in New Zealand and Australia. There, I scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, swam with hundreds of dolphins, hiked huge mountains, walked across glaciers, bungee jumped, and, oh yeah, wrote some papers.
Back from my trip with one semester between me and graduation, I knew I wasn’t ready to enter the “real” world. So, the idea to thru-hike with my dad came creeping back. That tentative “we’ll go in 2014” became more and more real in my mind. As a senior, people often ask, “So what’s your plan? Have a job lined up?” I heard these questions daily, sometimes directed to me, sometimes to a friend. Most people I know would quickly rattle off their well-worn response, talking of graduate school or a job in Atlanta or still making up their mind about where to apply.
But me? My response was different. I found myself saying, “I’m actually putting off the job search to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.” The idea sounded awesome in my head but seemed so ridiculous out loud. But I kept saying it. I kept telling people. And the more I did, the less weird the words felt and the more confident I became in my decision. Fast-forward to today. With almost all my gear in hand and having told more people than I can count, I begin hiking in ONE MONTH!! Not only am I thrilled to be embarking on this adventure of a lifetime, I am blessed to be hiking with my father and making our dream a reality. Can only hope all that pretending to live in the woods I did as a child pays off!
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