It’s on the internet… It’s official
Last August my Dad and I hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the AT. Up to that point our only backpacking trips consisted of 4 day hikes in Baxter State Park’s backcountry. Don’t get me wrong, those hikes were great, but looking back on those trips, I wouldn’t say they put me into the category of experienced backpacker. Of course that wasn’t something I realized until I spent a few days in one of the most remote sections of the AT.
Going into the trip, my pack weighed in at 37 pounds. I thought I had it all together and that the 100 Mile Wilderness would be nothing but magnificent hiking glory. Day one wasn’t terrible, but the following three days (of an eight day trek) all but broke my spirit when it came to long distance hiking and what I thought I knew about it. I struggled up and over several mountains each day and watched as thru-hikers, nearly at the end of their journey, flew by me with what seemed like no effort at all. I should have realized that I was comparing apples and oranges, but being the competitive person that I am, each time one of them floated by, a small piece of my confidence went, too (the mice crawling all over my tent at night also didn’t help). This wasn’t something that I expressed to my Dad at the time since we had been looking forward to the trip for months. He had warned me of the difficulty, but I always shrugged it off. What I didn’t know was that his confidence was waning as well. On day three we got caught in a thunderstorm which completely soaked all of our gear and left us cold and miserable on the side of a mountain (we were also both wearing leather hiking boots, which judging by the looks on most of the thru-hikers faces was apparently a bad idea. We learned that the hard way). We were at a point where we could potentially bail out on the remaining 70 miles of the trip, which evidently was something my Dad was considering (inwardly anyway). Alas, we finally hit our stride (as much as we could, anyway) and made it to Katahdin Stream Campground where my Mother and Sister waited for us eight days after they had dropped us off at the start of the infamous Wilderness.
It wasn’t until after we were all having dinner that evening discussing the trip that my Dad and I confessed to one another the lingering doubts we both had experienced at certain points of the trip. Don’t get me wrong, the hike was incredible, but it was also incredibly trying. With an effort such as the one I had put forth during the 100 Mile Wilderness, one would think that an Appalachian Trail thru-hike would be the last thing I would want to do. Nevertheless, as we left Baxter last August, all I could think about was completing my own thru-hike, and lucky for me, my Dad felt the same way.
What seemed like a journey that would never arrive is now fast approaching and the planning is in full swing. Of course as any AT thru-hiker hopeful knows, it is essential to first express the goal itself (thru-hiking), but perhaps more important than that is expressing the reasons behind the goal.
Why I’m hiking…
- I’ve had this dream in mind for a long time and fortunately for me I have the ability to make it a reality. I don’t want it to become something I wish I had done.
- School has been a major priority/source of anxiety for me forever, especially in college. I worked hard, did well and now it’s time for a reward. This is my reward (walking for 6 months :]).
- I need to be uncomfortable for a while. For too long I’ve been living in a comfortable zone. The AT will physically take me out of my comfort zone, but it will also force me to exist in a space where very little is in my control.
- Lastly, who wouldn’t want to share this type experience with such an important person. My Dad has worked hard for the last 30 years to make sure my sister and I had everything we ever wanted/needed, so now it’s his turn to do something that he wants (and needs).
Please feel free to send along any comments/suggestions/thoughts. I’ll try to get my Dad to write a blog or two so you all can have a different perspective from time to time!
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