Keeping the Trail Weird for Austin…

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In one way or another, the Appalachian Trail has already affected all of our lives. Whether you’re an aspiring hiker, have a loved one that’s interested in the trail, or you’ve already made it to Maine, the AT has taken you under its wing and given you a taste of freedom. I think it’s natural for humans in this fast-paced, modern society to seek simplicity and self-reliance. That’s certainly what’s drawn me to the trail. My name is Rob Wager and I’m from Austin, TX. I love hiking (obviously), fishing, hunting, live music, yoga, and anything outdoors. I’m 26 years old and I currently pay the bills as a waiter at a local steakhouse. When Netflix is on, and the fridge is full of food, it’s easy to become complacent… and I’ve definitely slipped comfortably into this trap over the past few years. Why would anyone want to go hike for half a year when they have everything they need within their reach at home? This is a question that’s been difficult for me to answer to others, but if you plan on hiking the trail, then you probably understand when I say that it’s just something I have to do.

I’ve wanted to hike the AT since I first knew it was a thing. I was in school in Houston and I became fascinated with the idea. It was so romantic and exciting, to leave everything behind and head for the mountains. I grew up in a not-too-outdoorsy family and I think our lack of adventures has sent me on this path. I feel as if my whole life, I’ve been living for someone else. I’ve never had the courage to stand up for myself and do exactly what I want to do, for me and not for others. Whether it’s going to school to make my mom happy or keeping the AT in my back pocket because of jobs and girlfriends, I’ve always used obligation as an excuse to not follow my dreams. But what is obligation? It’s fear. I’ve been afraid to do this because of how others might feel about me. But as I’ve told my friends about my plans, they’ve been nothing but supportive of my journey. Never take for granted in this life those that support you from the beginning, no matter how crazy your idea may seem. It feels good when you know someone genuinely wants you to succeed with your goals. And you can literally feel it when someone wants you to fail, probably because they’ve never had the ambition to follow their own dreams. I recently told my mom about my plans and she was upset at first, and I suspect she still is. Nevertheless, she’s starting to show an interest in learning more about the trail and helping me with my trip, so that’s great.

I made the firm decision to hike the trail last November (’13), when my girlfriend and I broke up. I loved her very much and I had no idea what my next step should be when she left. So what better step than one towards rediscovering an inner-peace for myself? I immediately poured my time into researching the trail. I found the Appalachian Trials blog and began reading posts religiously. I’d really liked to have started the trail in 2014 but I knew that if I was inadequately prepared, I’d just become another statistic. To be honest, that’s my biggest fear right now. Failure. The word leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I’m stubborn enough to finish the whole trail even if I’m not enjoying it, so I’ve recently shifted my focus to the mental aspect of thru hiking. I’ve studied gear until the wee hours of the morning countless times but I know that’s not what’s going to get me to Katahdin. It really is a mental game to go to the woods and get to know yourself on such an intimate level. There’s no fooling yourself or hiding from the realties you’ve created. Just truth. That’s what I crave. Truth. Hopefully I’ll find it when I depart.

In the process of planning my hike, I’ve partnered with the Austin Center for Child Protection to help raise money for their organization. The Austin CCP, a nationally accredited children’s advocacy center, is the first stop for children in Travis County who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and for children who have witnessed a violent crime. The Center is a child-friendly, specially-equipped facility where children go for recorded forensic interviews, medical exams, counseling and intervention during the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. It is the only nonprofit in Travis County involved in the investigation of crimes against children. All services are provided to children and their protective caregivers at no charge and most are available in English and Spanish. I’ll be taking penny per mile donations to support the center so a pledge would be $22. I’ll post the info once I get to know everyone better and show you why this is a great cause. Either way, I’m excited to be doing this blog and can’t wait to get to Georgia!

– Rob Wager  (Trail Name TBD)

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