Long Road to Katahdin
Hi everyone, just thought I’d use this post to introduce myself. My name is Mike and I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, 33 years old and I’m getting ready to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I grew up with a loving and supportive family that has always been there, and I consider myself lucky for that. I have two amazing younger sisters and I’ve had great friends all throughout my life. My grandfather used to take me for walks in the woods all the time to teach me all about the plants and animals indigenous to Massachusetts and I loved every single second of it. I spent most of my childhood playing in the woods and terrifying my mother with the various critters I’d catch and bring home.
I wasn’t the easiest kid to raise but my parents have done more than everything possible to make sure I grew up to be a good man and I can’t emphasize enough how much they have done for me. My parents scraped by to send me to good schools and I did well enough to get into college at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I studied entomology (insects). Unfortunately for me instead of picking up the books, I reached for a bottle and never looked back. I dropped out as a senior and continued to drink as my sole focus until I was hospitalized and nearly died. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me to stop and this behavior continued in large spurts for most of the next ten years or so.
I drove out to California on a whim in 2012 as I wasn’t happy where I was in Massachusetts, and I wanted to seek adventure. I settled in Ocean Beach, which is a small beach town in San Diego. It was amazing there and I learned a lot about myself and what I could handle. Unfortunately, my drinking problem continued to rear its ugly head and every time life started getting good, I would drown myself in liquor and wipe out any progress I had. I’ll spare you the details of the next several years but just assume they weren’t a whole lot of fun aside from a few bright spots.
Back to My Roots
Finally, in 2018 I suffered a fractured vertebra and decided I couldn’t handle my lifestyle any further. My sister Jaimee was very adamant that I come stay with her until I got on my feet, but pride just would not let me accept the help. After many difficult conversations, I relented and told her I would be coming home to Massachusetts. That conversation literally saved my life I believe.
I came home on December 1, 2018, battered, bruised, and feeling defeated. My father went out of his way to drive an hour both ways to pick me up and spend time with me every week. He never lost faith and did everything in his power to help me, just as he did throughout all my years of drinking. I’ll admit, all I wanted to do was hide in shame, but my family wouldn’t stand by and let me wallow in self-pity. My sister Jaimee let me stay with her, her boyfriend, Chris, and my six-year-old nephew, Isaiah. She never once asked for money or help; she just let me stay, helped me get better, and showed me true, unconditional love. My nephew means the world to me and I’m truly grateful for all the time I have been able to spend with the little guy. His smile will melt your heart. Trust me on that.
So, long story short, it has taken a tremendous amount of work and dedication to get to where I am. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the amazing support system that my family provided, and I’m truly grateful. There’s still a lifetime of work ahead of me but I finally feel like I can handle it, even if it is just one day at a time.
Hitting the Trail
I went on a camping trip with a few friends mid-September in Rangeley, Maine, and I was really blown away by the experience. It was far from my first time camping but the remoteness of the campsite was a different pace for sure. Here I was with a couple of people who really knew what they were doing, and I was blown away by their skill level out there in the woods. I tried to absorb everything that I could from those guys and somehow a switch was flipped. I felt like I was plugged in and in my element for pretty much every moment I was out there. It was really an indescribable feeling.
One night around the fire we began talking about the Appalachian Trail. Everyone I was with spoke of how great an experience it would be but each person had their own reason for why it wouldn’t be feasible. All had very valid reasons why disappearing for six months into the wilderness might not be the greatest life decision. It seemed like I was the only one there without any real impediment to doing something crazy like that. I was single, no kids, no pets, and experiencing a transitional phase back home in Massachusetts. I work full time and although I am grateful for the job I have, I wouldn’t consider it a career. That conversation planted a seed in my head that seemed to sprout overnight. I couldn’t stop thinking about the trail now. It called to me.
Change in Direction
There are a million reasons for doing this, but primarily I’m doing this to change the direction of my life. I hope to see what I’m made of and I’m keeping an open mind about where I want to go from here. I feel like this is my chance to finally grow up and start moving in a positive direction. For the first time in forever I genuinely have hope and purpose, and it’s an overwhelming feeling. Better late than never.
Well, thanks for reading all of that. I hope my story will someday help others who want to change their lives for the better. I will be leaving March 2020 as a solo NOBO hiker and I will be sharing the experience with anyone who wants to listen!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.