May I Introduce Myself
My Real Name (kind of)
My name is Mack McGhee (trail name coming in March/April 2024) and I have been preparing for an Appalachian Trail thru hike for decades. This does not mean that I am prepared nor does it mean that success is guaranteed. My wife and I will be starting an improvised flip flop in March, hiking North from McAfee’s Knob to Maine, then from Georgia back to McAfee’s Knob. We are expecting cold and cool weather the first two thirds of the hike and brutal heat the last third. I imagine we will be jumping from mid Spring weather to high Summer over the course of a couple days.
“Mack” is just a nickname, my Dad was nicknamed “Pete” as a child. Shortly after I was born, a letter arrived addressed to “Petie Jr”, my parents said that if I was going to have a nickname it wasn’t going to be that and bestowed me with “Mac”. They never wrote it down and my kindergarten teacher spelled it “Mack” in the roll book.
The Early Years
I started backpacking as a Boy Scout in either the 5th or 6th grade. That first trip created vivid memories of a pack too heavy, rain too hard, and trail too long. Since it was raining and I was wearing cotton, I might have tipped the scales at 70 pounds. My pack was not much lighter than me. It was Fall and we started at dawn, but I did not complete the 6 miles until well after dark. As miserable as it was, I fell in love with the outdoors and backpacking in one short weekend.
My scout troop went on a backpacking trip every month, September through May. It rained on every trip, unless it snowed. One year we were in the middle of a drought and the church where the troop was based voted to force us to go backpacking, they were sure if we scheduled a trip, it would rain.
We have two adult children, both boys, both in the Navy, both married to wonderful women, both call home weekly, and neither ever asks for money. Their Mom raised them very well. As each was born, I started longing for the day when they would be old enough to backpack with me. We have spent many happy days on the trial and cold rainy nights in tents together. My wife decided to join us on the Scout backpacking trips when daughters of other parents started participating. My wife’s first backpacking trip was at about the same age as mine and she brought a love of the outdoors to our relationship.
A typical rule on a backpacking trip was that the group stopped at every intersection, road crossing, or every 45 minutes, whichever came first. On one trip with both my sons and my brother-in-law, I think my youngest son was 8, we were climbing out of a pretty steep valley. The boys were like mountain goats going up the trail, my brother-in-law and I were not moving as quickly. The boys hiked for 45 minutes then had to wait another 45 minutes for us to catch up. My gear is lighter now and I am in a bit better shape.
I am an engineer by education and have spent most of my adult life developing software for manufacturing companies. Currently I am an independent contractor with two primary clients. Supporting these clients has been the most professionally rewarding part of my career. They have placed significant trust in my skills and have allowed me to work on critical projects. I am so thankful that they are giving me time to complete this lifelong goal.
We live in Roanoke VA. If you do not know this already, within 5 minutes of meeting me you will realize that Roanoke is the best place in the world. Low cost of living, lots of jobs, outdoor activities galore, and extremely close to McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs. We have lived in the near mid West (Ohio), North East (Connecticut), and England, but found and continue to find Roanoke to be a great place to live.
We are hiking the trail for many reasons. It has been a nearly lifetime goal for both of us. We love the outdoors, being in the woods, and backpacking. We have both worked very hard during our careers and, while not ready to retire, we are very ready for a break. Quite frankly, I am looking forward to not bathing, shaving, or changing my clothes for weeks at a time.
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