The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go
It all started with a dream.
Back in September 2018 this quiet dream I’ve had for the last decade started nagging on my brain a bit. For years, I’ve had this crazy idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail. And I always wrote it off as that; a crazy, unattainable, dream.
But in September I had some free time between jobs and I decided to do a quick solo backpacking trip on the AT. And while it was a little unnerving being out in the woods all alone for the first time, it also brought me immense gratitude and peace.
Suddenly that faraway dream came screeching to a halt right in front of me, demanding that I give it my full attention. It consumed my thoughts and dreams for weeks, until finally I realized that this is it. If I’m going to do this, it’s now or never.
The biggest question hikers need to ask themselves before committing to a thru-hike is “why?”
Why are you out here doing this thing that most people would never dream of? Why are you going to keep going when it’s the fifth day of freezing rain in a row and you can’t even remember what it feels like to put dry socks on in the morning? And so, I’ll start with the why.
1. For My Dad
My mom and dad met out in Fort Collins, CO, while attending Colorado State University. I grew up with stories and photos of their adventures out west and fell in love with it. I always had these dreams of climbing mountains with my parents. They even got engaged in Yosemite (a photo that my husband and I reenacted in 2017).
Unfortunately, my dad passed away when I was ten, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Two years later, my mom got breast cancer, and while she kicked its ass, it did a number on her physically and big hikes are out of the question. So in a sense, I’m doing this hike a little for them. I’m living out a dream they had and passed on to me, a dream they will never have the opportunity to complete.
2. For Myself
Above all, I’m doing this hike for me, as proof to myself that I can do really hard shit if I put my mind to it. If I can accomplish this, what can’t I accomplish?
Life is moving faster and faster around me, and there are so many societal expectations piling up. With that in mind, I want to take a step back and do something just for me. Something I can look back on and say, “I did this, I hiked over 2,000 miles with only myself to rely on, and I made it.”
3. Because It’s Uncomfortable
Nature makes me happy. Being out in the woods makes my heart swell with joy. Nothing humbles me more than living outside with all of our usual comforts removed.
Some people spend a lifetime trying to be comfortable in their lives. I have spent years trying to be that, only to realize it’s ultimately boring and unfulfilling. I’m tired of being comfortable in my life. I’m tired of always trying to do things the easy way. I want to be challenged, I want to push boundaries, and I want to be made uncomfortable. Only there does great growth happen.
On March 11, 2019, I will strap a 20-pound pack to my back and begin to walk. I’ll continue to walk 2,192 miles (according to the latest official figure), through 14 states, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I am terrified, elated, and humbled by this prospect. Going into this, I know it will likely be the hardest thing I’ll have accomplished in my life up to this point.
I will leave behind the loves of my life. My partner of nine years, Mike, will stay at home with our dear little pup, Oliver, and support me from afar. I recognize immediately how lucky I am in this.
So here I am. “The mountains are calling and I must go.” I have carried this quote by John Muir in my heart for over a decade. I must answer that call or spend a lifetime wondering, “What if?” I admire Muir most because he allowed himself to become a permanent student of the natural world. May we all be so lucky.
If you want to follow along on my journey walking across the eastern United States, feel free to subscribe to my page here on The Trek or follow me on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Laurine Bailly.
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