My Eureka – The Appalachian Trail.

My Eureka – The Appalachian Trail

I first posted this blog in February 2020 with the intention of hitting the AT that March. But March arrived with a little bug called Covid in tow, the world stopped turning, and I spent the next 9 months queueing up at the shops for pasta, milk, and toilet rolls. But the world eventually started to turn again, life trickled back towards normality, and four years later, here I am saying ‘hello’ for the second time, and still hoping the AT will let me play. Welcome to my blog.

Have you ever had a Eureka moment when the stars align, fate stares you down, destiny tells you everything’s going to be OK, and you suddenly realize what you want from life? I’m sure some of you know what I mean, and I’m equally sure some of you are looking at me as if I’ve got nine eyes. While I appreciate that some plans take years to mature, this Eureka stuff has that sledge hammer quality you can’t ignore.

My flashbulb moment is as clichéd as it gets and I make no apology for it. I blame (or maybe I should thank) Bill Bryson. I’d never heard of the Appalachian Trail or A Walk In The Woods before I saw the film a few years ago, but that was it. Eureka. Kismet. Hooked. I’d found something I didn’t know I’d been looking for, an answer to a question I hadn’t asked. Who was I to argue? The universe had spoken and I listened.


That’s when the Google / YouTube merry-go-round simultaneously became my best friend and worst enemy. Time disappeared into an internet vacuum and I didn’t sleep for the next three months (not really, but you get the idea).

I became an Appalachian Trail info sponge, soaking up the hints, tips, and advice from a million hiker blogs, vlogs, and websites, trying to learn it all from the comfort of the couch. But there came a time when the daydream wanted a life of its own. So the idea became more than just an idea, and the plan became more than just a plan.

But there was another conversation to have before AT fever took an even stronger grip, the conversation with my significant other, the conversation when it could all go wrong in a heartbeat. So I waited for the fireworks, waited for the screaming, waited for the broken plates, but it didn’t happen. The chat went well, very well. She completely agreed that I could do with some space and me time, although she didn’t see the need to go quite as far as the Appalachian Trail. Fair point. So with her blessing (thank you so much), one by one the pegs starting falling into place.

Can you follow the white blazes?

Getting Up and Going

And now it’s my turn to have a crack at the five million steps from Georgia to Maine. My turn to stop stomping around in my own metaphorical wilderness and head out for the real life bears and bugs wilderness. My turn to walk and keep walking.

But as with the best laid plans of mice and men, there are issues. Aren’t there always? I don’t like being cold—who does? I don’t like being wet—ditto. I don’t like bugs, eating outside, having dirty hands or getting lost. And I don’t like challenges—they seem so unnecessary. I’ve always favored the easy life, the path of least resistance. I’m rather fond of electricity, indoor plumbing, and cutlery, and generally prefer sitting back and watching to getting up and going.

Invited In, Chewed Up

But Eureka slapped me and urged me to change, to lever myself out of the rut I was in and push myself forward. I’m too old to change completely, and I don’t really want to, but tweaking my outlook on life may not be such a bad thing.

So it’s time to accept what I can’t change and challenge myself to change what I can. Embrace the suck, so they say, but that embrace seems to start biting way before getting close to the trail. That said, I’m rather looking forward to meeting my future self, the man invited in, chewed up, and spat out by Old Mother AT.

So this is me. I’m just a normal bloke. Average height, average weight, but less hair than there used to be, a picture of brawn and brains without the muscles or intellect. I’m just south of the half century*, hovering around in the nether-world of middle age, and I’m English, so another accent to go with those strange hikers hogging the left side of the trail. Do the Brits really do that?

I know a trickle of Brits hit the AT every year but we’re a bit of a rare breed, and an AT Brit hiker my age is an even rarer beast. I’m sure they exist, and like Sasquatch, I suspect they’re out there somewhere, I just can’t find one.

I don’t want to add my shoes to that tree.

Old School

And that’s it. I’m fortunate there’s no sad story or tale of woe. I didn’t buy the winning lottery ticket on the day of the apocalypse. I’m not the cowboy who’s just buried his favorite horse, or the rancher the day the world turned vegetarian. I’m just me, and I’m setting foot on the Appalachian Trail in March 2020** to see what I’m made of, good or bad. I may surprise myself, I may run home in tears, but I’ll have learned something either way, and I’ll be better for it.

I’m under no illusion this trail is the hardest thing I’m ever likely to do. But I’ve planned, prepped, and trained for it the best I can, body and mind, as I really don’t want to throw my shoes into that tree at Neel Gap. Am I concerned by the journey ahead? Yes and no.

I’m proud to be old school, and although I’m not a big fan of change or the unknown, I’m more curious to see what fate and destiny have in store for me. So, Appalachian Trail, I’m coming to get you. Anyone care to follow the journey? Might be fun.

* Now I’m just north of the half century.
** March 2024 this time.


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Comments 19

  • jen l : Feb 4th

    Yes, excited to follow as you hit the path! Psyched for you!

    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hi Jen, welcome to the journey.

  • Lauren : Feb 5th

    Glad you get to start the trail after much patience. Best of luck! Looking forward to reading your posts.

    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hey Lauren, I’ll know it’s real once I finally get to the arch at Amicalola.

  • Matt : Feb 5th

    Good luck on the hike! I’ve always thought that March 4 is the best day to start a long walk 😉 As a fellow aged man with similar aspirations, I’ll be following your blog to learn from your success and missteps.

    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hi Matt,
      Fingers crossed that my trials and tribulations help us both.

  • Chris : Feb 5th

    I’m also just north of a half-century. For me, hiking the trail will have to wait a few more years. Until then, I’ll live vicariously through you and the others out there.

    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hey Chris,
      The AT will still be there when you decide the time is right. Good luck.

  • 2 Keys : Feb 5th

    I am also north of fifty north of sixty and a little north of seventy . I will be out there also good luck to the both of us.

    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hi 2 Keys,
      You win on the age thing. Hope your hike goes well.

  • Greybeard of the OGOWA ( Old Guys out Wandering Around ) : Feb 5th


    Now that you’ve crossed over the 50 mark, you’re eligible to become a member of the tribe…. No dues, no initiation, no official card to tuck in your wallet ( which are too heavy to carry anyway! ) – and you simply declare yourself a member …. And that’s it!

    Finished my NOBO section hike on 10/4/17 atop MT Katahdin…..just a few days shy of my 70th birthday. Best thing I’ve ever done for myself!

    Best wishes Toby! May your adventure be everything you hope for, and more than you expect….


    • Toby : Feb 6th

      Hey Greybeard,
      Happy to sign up to the old boys’ club. Thanks for the invite. 🙂

  • Tractor : Feb 5th

    Some days the AT will allow you to join her and show off her beauty and wonder, and there will be many more days you will wonder what you did to piss her off as it rains for four days straight. Remember the good days and know there will be more to come, when you realize the AT calls the shots and you are merely a guest your hike will be better. Good Luck Brother

  • Toby : Feb 6th

    Hi Tractor,
    I’m hoping Old Mother AT will take pity on this poor little Englishman and treat him well.

  • Steve : Feb 6th

    Welcome to Georgia (when you get here). In case you rest from your trip in Atlanta, Mary Mac’s has traditional southern food, the OK Cafe has a good assortment of American food, and the Marietta Diner has a good assortment of many kinds of food. Fox brothers and Jim ‘n” Nicks have good barbecue. For tacos and burritos, try El Taco Veloz or Las Tortas Locas.
    The Smith House in Dahlonega is a good stop for either accomodations or the family style southern food.

    In the event you make it to the Marietta Diner, you will be just south of The Big Chicken (not Shaq’s restaurant chain but the KFC in Marietta), which is something of a local landmark. Directions are given and distances measured from the Big Chicken. Google returns distances from almost anywhere in the world to the Big Chicken. So you can Google “distance from London to the Big Chicken” and “distance from the Big Chicken to Springer Mountain, Georgia”. It’s a shame, but I suppose GPS has reduced reliance on this landmark.

    Good luck with the hike.

    • Toby : Feb 7th

      Hey Steve,
      Gotta hike, gotta eat. Thanks for the heads up on the food places

  • Steve : Feb 7th

    Hope you make the most of your five to seven days in Georgia. I know I wouldn’t feel like hiking right after a transatlantic flight.

  • Mike : Feb 12th

    Good luck on your adventure Toby, I’m glad Covid didn’t completely derail your hike. I’ll follow along as much as I can since I’m starting the PCT on March 19. Just take it one day and one mile at a time and enjoy all the little things even when they don’t seem so enjoyable.

    • Toby : Feb 12th

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy your own little walk too. Good luck to both of us.


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