Thru-Hike Is Just Another Step Along My Path in Life
Hi everyone! I’m Danny, and I’ll be starting my northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hike in March. I’ve been living in New York City for 13 years now, working as a musician, and I love it. But it’s time to take a little detour. A few months ago, I left my apartment in Queens to go into the city, and when I got to where I was going, I realized that I couldn’t remember a single thing about my journey from point A to B. I was totally on autopilot. As I thought more about that kind of complacency, I realized that it had been days since I’d stepped on grass, days since I’d stepped on anything other than concrete, really. And I know it’s not only me experiencing this. It feels like everyone has headphones permanently lodged in their ears or their faces glued to a phone screen. We’re all there together on the subway or texting while we cross the street (why do people do this?), but where are we, really?
Let’s Back Up a Bit
I caught the hiking bug several years ago after a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. I got back to my apartment in New York City, and I realized for the first time how much of a disconnect there was (for me, at least) between my life in the city and anything that might constitute the wild or natural world. I started exploring the parks and trails north of the city – including Bear Mountain, home to the first blazed section of the AT (cool!) – and started to fall hard for these wild places. It didn’t matter that sometimes I spent just as much time in the car as I did on my trail run, because that was part of life in New York City. Tolls and traffic were just a part of getting to the woods.
My husband and I went back to the Grand Canyon to spend more time on the Colorado River with a group of friends, and I ended up swimming Hermit Rapid (definitely not on purpose). It was exhilarating and terrifying, but I would absolutely do it again. On the plane ride home, I tore through “A Walk in the Woods,” and that was it. I knew then that someday I’d have to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
Of Course, Time Passes
That was 2015. Since then, I’ve been obsessively following tons of hikers on Instagram, have hiked most of the New York section of the AT, and last summer spent a week on a thru-hike of the Northville-Placid Trail in the Adirondacks (if you want to be alone for days with loons, this is the trail for you). Each trip made me want to be outside even more. But all of the usual adult life things were standing in the way of a thru-hike. Then, at the beginning of this year, the show I was working on closed, everything kind of fell into place, and all of a sudden, I was planning a thru-hike of the AT.
This Is Not a Drill
I’m starting on March 19. As I write this, that’s 41 days away. It’s hard to get my head around that. In 41 days, I’ll be starting the adventure of a lifetime. I’ll be outside all the time, experiencing all the exciting and difficult things that come along with that. Of course, no matter how much I prepare, I still feel so underprepared. I mean, I’m still trying to figure out my sleep system, and I can’t decide if I want to keep using my alcohol stove or switch to something else. But, hey, I have 41 days, right? Right?
My journey to the trail actually starts a few weeks before March 19. I’ll be driving our dogs from NYC all the way to El Paso, Texas (my awesome mother-in-law is going to take care of them while I’m hiking), stopping to see my family in Oklahoma and Texas on the way. My husband is totally running with this, and I’m so in love with his attitude. He was the one who pushed me to do this now, because why wait when it’s so obviously time?
To Pause or Not to Pause?
A lot of people write about pushing pause on their lives to do a thru-hike. I see it differently. I’m not pushing pause at all. I’m still going 100 percent in the direction I want to be going. It may not be a direction that everyone I know sees as totally worthwhile or meaningful, but for me, it is exactly where I want to be and where I have wanted to be for a long time. I have amazing, clearheaded support from the people closest to me. Nothing has paused, nothing is on hold, and I cannot wait to be on the trail, meeting new people, learning new things about myself, not living my life out of my phone, being cold and wet, learning to embrace the suck, and eating whole pizzas.
I’m looking forward to all of it: the laughter, tears, doubt, reassurance, and to reading all of “Leaves of Grass” (on a Kindle of course – my copy at home weighs 23 ounces!). Stay tuned to see if I make it through “Leaves of Grass” (is it really a thru-hike if you don’t intend to read a book that people pretend to want to read?), but mostly to see what happens when a city guy decides to get off the sidewalk and walk along one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges. I can’t wait to share it all with all of you.
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