Notes to Self – Introducing Terry Gandy

I like to write. I guess that’s the main reason I petitioned Zach Davis to include me as one of his 2016 AT Bloggers. Frankly, I haven’t even figured out the difference between a blog and a journal. That could be a problem. Maybe I’ll call this my blourgal.

My Special Purpose

I have three goals for my blog:

  1. Educate: I read blogs and journals to learn best practices to adopt or, equally so, lessons learned. After all, the best education is learning from those who have done it.
  2. Encourage: The encouragement might be, “If THAT idiot can do it, I certainly can.” I get it. But seriously, as you read about average people hiking the Appalachian Trail with some modicum of success, you will be encouraged that maybe you can do it, too.
  3. Entertain: If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? If you’re looking for unique foibles, I am your man.

About Me

I’m an engineer recently retired from aerospace and ag/construction manufacturing, so I’m very process oriented. I’m also a pilot and that’s how I got my trail name, Cotton. It was my airport bum nickname. I’m not sure how I got that name and haven’t had the courage to ask.

I’m not an experienced thruhiker; I have less than 100 miles of overnight backpacking experience under my feet. Lucky for me, I have never been deterred by lack of ability, experience or even good judgment. I say ‘lucky’, because I generally believe if someone else can do something, so can I. By default, I hope those that follow my ‘Appalachian Trials’ might come to the conclusion that they, too, can take a 2,100+ mile trek up the eastern seaboard.

As a teenager, I spent many days ‘hiking’ in the woods of my grandfather’s Missouri farm. At twenty acres, the woods weren’t that big, but they were big enough. As an introvert, I loved the solitude. On windy days, I would listen to the melody of the breeze sing, “Welcome back, friend” as oak trees leaned in as to say, “What took you so long?”

My first backpack and tent

My first backpack and tent

When I graduated from high school (in 1974 – yikes!), I used my Sears 10% employee discount to buy a Hillary II external frame backpack and a Hillary backpacking tent, both of which I still have. I don’t recall knowing, at that time, the Appalachian Trail existed, but I do remember reading magazines articles about glorious adventures in Colorado, Wyoming and Washington all with four color photographs of hikers standing on wind-swept plains or grand peaks overlooking alpine lakes and seemingly limitless forests. I wanted to experience that. I got to use the tent and pack on local campouts, but nothing epic, for sure. So, I’m scratching an itch I’ve had for decades.

Along the AT in Georgia

Along the AT in Georgia

The Power of the Trail

As Colin Fletcher says in RIVER, “The man who takes the last step of a journey is not the same man as the one who took the first.” Anyone who enters the woods, whether for a thruhike or a weekend stroll, will emerge from that deep green womb changed in some way and, I would hope, for the better.

I certainly don’t have any delusions in thinking I’m a Colin Fletcher – in hiking or writing. Mainly, this blog will be my opportunity to have some fun and share my experiences. I’ll mostly be writing to myself and you’re more than welcome to listen in. If you are along the way educated, encouraged, or entertained, hey, that’s icing on the cake. Otherwise, it’s just ‘Notes to Self.’


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Comments 2

  • Kimmy Morris : Dec 5th

    Love your 3 goals for your blourgal! Can’t wait to read more from you.

  • George : Jan 6th

    Best of luck, Cotton! I just completed a my thru-hike with my son. I’m 61 and he’s 23. We had a wonderful time. I had done some backpacking, but never anything of this magnitude. Now that it’s over, I miss it and want to do it again… I’m looking forward to following your journey.


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