Out of the Classroom and into the Woods

Four years ago, I was given an assignment in my sophomore English class. I was 16 at the time, and like any 16-year-old, I HATED reading assignments. Of course, it was the worst of all reading assignments; a book group. We were allowed to choose from among about six different books. The one that stood out to me was A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson because of the catchy cover art. I picked up the book with reluctancy and read the description on the back. The concept of thru-hiking to me was so bizarre. I was intrigued immediately.

Unlike my usual reading assignment, I actually read this one all the way through. I wasn’t halfway through Bryson’s book by the time I knew that this was something I had to experience for myself.

Why Now?

The better question is: “If not now, when?” There will never be a “perfect” time for anyone to choose to go live in the woods for six months. It’s just not how today’s society is structured. Thankfully, fast-forward three years after attending my first year of college, when I came to a realization that school isn’t something that you can force. It didn’t feel right for me right now so I decided to take a year off and refocus rather than rushing into and earning a degree in something I am not going to love for the rest of my life. Hell, I am 20 years old, how am I supposed to know what I am going to love at 45?

A couple of weeks after making the decision to take a gap year from school, I stumbled across a gear list video on YouTube (this started my obsession with gear list videos), but this also fueled me to start researching the trail and what it takes to complete, which eventually turned into an obsession. I had to do it.

Mom! I’m Goin’ For a Walk!

Once I decided for myself that this is what I wanted to do with my life for the next six months, I had to tell my parents. It was not so easygoing at first when it came to convincing them that I would be OK and that I had a pretty good chance of surviving this, however. Once they started researching on their own, they became more at peace with the whole idea.

Planning, Researching and More Planning

I spent hours on hours watching videos and reading articles regarding all things backpacking, hiking, camping, and, of course, the Appalachian Trail. I have bought and returned/sold three different backpacks and I haven’t even set foot on trail. (It’s an issue.) With so many decisions to make on every piece of gear, how can one decide? I finally got all my gear together, registered my hike, bought my plane ticket, and booked my room at the Amicalola Falls lodge. Now it’s time to walk.

Follow Along!

I will be doing most of my updating on my Instagram @karsonmadole but I hope to be able to post weekly to The Trek if you are interested in staying up to date with my hike!

Karson Madole (Trail name TBD)


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Comments 4

  • Dan Mattingly : Feb 27th

    I think your reason for a walk is as good as any. Hope you figure out what will be your path in life you’ll definite have plenty of time to contemplate on it. Good luck and hope to see you on Katadin. Happy trails.

  • Dell Madole : Mar 1st

    Will be thinking of you, every step of the way! Take care, be safe, happy trails! ❤️

  • Jeff : Mar 5th

    That book also was the start of my journey! 4 years later-2019-I was on the AT and became a thru hiker at age 61-I had only day hiked before that. I miss it! Will hopefully do again! Jabez

  • Jeff Parrish : Mar 5th

    Hiking was something I got into late in life, my passion now lives on the trail, I think about an AT thru hike all the time. My wife and I hike pretty regularly here in the GSM, my pack is always ready. It is still my goal of a thru hike, mine might be a bit more risky because of my age but for now I will continue to gain knowledge and watch from the sidelines. This is no doubt the time to follow your chosen path, I will be following your adventure, good luck and “keep moving forward.”


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