Planting the Seeds of Desire to Thru-Hike the A.T.
The Early Days
I grew up in a small suburban town on Long Island, New York where I cultivated my love of the outdoors. Trips to the abundant, beautiful parks and beaches created many hours of joy. My family would spend long summer days at Tobay Beach on the south shore. Hiking the North Shore at Caumsett State Park also composed some of my favorite childhood memories. During high school, my family started camping at Hither Hills in Montauk, the eastern most point of Long Island. Other experiences that created my love for the outdoors include visiting family in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. My family would often make the three hour journey to enjoy a weekend in upstate New York. These formative experiences paved the way for the desire of a lifetime of soul-nourishing outdoor adventures.
Meeting my First A.T. Thru-Hiker
Family camping adventures evolved into camping trips at festivals and backpacking trips with friends in Northern California. Backpacking in the Trinity Mountains with Squirrel, an A.T. thru-hiker, created my love for this type of adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of leaving society behind for a weekend. Immersing myself in nature, staying warm by a small fire and getting lost in the night stars sparked a fire within. However, I never thought I would become an A.T. thru-hiker when I met Squirrel thirteen years ago.
Becoming a Backpacker in Hawaii
I first learned to become a backpacker in Waipio Valley on the Big Island. This 1,200 foot elevation hike over switchbacks of mountains and valleys would be a demanding yet rewarding endeavor. Exerting yourself with a pack for a day and then enjoying several days in paradise became my experience in backpacking. After relaxing for a few days, we would hike out with a much lighter pack. While I would consider myself a life-long day hiker, there is something enhanced about an extended trip. It allows you to experience a connection to nature on a much deeper level. It is even more rewarding to continue to walk further every day. I would learn this during my time on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
First Hiking in Spain
I had the exciting opportunity to hike El Camino de Santiago between Santiago and Finisterre. I lived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain for the month of October 2018 when I enjoyed this journey. During this 100 kilometer walk from the city to the coast, I connected with my true desires. I had the idea that I should hike the Appalachian Trail over the next summer.
A.T. LASHER Summer 2018
I switched teaching jobs and had an extended summer in 2019 that allowed me to hike the A.T. for six weeks. The time off afforded me the opportunity to hike from Bear Mountain, New York to Grafton Notch, Maine. I released endorphins daily and observed the beauty of the natural world. I experienced trail culture, including trail magic, and met thru-hikers that taught me an incredible amount. Not only that, these guys made me laugh daily. Overall, this experience solidified my desire to become a thru-hiker.
Camino de Santiago
Once I lived in Galicia, Spain, I hiked Camino Ingles between Ferrol and Santiago. I also hiked El Camino Norte between Ribadeo and Santiago over two different three day weekends. The freedom of only needing 7 kg on my back delighted me since I did not need all of the gear for sleeping outside as there are hostels along the way. The culture on this easier terrain is much different than the Appalachian Trail. The experience satiated my desire to explore the country and I appreciated the distinct international culture it provided. My ability to hike in Northern Spain subsided with the cold and wet winter months followed by a strict lock-down due to the pandemic.
Camino dos Faros
Once travel was permitted in June of 2020, I was elated to hike Camino dos Faros, Walk of the Light Houses, with my friend Rebecca and her two dogs. Two hundred kilometers along the Coast of the Dead made for a beautiful experience in nature. I enjoyed it even more after being in the same ten kilometer radius for months. Rebecca and I parted ways and I continued to hike that same Camino trail that I started on a year and a half prior, but this time in reverse. Once I arrived in Santiago I continued to hike through the arid meseta of Spain and over the Pyrenees into France. Hiking over the Pyrenees proved to be a highlight. I crossed my first international border and the absolute beauty of the mountain range took my breath away.
Walking to France
Once I arrived in Santiago I continued to hike through the arid meseta of Spain and over the Pyrenees into France. Hiking over the Pyrenees proved to be a highlight. Not only was it my first international border that I crossed and I have read so much about the historical importance of this mountain range, but the absolute beauty of it took my breath away.
Summing it Up
I have loved my unique experiences in backpacking. The mountains of California, the jungle paradise valleys in Hawaii, and the flat lands of Spain constitute my experiences. However, there is something special about the Appalachian Trail. The beauty of nature close to my initial home and the trail culture are unmatched. The unique community of adventurers are the type of people that I want to be around and share this experience with. This five to six month endeavor will be a life changing experience that I know will challenge me to become more of who I am meant to be. I will thru-hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine starting in the spring of 2021. What better way to celebrate a new decade of life? I hope that you will follow along on my journey and be inspired to live your best life.
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