Shakespeare, Me, and the AT

What are we talking about here??

Well folks…. Bon voyage! Adios! I’m off! Well, not yet.. But I will be soon! I’m about to embark upon an adventure of a life time! I plan to hike from Georgia to Maine over the Appalachian Mountain Range and follow many past thru-hikers along the Appalachian Trail (AT) in hopes to join this great tradition. A journey that’s intrigued and inspired me for years. A feat that truly tests one’s entire person: their physicality and overall psychological wherewithal! (or stubbornness)

The AT was invisioned and initiated by Benton Mackaye, a regional planner in the North East, back in the 1920’s. He and other’s who came after, notably Arthur Perkins and Myron H. Avery, championed this vision and transformed it into a reality. In 1937 the trail was officially complete.

Today, it is maintained and continually evolving though the hard work of 31 different trail clubs and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). They maintain the entire length of the AT that stretches across 14 states for a solid hike of roughly 2,190 miles!



Why do I want to go?

I can think of 5 reasons why.

1. You got nature

2. There are maybe 2 cooler things to do in life on the chart of cool things

3. You. Got. Nature.

4. You can meet truly interesting people

5. You got nature!! What’s not to get!?!?

There’s this documentary right now called One Strange Rock hosted by Will Smith and it just hits it right on the head! I don’t mean to go all hippy on you but we’re all so connected it’s stupid. You be good to Mother Earth, she be good to you. There’s a great song in the musical Chicago just about this… kinda… not totally but still a good song.

Anyways. I want to get more in touch with nature and in doing so, I hope to become more in touch with myself and the others I hold dear.

Why not a weekend in the woods? There’s something about challenging one’s self into using up the last ounce of will power you posses to overcome a great obstacle. We’ve all done it in varying degrees and it’s what brings us closer to our selves and our dearest friends. It’s survival. And while surviving, you build trust; for yourself and the others you rely upon. I certainly trust myself, and want to lean into that more.

So to recap, with a few additional reasons, here is:

Why I am attempting to Thru-Hike the AT

  • To have an adventure of a life time and experience new challenges
  • To find out how tough of an MF-er I actually am!!
  • To learn, listen, and practice patience
  • To reset myself with behaviors and attitudes I choose, and discard those I unintentionally developed that do not serve me
  • To uphold a promise I made to myself and live out my own epic fantasy
  • To enrich myself with stories and tales
  • To surround myself with the beauty and ferocity of Nature


Through failure or triumph, the challenges we face define the type of humans we choose to become.

Umm…Who are you though??


Howdy! I’m Zach, a proud Wisconsinite who now lives in Chicago. I am a trained theater performer with a BFA in Musical Theatre. There is magic in performing. It is a magical experience to hold a mirror up to society. Story telling and adventuring go hand in hand for me, but it is something I have gotten out of touch with. Life has strong armed me in a way that has taken away some of the thrill and enjoyment out of pursuing my passions. I wish to change that by fearlessly pursuing passions as I once did when I was younger and full of wonder.

I currently work remodeling condos and apartment’s in Chicago. It’s satisfying work and certainly keeps me stimulated. Otherwise, I live in an awesome apartment with my amazing partner Natalie. We boast the best patio in all of Chicago!! Fight us!! And love to host our friends and family.



I’ve been asked a few times what inspired me to do this which I think is a bit different from the “why”.

First and Foremost, My Parents 

I was so lucky to have two parents who had so much love for adventure and nature that they were able to share with me. They both boast amazing adventures of their own. My mom traveling and living in Israel when she was 18, and my dad has stories for days!! He biked from Alaska back to his home town in Northern Wisconsin, backpacked Europe, and traveled to Mexico BEFORE it was cool! When they got together, they set up a little cabin in the woods of Wisconsin they called Bare Ass Beach. With 4 wooden walls, a well they personally dug, and a wood fire oven to stay warm, it was the perfect get away spot.

It’s their stories that ignited me with wonder, but it was the adventures we would take together that fueled the fire! Camping throughout the north woods of Wisconsin led to even greater adventures: road tripping across the West, rafting the Green River near Moab, snorkeling in the Baja of California, and many more. We still try to make it a habit of taking a fun family trip every year or two. This year, I got to choose. They won’t be knocking out all 2,000+ miles with me, but they sure as hell are gonna meet me out there to put some solid miles in. See you on the trail Mom and Dad!

Stories, Lore, and Fantasy!

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, Alice and all of her wonderland, Frodo and Sam, Jon fucking Snow.. am I right?? With stories like these, how can one not have an itch for adventure? Larger than life stories like these inspire me to want to live in an almost Shakespearean world of drama and excitement! The Comedies that is… cause almost everyone dies in the tragedies..

Finally, Bill Bryson

Whatever, so I’m not original. I read the damn book that everyone else read (shout out to Spencer Rettler for the recommendation!) It’s a good book. And I think Bill Bryson is an great author! All his book inspire wonder and curiousity for me. But the one I’m referencing is his A Walk in the Woods. I didn’t see the movie but the book is great.

His book should be supplemented with two others. The first being AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller. An interesting account of a very influential thru-hiker. David Miller puts out an annual trail guide, one that I will be using for my trip.

Followed by the very important Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail By Zach “Badger” Davis who is the founder of The Trek if you didn’t know already! The only book that deals with what is shaping up to be the hardest part of the journey. Your mental preparation and strength. Zach Davis certainly did us all a huge favor for putting it together.


I’ll finish this up with a bit of inspiration from the Bard himself to help send it off!

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet

There is more out there than we will ever know, and our dreams only touch the surface. But better to have a taste of heaven, than not to taste at all.

Happy Trails!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • Larry Campbell : Feb 26th

    Thanks for the post. Since you’re drawing Shakespeare into your discussion, you might want to consider taking a couple of days off the trail in SNP and visit Staunton, VA, and the American Shakespeare Center. My first steps on the AT were taken after a night in Staunton and a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. It’s worth the couple of extra days!

    Lone Star

    • Zach Schley : Feb 26th

      Thanks for the heads up! I will definitely be checking that out!

  • Mary Yanny : Mar 1st

    Hi Zach, Wishing you a wonder filled adventure! Hike on. Peace, Mary

  • Tarbohom : Mar 22nd

    You carry the torch for Smogshield, brother Fabian! I hope you’re enjoying the journey so far.


What Do You Think?