You’re gonna do what?
So why thru-hike the AT (or any long trail for that matter)?
In this post, I’ll share the reasons I am attempting a 2021 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I’m sure my reasons and motivation will shift and evolve as I prep and get hiking, but this is my going in mindset. Here I chose the three-part style/approach as outlined in Zach Davis’ excellent2012 book, ‘Appalachian Trials’.
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
- attempting an AT thru-hike, for a sense of significant accomplishment, has been a ‘Bucket List’ item for a long time and I’m ready to get it done.
- it will test me! And with hard work, prep, and determination I can make it to Maine! Of course “Pride goeth before the fall…” Only one way to find out though, gear up, strap in, and launch!
- generally, I love to walk, so hiking is a good fit. I know I’m probably jinxing myself here but it’s the truth.
- it’s a mistake to wait for others to do it with me. 2019 was going to be my year. Didn’t happen. 2020 either. Don’t want to sound like a victim here, just not going to wait any longer (pandemics notwithstanding).
- I want to get in much better shape. And yes round is a shape, but as I turn 65 this summer (don’t worry, I have the body of a 57-year-old) my thru-hike is a great opportunity to prove to myself I can still do it. This will include overcoming the grueling physical and mental challenges of the AT…or maybe that ‘my favorite delusion’ reference from my first post LOL (“I think I can, I think I can…”). I lost 35+ lbs so far in training prep, and have another 35 to go. This journey will help me with weight loss, while paradoxically stuffing my face (pop-tarts, beer, M&Ms, beef jerky, etc).
- it will allow me to live more simply. And to accomplish that goal I plan to be FAR less connected to the outside world, politics, and/or tech in general. Cue song lyrics…”Society. You’re a lonely breed. Hope you’re not lonely without me…” Eddie. Vedder.
- I LOVE the hiker community. There are SO many helpful and generally supportive peeps out there. I’ve already met some awesome people through both online, hiking, and occasional ‘trail magic’.
- it’s a golden opportunity to face, and um overcome, my fears. More to follow in my subsequent posts.
- I’ll experience nature in all her glory. WooHoo. Sunrises/sunsets. Scenic vistas. Green tunnels. Beautiful trees. Mountains. Our planet is fkn awesome! Protecting our natural resources (‘Clean water’ or ‘Protect our Oceans’ or State and etc) are critically important and those important interests are advanced in no small part thru raised awareness AND celebrating Mother Earth’s splendor and majesty. I want a front-row seat, please. If this was SeaWorld I want a ‘splash zone’ seat. Yup.
- to keep growing regardless of my age and situation. Sure, I’m probably older than most on the trail, but not TOO old learn. Even so, I expect the AT will be a wealth of life lessons. It’s been said that the only thing you learn of value in life is about yourself, your beliefs of who you are, about the world and your place in it. The AT has much to teach and I’ll be staying open to it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and stinky).
- allow nature to quiet my mind. For years I’ve battled PTSD (even though, full disclosure, I never served in the military). I still suffered in my own way, therefore walking, especially on longer hikes, has really helped me stay present and be ‘in the moment’. A thru-hike will be the mother lode of that (or should I say Mother Nature lode LOL)
- I can eat as much as I want, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Yum!
- to live my life far more simply. What do we really need to be happy and content? Spoken like a true aspiring minimalist I know. I’ve been channeling the vibe from “Society” by Eddie Vedder. Better late than never.
- give me an adventure worth writing about (one that’s not fiction). What better way to spend my retirement?
When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail I will…
- be in much better physical and mental shape. That momentum is well worth it.
- have had the opportunity to really be in my head, and figure out what other challenges and growth I want to experience.
- have made many new and interesting trail friends, and be part of an awesome hiker community that can teach the world how to co-exist.
- faced fears in a way that will empower me in the future.
- feel really great about myself!
- reinforce valuable lessons such as flexibility, patience, persistence, trust in humanity, and staying in tune with nature.
If I give up my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I will…
- feel too old to comfortably attempt it going forward. I know, I know, everybody has heard of someone a zillion years old and THEY did it no problem.
- have missed a golden opportunity to believe in myself, and clearly demonstrate what I’m capable of in whatever remains of my time.
- feel the necessity to avoid mirrors for a while (and all the ppl I shared this challenge with).
- very possibly missed my window to thru-hike.
- regret that shitty fear-based decision for the rest of my life.
There you have it. My honest answers to You’re gonna do what? I am going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trial.
Thanks for reading this, and please follow along with me at https://thetrek.co/author/steve-monaco and also on Instagram @stevemonaco2. Gear post next! Cheers.
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I read this book too, you have such a thorough list! It seems like you’ve really read and thought about it in a way that will help you succeed. Never too late to learn! I’m there with you
I believe you can do it. I’m 61 and would love to hike the AT. Maybe next year when I retire. Safe travels, love the song and book also.
Steve, go for it and have a glorious time. I need to read that book, thanks for the reminder. Keep focused on your jump off date, it’s kind of like Christmas morning anticipation. You are NOT too old. I’m planning a section hike out of Damascus in September for my 72nd birthday.
Good post and good luck. I am more or less your age, (less then more). I had more or less the same reason to start last year to ThruHike the AT, and I did start. I had to leave the trail to go home for the same bad luck then so many others. 2021 will be different, I will be back on february 22 in Springer mountain with the firm intention to do whatever it takes to finish, while appreciating whatever the world, mothernature, and my aging legs will send at me. See you on trail. (Excuse my english, it’s my third language).
Well, I gotta tell you, I like your thought process, and I’m right there with you.
Ever since the loss of my eldest son, coming up on 8 years ago, who loved to hike and just shoot the bull with along the way, I’ve been eye-balling the AT since.
As I do hikes around my home in Santa Cruz, CA, even though people are probably trying to keep their distance from me, I continue to speak to him from time to time, and in my heart, I know that he hears me.
Have you determined a launch date?
I’d love to hear about how things go, so I’ll try to keep in touch.
Its great that you have the goal of thru-hiking, but don’t forget that its just a label. Its about the journey and not the destination. I’m looking forward to following your journey.