So, You’re Gonna Do… What, Exactly?

In which intros are made and virtual caps are doffed.

I’m Gonna Hike the AT, That’s What.

I figure I should get that out of the way up front. It’s still a little hard to believe sometimes, but if you don’t say it you can psych yourself out.

Hi, I’m Chris. Those who know me know that my online social media presence up to this point has been, shall we say, limited. Or to use another, perhaps more accurate word: nonexistent. And I was more than a little surprised to find myself filling out the application to be a Trek blogger.

But in starting to think seriously about this journey last year I eventually found my way to The Trek and followed a few bloggers on their AT hikes (thanks especially to¬†Peg Leg for her detailed posts covering pretty much every day of her adventure to become the second woman to finish the entire East Coat Trail). I found it extremely helpful to get a sense of the day-to-day logistics as well as the ups and downs (both physical and emotional) of the experience, and more than any other article or other source of info it helped me understand what to expect. I’d like to provide some measure of the same experience for prospective future hikers. Also, friends and family had asked if I would be doing any updating while on the trail and this will certainly help with that. It’s maybe a little late in the game to be just starting an AT blog, but that’s just the way this train has been rolling. Hopefully people will enjoy hearing what I have to say.

Plus, I have a dog. And what kind of monster doesn’t love dog pics?

That’s Birch. I’m Chris.

Deciding to do this has obviously taken a lot of resolve, and while it’s something I’ve thought about for literally decades now, being at the threshold is a simultaneously thrilling and panic-inducing feeling. But I’m grateful to even have the opportunity, and you have to accept that on some level you’re always going to feel underprepared. So, in late March my dog Birch and I are leaving Boston and hitting the Appalachian Trail on a northbound thru-hike attempt.

Yes. The Why Is Indeed Important.

You don’t generally just decide to upend your entire life unless you have, like, a reason. Or reasons. And yes, I’ve got them too.

  1. I can. I’m not trying to be glib with that. I said it above: I’m grateful for the opportunity. Put another way, I’m grateful to even be able to give this thing a shot. I was born with a heart condition that interfered with my cardiac function pretty significantly and I had corrective open-heart surgery for it twice, once as a child and once as an adult. The second procedure in particular really made a huge difference in my life, and this trip represents pretty much the ultimate thing about which I used to think, “Well, there’s something really cool-sounding that I’ll never get to do,” and turning it into a reality. This, more than anything else, would have to be my Why of this attempt.
  2. Birch. As mentioned before, I have a dog. A really cute one. She just turned 7, and while she’s still in amazing shape, you never know what she (or I) might be like in another year. She’s been my companion on many adventures:
    and if anyone is going to make it through this with me, it’s her. Having said that, her health and safety are incredibly important to me, and I’m very cognizant of the physical challenges that the trail presents. Not to mention that bringing a dog inserts a lot of additional logistical challenges and makes this already Very Difficult Thing even more difficult. But she’s a fan of the outdoors, to put it mildly, and we find ourselves at an intersection of age, health, and training that makes this the best opportunity we have to take this on. Like many (all?) German Shepherds, she loves having a job to do, and exploring the outside world is a better use of her talents than, say, finding a stray piece of kibble in the recycling bags:

    Bears aren’t the only ones with good noses.

  3. Age is just a number, but joints are joints. This is honestly more of a coincidence, but I turned 50 at the end of January and thought it would be an amazing way to celebrate/punish myself.

In addition to the above, I was able to coordinate a leave of absence from work that logistically opened the door for me to do this. So, all signs are kind of saying the same thing: It’s now or never, man.

So Here Goes

Speaking of logistics: holy crap. There’s a lot that goes into this, and I’ll (hopefully) do additional posts on adventures in prepping (logistical, physical, and mental) before it’s time to leave. For now, suffice to say, it’s all happening at once. But this has ultimately been a freeing experience and has me looking forward to what lies ahead. I’ve already gotten a huge amount of support from friends and family and I haven’t even left town yet. It’s very humbling and inspiring. I hope to be able to share some of my experience back with people as this trip unfolds. Here goes, indeed.

“Oh we’re gonna find another way back home
It’s written in our blood, oh it’s written in our bones
Yeah, we’ll only be bound by the things we choose
Yeah, we’ll only be bound by the things we choose.”
-Lucius, “Wildewoman”

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Comments 2

  • Hey Alaska : Mar 2nd

    Hi. I can totally empathize with you. I have a congenital heart condition that kept me pretty inactive growing up. I’ve had 2 heart surgeries (thankfully not open heart). The fist was when I was 18. The most recent was 2 years ago come May. Yesterday, I had a cardiology appointment. I was finally cleared to backpack! The doctors loved my training progress and plan of hiking the Colorado Trail next summer. I wish you and your heart the best of luck on your hike.

    • Chris Wagner : Mar 4th

      Thank you for this. I’m so happy to hear that you’re improved enough to go backpacking. It’s really remarkable how the body can respond after these procedures, it just gives you a whole new outlook on what’s possible. I’ll probably talk more about that in the blog at some point. It was really great to see your comment. Best of luck to you too!


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