Tell Me Why

My Reasons for Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Why I am planning to thru-hike the AT in 2024 (and thank you to Neil Young for the intro).

For those of you new to thru-hiking, many people talk about the reasons why they would want to do such a thing. Thru-hiking means months away from friends and family, living outdoors in all weather, and carrying all your belongings on your back. Some say sign me up while others wouldn’t dream of such a thing. Clearly, I am in the first category. 

Each year a few thousand people set out to hike the AT, yet only about 25% complete it. The reasons people don’t complete are varied – injuries, running out of money, running out of time, boredom, frustration, physical demands and mental exertion. It’s the last reason that seems to get so many and why having a strong reason to hike the trail is thought to help against those tough days when doubts may set in. Zach Davis in Appalachian Trials (and The Trek) explores this topic in great depth. He and many others advocate that goal-setting and having a clear sense of purpose – your ‘why’ can be such a difference-maker between starting the trail and completing it. 

So, here’s my why. 

I am one of seven siblings. Our family was of modest means and everyone was expected to help out. I started ‘working’ when I was about 7, pulling a wagon full of newspapers for our family’s paper route. By about 10, I was not only pulling the wagon but also delivering the newspapers. My first ‘actual’ job was at 14 as a stockboy in a liquor store and I never looked back, or stopped. Many times during my life, one job became two or even three at a time. 

A benefit of one of my many jobs – I met my wife Laura when we were 16 and both worked in a local pizza place called Papa Gino’s! Not only did I meet my wife during my work life, but also some of my closest friends. Oh yeah – also some casual acquaintances like Grover and Elmo when I worked at Bush Gardens in Tampa during our van years! 

There were my pizza years from 16 to 30 (working in and managing pizza restaurants). Then about 30 years in education, consulting, and  research, among other endeavors. All these years later, a common thread of my life has been working hard and hustling to meet goals and stay ahead. Was it worth it? Certainly. I have done a lot, accomplished many things, and upon my retirement, look back with satisfaction on most of the twists and turns in my life.  (This is without even considering the amazing family I have and each of their great stories!) Am I ready to slow down, exist, be, and do something just for myself? You bet! 

My consulting and research years allowed for some well-planned adventures like this bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC in 2017


This is my why. I don’t want to conquer the AT. I don’t want to go into the woods to find or reinvent myself. I don’t want to go to the trail to fix something that is broken. Rather, I want to attempt a thru-hike to experience being in the moment, enjoy each day, and live life at just 2-3 miles per hour while focusing on the only three things that matter when you’re on the trail – how far am I going, where is the water, and where am I sleeping? Oh yeah, and repeat this for 5 to 6 months and 2200 miles. I am excited to get started and am counting down the days until I begin!

No matter where we were in our lives, the jobs we were in, or where we called home, one thing Laura and I always did and do was find time and ways to have fun – like this visit in 2014 to one of our favorite spots, Key West. 

Next up, Why a flip-flop hike!

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