The (figurative) AT Approach Trail
Yesterday, I woke up at 6:30 and was in my car by 7:00 so I could be at work by 8:00. For six hours I worked a dead-end (albeit fun) retail job – unpacking two semis, moving boxes, dusting, sorting, folding, sweeping, and generally just being a roustabout. At 2:00, my Clif bar and I got into my twenty year old car (which desperately needs new front struts) and drove across the outerbelt to the other side of town. At 2:30, I punched into another job where I teach children math and reading. I worked here long after the kiddos had gone home, finally closing down shop after 11:00pm. All told, I worked 14 hours and spent over 90 minutes in transit between jobs . . . and this was an easy day because I didn’t have my third job in the mix somewhere.
Is this a plea for you to feel sad for me? No. Am I looking for your pity? Absolutely not. I am a future through-hiking rock star and I feel like my trip has already started.
What does that mean? That means that for many of us, the road to the AT starts a long time before a hiker finds a plane/bus/car ride to Georgia. When your friend/family member says, “I’m going to through-hike the AT,” it’s not an abdication of duty, a sudden departure from the “real” world. Or rather, it is. But to earn that departure, to have the privilege of abandoning ‘modern society’ for a few months, many of us are burning the candle at both ends. For days, weeks, months on end. When your friend/family member says, “I’m going to through-hike the AT,” try to remember that it’s not all fun and games. In addition to the grueling physical and mental hardships to which we are willingly going to submit ourselves in just a few short weeks, remember the economic dedication, perserverance, and work ethic that allowed us to finance this escapade.
I cannot speak for all through-hikers. Perhaps some of you have a cozy income and are taking off at the drop of a hat. But for those hikers who, like me, were barely making ends meet, who had no equipment three months ago, and who are now (in the words of the infamous Tim Gunn) “making it work”, we are already on our first approach trail. We are already meeting our first Appalchian Trial head-on, and frankly, I’m proud of my through-hike so far and hope you are proud of yours too.
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