The Lists .. My Mental Preparation for the Journey Ahead

OK. I started this whole blog thing as a result of reading Zach Davis’s book and taking his message about mental preparation to heart.  I fully agree that if I can’t finish the sentence “I am hiking the Appalachian Trail because…..” before I start, I’ll be in a world of trouble trying to answer it somewhere along the trail when I am wet, tired, cold, sick, sore, and bored….

So…   I’ve been working on the “Three Lists” for almost 10 months now,  and have been reviewing  them periodically.  Now that our start date is less than 70  days away, I’m looking at them much more frequently.

The thing is, I’m not sure they’re done.

But maybe they’re never done.

Anyway, I think its time to share them…..

First List: “I am hiking the Appalachian Trail because……”

  1. I want to feel like the two thru-hikers Ian and I met on Katahdin in 2009.  They’re the guys who “set the hook”.  They made this idea real and made it so that it would never completely go out of my head.  Their picture is at the top of this post.   They changed my thoughts about the trail from “that’s and interesting idea” to “I want to feel like that”…
  2. The timing can never be better.  Ian has finished school, and I have found a point where I can break away from work and career for a while.  This past weekend, Linda and I went to see the movie “Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. In it there was a character who kept mixing up common sayings. He twisted “There’s no time like the present” to “There’s no present like time”.  It occurs to me that both of these are true in this situation.  I’m not getting any younger and I have break.  Ian has finished his formal schooling and can also afford to have a break.  No time like the present – if we don’t do this now, when?  But I also have to look at all of this — at the next six months  — as a gift.  It’s a gift of serendipity, that Ian’s and my  life schedules aligned, but its also a gift from our families and friends in that they support us in fulfilling this dream.   Whenever I’m feeling down on the trail  (and I know I will) I need to remind myself about how wonderful this gift is – these six months – there’s no present like time…..
  3. I get to spend six months with one of my sons doing something both of us enjoy.  Ian did not necessarily introduce me to backpacking, but his enthusiasm and pleasure in the activity has heavily influenced me.  Sharing this with him is also a gift, even though there will be points where I’ll want to kill him – and he’ll want to kill me.  Neither of us expect this to be all fun and games.  We know there will be periods where we are in each other’s face and periods where we will do anything to avoid each other. But again, there’s no present like time…….
  4. This is an “epic” adventure.  I like Zach Davis’s expression “Life is short. Do awesome shit, stupid.”  He’s right. If you don’t attempt things like this, you will spend a lot of  time regretting missed opportunities.
  5. I wrote about this particular point a while back–  “seeing the storied places” like McAfee Knob, Clingman’s Dome, the Smokies, Mahoosic Notch.  It’s more than just “seeing” them.  It’s being there.  It’s being part of the story.  It’s making our own story.
  6. Disconnecting from the “modern world” for a period of time has great appeal.  Right now I cannot imagine life without email and a phone.  Life is full of “stuff”.  Being out on the trail will give anew perspective on the difference between what you “want” and what you “need”.  This is something that I’ve enjoyed in the past while backpacking for up to a week.  Doing this and sharing the experience with others for up to six months will be a unique experience.
  7. There is a quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca: “True happiness is to enjoy the present without anxious dependence on the future”. What better place to practice living in the present than the AT?
  8. Another quote. This one from Henry Ford. “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right”.  I think I can. I know I can.  I know I’m right….
  9. I personally experience a sense of spirituality when I am out in the wilderness. The feeling I get sitting on top of a mountain with all of creation around me brings me a sense of awe and a sense of inner peace.

So that’s my main list. The Second List is:  “When I successfully hike the Appalachian Trail I will…….”

  1. I will have stories to tell. Oh will there be stories! (#4 in the first list…)
  2. I will have done something that few accomplish. Not through a special skill or ability, but due to grit and determination.
  3. I will have gained  a huge sense of accomplishment – of overcoming all the hurdles and not a little  suffering – of enjoying all of the wonderful moments. If I can do this, I can do anything.
  4. I will have gained a better appreciation of people. This will be a time to meet a lot of people, and most of them will be very different from me – different backgrounds and different dreams.  I will be a richer,  better person for having met them.
  5. I will know I understand how to “live in the present”.  I will have a better appreciation of time.
  6. I will know that Ian’s and my relationship has grown.  It will have been tested, but it will have grown.
  7. I will be a better person.  I will be a better scoutmaster for my scout troop.  I will be well equipped to encourage others to follow their dreams.

And the Third List:   “If I give up on the AT I will……”

  1. I will always wonder…. I will always question the decision to give up……
  2. I will have to reappraise my view of myself. I am 60 years old and I am tested. I have met and overcome past hurdles. Why did I let this one beat me?
  3. I will have to tell all the people I have told that I am doing this – all of the people who have given me their best wishes – who have given me their “blessing”, their support – that I gave up………..

I will not do that!

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Comments 3

  • Maureen : Mar 13th

    thanks for sharing. Best of luck Why go southbound?

    • George Brenckle : Mar 14th

      Waiting for Ian to finish school. He graduates May 8. If we go northbound, we won’t get to Katahdin in time (I walk slow…). Ian doesn’t care as long as we do it straight through end-to-end (no flip flops) So…. Southbound it is….

  • Maury : Apr 2nd

    Sounds like a great challenge. You are worthy. Wish you both the best. We’ll be following your progress. Enjoy!


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