The PULL is Real!

Life is full of things that are a priority.   We all have stuff that pulls us in one direction or another.  I mean really pulls on us like the earth’s gravity.  It’s not something that is made up, but a real force to be reckoned with.

messyropeAs I prepare for my AT Thru Hike, I find myself being pulled in many directions.  Some of these pulls have me wondering if I should be doing this hike after all.  Yes, there are those pulls of doubt.  In fact, sometimes the ropes that pull on me are a little messy–tangled and making it not easy.

But let me breakdown what is pulling on me as I countdown the final weeks before setting off on a 6 months hike in the woods known as the Appalachian Trail.

The BIG 3 pulling at my life right now are:

  • The Family

  • The Job

  • The “Why”



In my distant pfamilyast, I was a workaholic.  As someone who dedicated my life to the American people, I served away from my family for years!  Yes, that was YEARs — about 4 of them when you add it all up.   It was because of my dedication to a higher calling, I often found that my family took a back seat to the nation.  However, now that I’ve been retired, I have realized that family is important.  My wife and daughter mean everything to me…

Last year, we added to our family with a new grand daughter.  She’s almost a year old now, but I’ve had the time of my life spending week after week just watching her grow–and grow she has.  Over this past year, we had many Firsts.  Over this past week, we had a NEW first–her first steps.  If she keeps making gains like this, she’ll soon be joining me on a trail somewhere…Oh, how great that day will be.

This new family adventures have only drawn on my heart about how important Family IS!  And on this AT hike, I’ll be missing some of the greatest times as the grand daughter continues to have more firsts.   I don’t want to miss LIFE!  I want to be apart of this new life who looks at me and smiles as she says LaLa (my unofficial name).

Therefore, I struggle with the Hike…and the time away from the family.  I had to be gone back in the day…I didn’t have a choice while serving in far away lands like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Panama, and Qatar.  But it was easier because I was called upon to serve.

This hike is not like that at all.  I don’t have to go.  If the family calls, I can come home immediately.  The pull is strong…because it’s mi Familia!



I’ve been retired for the past 4 years and have really enjoyed the time spent “relaxing!  Who wouldn’t enjoy traveling around the country, camping out from Florida to Maine and Montana to Texas.  We’ve been living the life, enjoying life, looking for surf, hiking in parks and just living.  However, I have been kinda looking for a job.  So, low and behold to my surprise as I’m finishing up my AT Thru Hike preparations, jobI get 3 job interviews over the past few weeks.  So far, I have one firm offer to go back to work.  So…now the hard part begins — “How much money does it take to NOT do your Thru Hike?”  I mean a real, no kidding salary in a very nice area of the country.

Would $40,000 a year make you say “Naw, I think the AT can wait.”  How about $50,000 or $75,000?  Is that enough to entice you to give up the dream of hiking the AT an get back to work?  What about a six figure income? — is that enough to change midcourse and head back into the workforce.

On the job, we have the pulls of doing a good job, the boss, the paycheck, the long hours, the lack of support and so much more.  Since most people spend more time at the job (at work)  than is spent on any thing else they do in their lives, work/employment/career is IMPORTANT.  So, it’s easy to see why the job is hard to forget about when we trek off into the wilderness.

However, time away from the job is so…refreshing, enlightening, rewarding, effective to help make us BETTER.

SO…even though I am struggling with the pulls of the Family and Job, the real tough part of hiking the AT is the WHY…

THE “WHY” — Why am I hiking?


I’ve read Zach Davis’ book Appalachian Trials and the AT Hike is very mental.  In fact, he recommends to write out the reason you are hiking the AT.  This will allow you to review the WHY when it gets tough on trail — AND it will get tough enough to make you want to quit.   In fact, with only one-third (2017 statistics which is up from one-quarter in previous years) it proves that those tough days will make you want to QUIT!

I know, you (and me) are not quitters.  With only a few weeks before taking off on the trail, I find myself searching — searching for the real reason I’m going on a 2,200 mile hike.  Why Why Why…that may be the REAL question.

Just yesterday, my wife (there goes that family part) asked me WHY!  She wondered if I was going through a midlife crisis.  I don’t think I am!  But…maybe just maybe.  No, that can’t be the reason I am willing to subject myself to ends days living a nomadic life without quality food, shelter nor companionship.  I love my wife and I LOVE being with her…BTW she’s an awesome cook!

So…I’m searching for the WHY! 

It might be something to do with only a few people have done it.  It might be to test my mental and physical fitness.  It might be to help tell me “I Still CAN” even at 50+ years of age.  It might be because my hiking partner who talked me into doing this may be pulling out at the last minute making me go solo.  It might be that I want to be that example to my family, friends and employers that I, yes I, am one of those people who WILL NOT be deterred no matter what the world, weather or nature can throw at me.  It might be ALL of these, but I just don’t know right now.

As many AT Thru Hikers are currently hitting the trail or will be hitting the trail over the next few weeks, I hope they have figured out their reason for hiking the trail.  They’ll need to know, I mean deep down know, their WHY as they are guaranteed to have struggles that will pull their mind away from the trail.

Best wishes to all who will succeed this year on their AT Thru Hike.  BUT–I want to send the BEST to those who will be tried and tested over the next few months even if they aren’t successful.  There are many things in life that are MORE important than hiking the AT.  Remember, there is life after the trail…so know the WHY and Hike On!

Happy Trails AT Class of 2017.  NOBOs, SOBOs and Flip Floppers — I can’t wait to meet you on the trail.

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