Why the AT

Need More Stories!

My 88-year-old father moved into an independent living center two years back.  After a few weeks I came back to visit him.  He was unusually quiet as we sat down in the dining room.

 I said, “So Dad, how’s it going?”  He waited for a few seconds and then looked me in the eye, shaking his head back and forth.

 “Not good,” he replied.  I immediately became protective of him. “What’s wrong,” I pried, “are they not taking care of you?” 

He took a deep breath and murmured so low, I could barely hear him.  “That’s not it,” he said.   I leaned in to him.  “Tell me,” I asked, “what’s wrong?”

He looked around nervously to see if anyone was listening and looked me in the eyes.

“I need more stories,” he said.

 I was confused.

 “More stories! What are you talking about?” I asked.

He took another deep breath and spoke.  “I need more stories!  You should hear the stories these people tell in the dining room.  Everyone has had such an exciting life.  One guy was a lumberjack and all the ladies crowd around him to hear about his adventures in the woods.  Another guy went to snow school and has all these great stories about plowing snow for the city.”

I eased back in my chair, and couldn’t help but smile.

 “Oh, come on,” I said, “you’ve got stories.” 

“I’ve got nothing,” he replied bitterly, “I worked in the NYC controller’s office for thirty years.  What stories do I have?”

 As I contemplated his predicament, I slowly began to feel sorry for him.  It must be depressing to realize that after a long lifetime, you really didn’t have anything interesting to tell people about yourself. But whatever empathy I was feeling at that moment, soon vanished when my dad looked me in the eyes again and asked, “What stories do you have?” 

The question brought a sardonic smile to my face.

 “I have stories,” I replied, confidently.   “Yeah, let’s hear one,” he said, leaning back and folding his arm across his chest.  That was when the cocky smile faded from my face and it suddenly dawned on me.  I got nothing!  My father shook his head knowingly and a smirk appeared in the corner of his mouth.

“It’s too late for me Kev,” he said, “but it’s not too late for you.”   And that my friends is why I am hiking the Appalachian Trail.  To get some more stories!  So I’m not eating alone in the dining hall when I’m 90:)

 The AT called to me!  Seriously! There’s no other way to explain it. I felt like Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s character in the movie Field of Dreams.…just not as good looking.  “If you build it, he will come.”  Except I wasn’t walking through anything as visually stunning as a cornfield and a voice didn’t whisper, “Georgia to Maine, Mount Katahdin or shame.”  I was just lying in bed with my laptop in November 2023.

I recall reading something about the Appalachian trail when it hit me like a thunderbolt. I had never experienced anything like it before. I remember immediately texting a few family members that I was going to hike the Appalachian trail. I received laughing emojis in response.  

My brother had told me that I shouldn’t be telling people I was doing this. But the way I saw it was, if I tell enough people, then there’s no way I can back out of this without looking like a complete wimp! I’ll save that look for when I dodge the Approach Trail.

Bring Me Back to Nostalgia

It’s more than just feeling nostalgic for reliving my youth; of exploring the abundant woods and creeks of Staten Island, NY in the 1960’s and 70’s, before it all disappeared to duplexes. It’s going back to a place where time stands still, on the Appalachian trail.  A better time! 

As I am retiring this year after a rewarding career as a special educator for two California middle schools, I am well aware I need to do this now, because there is no tomorrow. There is no tomorrow! (Rocky III) You may have guessed, I’m a movie guy. And that is not going to be my trail name!

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Comments 12

  • Dottie Rust : Apr 29th

    My oldest brother hiked the AT in 1969. . .it was so bad that he never had any “good stories” of that hike. So that began my “why”, gotta hike the AT and give my family some good stories. My brother enjoyed listing to all my great AT stories!

    When you get to Harpers Ferry, stop by, have your photo taken by one of the amazing volunteers. It you arrive on a Wednesday, that’s “my” day to volunteer. If I’m not pour hiking, I will be there.

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thanks for reading my first Blog. I do hope to share some interesting AT stories, and I have read many from others that I’ve enjoyed reading, too. Stay tuned.

  • Ron Keal : Apr 29th

    Kevin, Glad you had a successful career as a teacher. By the time you get to Mt. Katahdin you will have stories and a lot of new friends. Good luck and never give up, keep hiking no matter how much rain, insects, or sore feet. How about a trail name, My Stories.

    Ron Keal
    GA>ME 1976
    Mexico>Canada PCT 1981
    Canadian Continental Divide 1984

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thanks for the trail name suggestion. I think all of us want “more stories,” too.

  • Charles Petersen : Apr 29th

    What a sad, sweet story! Thanks and happy hiking.

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thank you!

  • Pcs : Apr 29th

    You know you’ve got stories from teaching all those years…but you should still hike the A.T.
    You don’t need to skip the Approach Trail, just skip the waterfall steps…you can start at the Amicalola Lodge

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thanks for your advice on the trails. Yes, teaching has lots of stories, but hiking is something that actually relieves my stresses and hopefully the AT will bring me lots of adventures.

  • David Odell : Apr 29th

    Good post. Keep a daily journal of your hike to help with your memories of your hike. Good luck on your AT hike.
    David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thank you for reading by first blog. Yes, will need some luck on the AT hike!

  • Bob Falk : May 2nd

    Way to go Kevin, now I understand the Why? Wishing you clear skies, clear trails, and clear water and looking forward to hearing your stories!

    • Kevin Rapp : May 3rd

      Thank you so much. Working on my new blog as I’m on the trail now.


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