There is No “Why” to Hiking the Appalachian Trail
HOW DID I GET HERE?
I woke up this morning staring down a 2500-mile-long-gun, say that number again and slow. After five years of planning, prepping, and dreaming, the beginning steps are only one day out. I am terrified. I am excited. I am dumbfounded. How did I get here?
HOW IT STARTED
The start of this crazy adventure starts how most do, at the bottom of a night in with only bits of our minds swirling about. Chris, my high school friend and longtime hiking partner, and I had one of our usual platonic, by no means friendly, competitions of who could do it better. We eventually landed on the idea of a fantastic competition of endurance of the body, mind, and spirit—the Appalachian Trail.
WHERE IT CAME FROM
Immediately, the fervor transitioned into determination. Within a month, we found ourselves collecting rainwater off the side of a country general store only six miles into the Pinhoti Trail (this was due to a non-functioning water filter with no backup to speak of). Another couple of years and a handful of trips later, the trials morphed from life-threatening to run-of-the-mill trek issues: blistered feet, bruised shin bones, and the looming question of what the hell convinced me to walk this far out into the woods?!
WELL, WHAT THE HELL IS CONVINCING ME TO WANDER THIS FAR INTO THE WOODS?
Initially, it was to prove something to myself—I can finish what I start. Then, it morphed into a way to get away from the upvote, downvote, run yourself into the ground society, be it at work or school, to prove to others and ultimately yourself that you have worth. I wanted the time to define my own worth. I was then presented with the sudden death of my father. The answer again changed- to find healing, to make myself whole so that I can aid myself and others.
THE ANSWER, OR… LACK OF
Simply, I don’t know. Yet, I find that from time to time the answer presents parts of itself. The how I got here and the why I hike are linked, but in which way has not been revealed. Perhaps over this 2,500-mile journey, the link will become more apparent. All that I know now is this: the adventure of a lifetime started out as a drunken pipedream.
But, after five years, the dream survived and became an opportunity because a space for it was created. Space was created by myself through an obsessive determination to see it become reality. Space was created by loving and hardworking parents, who, either willingly or through guilt-trips, give me a safety net should I fail. Space was created by a support network made of lifelong friends, lost loves, and caring strangers. Now it’s time for me to fill that space with a 50lb-backpack, over five million steps, and possibly a “why” to hike the AT.
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