Things Always Go As Planned, Right?
Okay What Did I Sign Up For??
Hiking from Georgia to Maine shouldn’t be harder than it sounds right?? I walk places all the time! Like the grocery store, the coffee shop, a buddies house, a leisurely stroll around the lake. So what is hiking from one state to another (with just a few in between um) ??
Yes this is on a slightly larger scale than walking down to the beach to grab some ice cream and go swimming. How does one prepare for something like this? How do I know where I am going to sleep each night? What I’m going to eat, and how am I going to cook it? How could I possibly fit everything I need for the next 6 months into a backpack, which I get to carry every step of the way… I have many, many questions.
Where Do I Find The Answers?
I guess there isn’t an answer key for this. Luckily there are wonderful websites (like this one here!), forums, podcasts, YouTube videos, books and many more resources that can give one a clue on what to expect when taking on this journey.
Preparation is key obviously, whether that be physical, having the right gear, having general trail knowledge, knowing your limits, etc. But, the one that is most important is mental preparation. It’s all between the ears.
So I am going to focus on the three main lists the book Appalachian Trials suggests a future thru-hiker come up with when finding the answer to why am I doing this?
- This is a dream I have had since lunch, and I’m not giving up on it now (that’s for all of the Michael Scott fans out there, okay now onto the real reasons!)
- There is no better time than now. I just recently earned my Bachelors Degree and am not ready to begin my professional career just yet.
- I want to really see the US. I was very lucky to be able to travel quite a bit through playing baseball in college. While I would not trade that experience for anything, there is definitely a difference in traveling on a bus from one school to another to play ball than hiking through 14 states north.
- I love the outdoors. As a kid I spent as much time outside as I could!
- I want to get outside my comfort zone. While I have always enjoyed nature, this is a whole different animal.
- I want to prove to myself that I can accomplish something both physically and mentally challenging.
A little backstory… I do not want to overshare or go far in depth, but I really don’t know how to put some of this into words, so here we go.
In April of 2015, I was in a car accident and fractured the C2 vertebrae in my spine. I was rushed to the hospital, where they placed a 3 inch screw to keep me together. The fact that I am able to walk, tell the story myself, and even type this on my computer is incredible. Knowing just how very blessed I am to have survived leaves me speechless.. and my family through it all.. they were, have, and still are unbelievable. I am the luckiest kid ever. Beyond blessed. (yes I am 25 but I am still and always will be a kid)
But ya, when something of this magnitude occurs, you really kind of have to find a new you, or a new normal. So after 22 years, the person I had grown to become, was no longer… ya know, all along I am thinking, “I know how very blessed I am and how lucky I am to be alive, but its almost like…now what? Where do I go from here? How do I move on?”
Hold Up There Fella
So ya, all of these answers hopefully are going to fall right into my lap…cause that’s how it works right?? Not so much, but maybe it will come with time and through recovery, which I thought I had nailed. After 4 months of physical therapy and all the trials and tribulation, I was feeling good! (as good as someone with a broken neck can feel) But I should have known that 4 months was not enough for what I had just gone through. So when I went in for a follow up CT scan, thinking I was going to be cleared to go neck brace free and to start living my life again, I was somehow stunned when the surgeon said the bone had not healed and they needed to cut me open again. So that’s exactly what they did. So after thinking I had come back from so much, I got booted right back to square one. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200 dollars (ha that is exactly how it felt)
Soooo Ya, Back To Square One, With A Long Road (Trail?) Ahead
I have been rambling for a bit now, but that is my back story. Basically, through recovery, I had to make many small goals. When I say small, I mean small. Like walking around the block.. that was a big one for me. My buddy Ket knows, we played hockey and baseball together growing up (he is way more athletic than me, sauce has range). But he came over post surgery and we made it half way around the block before I had to call it quits. I could not walk around the block!!! What this does to ones mind, its not like I was an incredible athlete but I held myself to certain standards and to not be able to walk around the block, major neck surgeries or not, it is hard to accept. This road to recovery was going to be hell. And it was. (so ya, I no longer take anything for granted, cause ya, I learned.)
Alright back to where ever I am going with this really long post. apologies, but this is my story. If you are still with me, thanks, preciate you. I truly am trying to wrap it up! no promises..
So Go Hike About It
Basically, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail had been on my mind for a long time. It was after my accident that it really vamped up. It became a goal of mine for the future. One I really didn’t know if I’d get the chance to ever pursue. A little hope that was so far out. Yet, it was what got me out of bed every morning. To go to physical therapy after surgery #1, #2, and #3. What got me back to school to earn my college degree, to getting a job bagging groceries, which was extremely physically demanding for someone who had done next to nothing (except watch Netflix) for 7 months, praying the fracture in my neck would somehow heal.
When I successfully thru-hike the AT I will…./If I give up on the AT I will….
- This one is a little hard for me because of the wording. Obviously I want to imagine that I would successfully thru-hike the AT. I still do have some of the competitive fire that was there from when I was an athlete. So the thought of not completing it really gets me going. But on the other hand, I do know that anything can happen, and we can only control so much. And on the other hand, if I am to give up..ya this is a very different journey, but the fact I am attempting something like this after everything…I think that is damn near enough. With that, I don’t plan on giving up, but I have a fairly unique view on this thing called life, and I am very excited to this opportunity.
This trek was in the back of my mind through everything. Everything I overcame along the way was like another state to check of the list. It has not so much moved from to the top of my priorities as much as I have made it just that. All I have accomplished in these last 32 months has led me to the peak of my recovery. My very own Mt. Katahdin. But, it just so happens that my recovery ends at Springer Mountain, the start of my next adventure. I am so very blessed and beyond excited for this journey along with the opportunity to share it as so many have shared their love with me.
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