Three Big Life Events In A Year



Hi I’m Rick Watts and I am one of the Bloggers for the Trek this year on the Appalachian Trail.

On Friday, August 13th 2021 I retired from Appalachian Power Company where I had worked for 35 years. I worked in the Operations Department of a Natural Gas Power plant, the last 20 years of my career I was a Control Room Operator.


On that same day I moved from Wise, Virginia; where I had lived most of my life, to Baldwyn, Mississippi, where we would live next to one of our three sons and four of our six grandchildren. My wife Sally had gone down a couple of months before and had everything ready for me to come down.

Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail

On March 14th; my 63rd birthday, I will start following those white blazes from Springer Mountain to Katahdin!

For years I have dreamed of a Thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, in March I will step onto the trail and follow in the path that so many that I have read about and heard their stories on various podcast have taken before me.


I have heard the expression “Go Big, or Go Home” many times. I believe that three life changing events in a year qualifies as Going Big!

This will be my first long distance Thru-hike. I have been backpacking for ten years and I feel that one of my happy places is in the woods with a backpack on! One of my favorite trails is the Pine Mountain Trail on the Virginia Kentucky border. While I was a member of the Pine mountain Trail Conference, I took a writer for Backpacker Magazine out to see a section of the trail as well as the Cloudsplitter 100  trail race organizer to see the trail. Another hobby of mine is Geocaching, and at on time I had over 40  geocaches hidden one the trail.

I grew up with a love of the great outdoors and I have been blessed to have seen many places that most will only see pictures of.

I am looking forward to this challenge and adventure of a lifetime!


While on weekend backpacking/geocaching trip with several friends I got a notification on my phone that there was someone on my front  porch at home. I pulled up the camera and saw my youngest granddaughter and my wife, so I said hi to my granddaughter and she looked up at the camera and replied “Hi Goonpa.” The people I was hiking with overheard this asked why she called me Goonpa, so I told them that is what she has always called me since she started talking. A couple in the group I have hiked with several times over the years said “Well Goonpa is now your trail name!”

Happy Trails!


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Comments 19

  • pearwood : Jan 20th

    Hello, Goonpa!
    Pearwood here.
    A week from today I will be on the Amtrak from Rochester, NY to Atlanta, GA for a February 1 start. Excited and terrified. I’ve done enough of this sort of thing to know that I really don’t know what I’m getting into.
    I expect to celebrate birthday 72 somewhere in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry.
    Blessings on your way!

    • Goonpa : Jan 21st


      Best wishes on your hike!

      Stay safe and warm!

  • Angela-Rudekoolaid : Jan 20th

    Awesome! I would love to see updates!

    • Goonpa : Jan 21st


      Thanks! I hope to see you at Sam’s Gap…Trail Magic!!!

  • Julie : Jan 21st

    I’m hoping to hike the AT when I retire in 3 years, so I look forward to reading about your adventures!

    • Goonpa : Jan 21st


  • NotYet : Jan 21st

    Good luck. Hike your hike and enjoy it, even when it’s cold and rainy. I hiked the AT in 2020 (600 miles and Covid hit) and all of it in 2021. I am 62 and was with Viking man (69) and others. We both had retired just before. It was not easy, especialy at the end where we were tired, worned out (especially our feet), but we made it, and many other people our age too. So, you can make this dream come true. I am sure you are ready and like most, you read everything, so I will give you only one advice: bring some good waterproof overmitts, because during the first 4-6 weeks, you will love them while roling your tent in the morning, and during the long rainy days. Good luck again.

    • Goonpa : Jan 21st

      Thanks for the advice on waterproof mittens, I am still looking at a few more I need. Looks like I will be going back to REI…

  • Saly : Jan 21st

    I am so excited for your next journey after retirement. I see the excitement in your eyes and hear it in your voice. Can’t wait to meet you in Maine.
    Love the post of your big 3 life adventures.

    • Goonpa : Jan 21st

      I know that I couldn’t do this without your support!

  • Caynor Smith : Jan 21st

    I live in Wise (All my life). I also am interested in walking the trail. I met w Dennis Hubbard from Pound, Va yesterday in Kingsport, Tn. to discuss this. I have a Q? Why March? We talked yesterday that mid April would be better but not sure. Just wondering. Thanks and Hope the best to you. Btw where did you live in Wise?

  • Goonpa : Jan 21st


    I chose March 14th because it is my birthday, and I want to give myself plenty of time to reach Katahdin before it closes for the winter.

    I lived on Pole Bridge Road, and I graduated from Kelly in 77

    • Steven Crowe : Jan 21st


      I hope to be leaving the very same day you are, on March 14th. That date is the 35th year anniversary of the job I will be retiring from. I chose to celebrate it ( and freedom) in the fashion of an AT thru-hike.

      Hope to see you on the trail, and congratulations!


  • Chris : Jan 21st


    I should be starting 2 days after you. I look forward to the adventure and fellow hiker stories. I too am blogging for the Trek and will enjoy every day on the trail.


  • Too High : Jan 22nd

    I’ll be starting in March as well. I look forward to seeing your posts

  • Dana : Jan 23rd

    Small world! My home city is near by Baldwyn so any time I see a town mentioned I know, it draws me in. I’m living the trail life & getting information through you & other hikers. Looking forward to learning & reading about your own experiences!

  • Tom DuBois - - - a.k.a. SNAP!!! Geocaching : Jan 24th

    Safe travels – we will be following you all the way!!!

  • Chuck : Feb 13th

    Good hiking weather for you safe hiking HAVE FUN

  • Preston : Mar 12th

    Best wishes on the hike! 62 here and recently retired, love to hike (and moved at retirement to the foothills) and always dreamed of your 2022 journey… although at this point I know the body has decided I will enjoy the hike through the updates of people like you who are willing to share their journeys. Thanks for being open to sharing this experience!


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