Three Hundred and Thirty Five Zeroes
Have you ever dreamt about doing something totally foolish, something so absurd that perhaps you were afraid to tell anyone except possibly those closest to you? I harbored such a secret for most of my adult life — I secretly wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.” – Dennis Blanchard in Three Hundred Zeroes
Yes, the title of the article is an allusion to a pretty cool AT book called Three Hundred Zeroes by Dennis Blanchard (it’s comical and humbling… you should probably read it if you haven’t). And at this point, my desire to hike the Appalachian Trail is hardly a secret. Namely, because I already attempted a thru hike. Last year, I hiked most of the 700 miles between Springer Mountain and McAffee Knob. Seven hundred of the most amazing, exhilarating, eye-opening, earth-shattering miles one could imagine. As most who’ve attempted (or completed) such an endeavor can relate to, the trail changed my life. There was no going back to the person I was before.
So, after breaking my foot last June during my thru-hike attempt, hitchiking back to Franklin, NC, and creating a life here while I healed, I faced one of the toughest decisions of my life. I never thought I would be doing another thru-hike attempt this year. Hell, I never thought I would do it period. But the stars aligned and opportunity knocked and here I am, less than two weeks from what will be my start date of a flip-flop thru-hike attempt this year.
To say I’m terrified would be an understatement. Last year when I started walking north, I’d been preparing and planning for 18 months. When I hit the trail at the end of the month, I’ll have officially been thinking about this for less than a month and I’ll have had less than two weeks to plan. I have less than two weeks to move out of my house and line up everything for departure. I don’t think it’s even fully set in yet what a monumental undertaking this is. Not to mention, I already tried this once and FAILED. Am I ready? Am I healthy enough? Have I gained too much weight? Can I do this? But I have all the gear, I have the knowledge and experience, I have more money than I had last year, and I have this raging fire burning deep down inside my soul that won’t rest until I finish what I started.
So, I’ll be starting a flip-flop hike somewhere in central Virginia on June 2nd (preceded by a 5-day prep/shakedown in Grayson Highlands starting on May 28 – exactly 11 months since I got off the trail last year). North to Katahdin, and if I’m healthy and have enough money, I’ll flip back down and SOBO to Springer. I don’t think I ever made my “lists” public last year, but I’m going to do it this year in the spirit of re-evaluating my purpose out here. For your entertainment (or not so much):
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
- I set a goal to complete this hike, and I don’t think I can live with myself until I do
- This trail has become deeply ingrained in my life – my thoughts are consumed with trail life and I NEED to get back out there
- I’ve struggled with body image my entire life, and I want to prove to myself that my body CAN do this
- I want to clear my head through the physical exertion, emotional cleansing, and exposure to nature that hiking the trail provides
- I long to rise and fall with the sun, to get back on a natural schedule and align myself with the world around me
- I am still discontent with my career choices and feel I need to think clearly and evaluate which direction my life is headed – what better way to do this than to head north?
- I can’t think of anything else in the world that I would rather do
When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail I will…
- have accomplished my dream
- have the knowledge and experience to pursue a career in the outdoor field
- have eternal bragging rights – I just hiked over 2000 miles
- be in the best shape of my life
- know that I can do this, and I can conquer any other challenges that life throws my way
- have proven to myself that my body is capable of anything and is amazing, no matter what it looks like or how others perceive it.
- have seen every mile of this amazing trail that I’ve come to call home
- have extended my hiker family to include so many more awesome people
- have gained the self-confidence to attempt anything
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will…
- feel, once again, like I’ve failed at something that means so much to me
- have to face the disappointment of those close to me who are expecting me to succeed.
- not be able to live with the fact that I failed, twice, and not be able to put this dream to rest
- probably not have the opportunity to attempt this aga in a really, really long time
- know that I still accomplished more than most people ever dream of
- at least come back to a home, a life, and a job.
So there you have it. Those 335 days weren’t actually all zero days. I hiked a pretty significant number of those days, especially since January. I’ve been on the AT and I’ve done a boat load of trail magic, but they were all just weekend hikes and short-term adventures. This is the real deal. Back on the trail, northbound to Katahdin in less than two weeks. I cannot believe this is really happening!
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Tinker bell! So glad to hear you’ll be back out!