“Wait,” They Say, “You’re Doing What?”

The conversation usually goes something like this…

“Hey, David! What have you been up to?”

Me: “Oh, you know, just planning to go hike the Appalachian Trail this spring.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool, what part are you going to hike?”

Me: “The entire thing. All 2,189 miles of it.”

“Wait, you’re doing what?”

 

How Did It Get to This?

Thru-hiking the AT is one of those things that has been in my mind since I graduated high school in 2007. Naturally, work, school, and life in general had other plans for me and I went with those. Up until two years ago, the thought of thru-hiking was just a long lost dream that would have been cool to do but I figured the time in my life to do that had come and gone.

The ending of a long-term relationship that had just relocated me to a new city, state, and job had changed that entire outlook. In the midst of this breakup I took a three-day backpacking trip in Southern Virginia on the AT to help clear my mind. The second night of this trip I met a group of SOBO thru-hikers at a shelter and was just in total awe of the stories from their journey. I left that interaction and returned home feeling a renewed inspiration to do this myself.

When I returned home from that trip, I wrote on a piece of paper, “I am going to thru-hike the AT.”

A few days after writing this self-proclamation, I lay down in my bed, looked at that piece of paper on my nightstand, shut the light off, rolled over, and closed my eyes. Then, about ten minutes later, I found myself staring wide-eyed at the ceiling and said to myself, “Wait, you’re doing what?”

Even after this self-proclamation I found myself struggling with the thoughts of “How am I going to do this?” “Can I just walk away from my job?” “Am I crazy?” “When is the right time?” “Can a type one diabetic even do a long-distance hike?”

After another few months of dealing with the stuff life throws at you, psyching myself out, and coming up with shitty excuses for why I could never actually accomplish this, I eventually realized that if I keep waiting around for the “right opportunity” to come along, it will probably never happen… and the shitty excuses will continue to pile up.

Why, Though?

Here is one good reason why.

When people ask me, “Why are you doing this?” I usually just say, “Because I want to.” While that is not untrue, I have put in much more thought and the reasons are certainly much deeper than that simple response.  Here are the reasons I am thru-hiking the AT:

—For most of my adult life, I have allowed my career and others to significantly influence the direction I have been going in. I am going to be turning 30 while on the trail and I want to be the person who writes how the next chapter of my life goes down.

—One of the greatest barriers I have faced while planning this hike is being a type one diabetic. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma among the general public and even in the diabetes community that life with diabetes equals not being able to live your life as you want to.  One of the driving goals of my thru-hike is to show others that diabetes does not define me, stop me, or slow me down. I also want to inspire others that are thinking about a thru-hike or something just as crazy, but have that nagging “I won’t be able to do it because…” to overcome whatever barrier they face and go do that awesome thing they have been thinking about.

—After spending close to ten years in EMS/public safety as a paramedic, I just want a break. I absolutely love my job and am passionate about what I do, but let’s be real, we see some messed up stuff. This particular line of work isn’t known for longevity. I am hopeful that this break gives me the energy to come back to my career and gives me the breath of fresh air I need to take myself to the next level and accomplish other career goals. 

—Waiting to fulfill a dream until retirement is ridiculous and never guaranteed for anyone.

—I want to face a physical and mental challenge that is unlike anything I have done before.

—I want to reconnect with myself and find some clarity that I feel I have lost.

—I want to see if I can actually grow a beard.

So there it is. I will be setting off NOBO on the AT this coming April. The planning is well underway, I have spreadsheets for spreadsheets, gear is being collected, insulin is being hoarded, and I move my stuff into storage at the end of March. I am stepping away from the career that I love and stepping onto the trail. I hope you all enjoy following along as I share the good, the bad, the funny, and who knows what else on my journey to Maine.

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Comments 17

  • Clay Carpenter : Nov 7th

    Hello David!

    I wanted to send you and email to say how awesome this adventure is. I would love to do that but I barely makes end meet. I would love the freedom of it all. Whenever I see people come through my city with backpack and gear I always ask where they are from and where they are heading. Just today I met a guy that started in Maine and heading to Texas. He had been walking for 4 months. I vision myself dling that one day but I dont like the thought of stopping to hold a sign looking for handouts for my journey. Maybe I could though being in the move and hearing the story always captivates people and probably makes them a little jealous. I think everybody desires some kind of freedom like that but we are so enslaved to how this world operates and the comforts of sleeping indoors and in a bed lol. If I had the skills I could go far off in the mountains near a stream for fishing and traps for game so I could eat. Yes a very hard life but I think much better than the ties that bind us to the rules and struggles of regular society. Anyways I look forward to reading aboit your journey. Stay safe, smart and good luck to you.

    Clay

    Reply
    • David : Nov 8th

      Clay, thanks for the support! A ton of adventure exists out there, not always a thru-hike. Go find yours and enjoy it!

      Reply
  • Richard Butler : Nov 7th

    I am super proud of you. I got your back. When you sometimes have a cell tower signal and need to call or text me , I will and can be available for you.

    Reply
    • David : Nov 8th

      Thanks for the support Richard! I’ll definitely take you up on that offer. You have an amazing way of providing the right motivation when it’s needed.

      Reply
  • Mike white : Nov 8th

    Hi David, I am not sure how I stumbled across your article (on flipboard), anyway I would love to follow your adventure ! My wife and I emigrated from Wales in the UK to Australia 13 years ago with 4 young children so I guess you could say we are up for adventure ourselves.

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Mike, I would love to have you follow along! More posts about preparation will be coming soon.

      Reply
  • Teresa Pavelsky : Nov 8th

    Wow, David! This is so exciting! Can’t wait for your adventure to begin and will be following you along the way!

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Thanks aunt Teresa! I’m in that phase of excited and nervous, I can’t wait to get out there and start.

      Reply
  • Cyndi Sherman : Nov 8th

    Safe travels David. We’ll be cheering you on here in the Bristol Hills. <3

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Thanks Cyndi! I might take a slight detour through the FLX when I hit NY and take a day or two rest.

      Reply
  • Allan Watt : Nov 8th

    Hi David. As a parent of a Type 1 15yo son i just want to add my encouragement. Stuart has been Type 1 since 3½ and we’ve always tried to make sure his condition doesn’t stop him from trying what he wants to do. Most things just take a bit more thought and a bit more organisation but so far so good. Good luck with your thru-hike.

    Reply
  • Tom Davis : Nov 8th

    David- I’m impressed with your drive and courage to take on this hike with your diabetes. I plan on thru-hiking in 2020 or 2021, depending on my retirement schedule. I’ve been a Type 2 diabetic since around 1998, and have wondered about meds on the hike- and I only have to deal with pills! All the best to you. You CAN accomplish this goal. I look forward to following your journey, and later following your footsteps. I’m in western PA, but will possibly travel east to meet you when you get this far. Let me know- I’ll PM you contact info.
    Safe travels!!

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Tom- Thank you for the kind words and encouragement! I really appreciate that. Managing the resupply of my insulin, pumps and glucose monitors will be a challenge but hopefully I’ll figure out a decent system after a few weeks.

      Reply
  • Joseph : Nov 8th

    Good luck David! Cannot wait to read the tales of your amazing adventure!

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • Brian C : Nov 8th

    What an incredible goal to set for yourself. I have thought long and hard about this goal as well and am also a type 1. Is am in my 40s so maybe one day I will go got it as well. What are your plans for food? Feel free to email me back. I’ve done a lot of research dealing with this high maintenance but can absolutely live your life, disease.

    Reply
    • David : Nov 19th

      Hey Brian! This will be quite the challenge and logistically a bit more challenging than the average thru-hike but I am looking forward to it. As for my food, I met with a sports nutritionist to try to come up with some meal options that are light weight, can be restocked in small towns and are also fairly balanced. My plan is to mostly resupply food as I make my way through towns. I have resupply boxes set aside for my insulin, pumps and glucose monitors that also have some of my favorite freeze dried backpacking meals added in as a treat to myself. I am planning on having those sent out as needed when I am approaching a need for more diabetes supplies.

      Reply

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