Hi, my trail name is Walker and I’m going to be one of the Appalachian Trials bloggers from the Class of 2013. I live in Lexington, Virginia, about twelve miles west as the crow flies from the Cow Camp Gap shelter on the AT. I first heard of Appalachian Trials last Spring from a mother and son who I picked up near my town and gave a ride back to the trail. They told me that if I was interested in hiking the AT the most important book to read would be Appalachian Trials. So I read it (got the e-book on my iPhone) and now I’m really excited to be here as a blogger.
All AT thru-hikers have a story, so here’s mine…I’m from Atlanta, Georgia and spent most free weekends and almost all family vacations in the mountains of Fannin County, Georgia, not far from Springer Mountain. I have known about the AT all of my life and the idea of thru-hiking from Georgia to Maine has been percolating for as long as I can remember. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1980 I joined the Navy – I really wanted to fly and a neighbor who had been a Navy pilot in the Korean War encouraged me to let the Navy teach me how to fly. One thing lead to another and before I knew it, I had spent twenty-four years in the Navy, traveling all over the world and meeting interesting people.
After retiring from the Navy in 2004 I took a job at a small military college in Virginia and was able to spend my free time hiking in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The idea of thru-hiking the AT became a dream and gradually turned into a goal (some might call it an obsession). I retired from my second career in July 2012 and now I have the time to follow through on my goal and it’s going to start to become a reality when I begin my hike at Springer Mountain on April 1st, 2013. I should add that I am married to a wonderful woman and we have two terrific kids and two young grandsons – they’re all very supportive and excited about my AT adventure.
Appalachian Trials stresses the importance of writing down your goals with respect to hiking the AT – here’s what I wrote back in July 2012, just as I was retiring and beginning to take serious steps in planning to hike the AT in 2013:
- Hiking the AT is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid and now I have the time, money, health/fitness, and family support to do it.
- It is a big adventure and is in keeping with how I want to live the rest of my life as a healthy, outdoor-loving person.
- It will allow me to live a simple life, focusing on the specific challenges of a five-month AT thru-hike and finding creative ways to meet those challenges.
- It will help me grow as a person who seeks to explore and learn about the world, meet and spend time with interesting people and challenge myself physically and mentally through a series of activities like hiking the AT.
If I give up on my AT thru-hike I will likely lose some self-respect and regret it for the rest of my life. Additionally, I will lose an opportunity to take the positive steps listed above as I begin a new phase of my life in which I am seeking to grow and define how I will live the rest of my life. Finally, I will disappoint my family who is so supportive of my goal and wants to see me succeed.
A friend of mine said something to me recently that really stuck, “I want to become the person that my kids think I am.” I agree with him 100% but also want to add that “I want to become the person that I think I am” and thru-hiking the AT is a big part of that.
My start date is about four months out as I write this. I am in good shape physically, hiking or doing some other kind of exercise daily so that I will be ready for the challenge of the mountains. I am also researching and buying equipment/clothing and learning as much as I can about the Trail itself. There is plenty of information available on the internet and I know a few thru-hikers who have been very generous with their advice and recommendations. I think I have at least a basic understanding of what I am about to do. I know that there will be a lot of discomfort from cold, rain, wind, heat, bugs, climbs, descents, etc. But I also know that there will a lot of great rewards and similar-minded people to share the experience with – so that encourages me.
I should add that I had a bit of a warm-up hike in August when my wife and I hiked El Camino de Santiago – 500 miles from Saint Jean Pied du Port, France to Santiago, Spain. I then hiked solo for another 55 miles from Santiago to the coastal town of Finisterre, known in ancient times as “the end of the world”. The AT will be much more difficult – four times longer over much tougher terrain. But the Camino did teach me some valuable lessons about carrying a pack, managing pain and staying warm and dry in bad weather.
I’ll close for now but plan to write more soon about my AT equipment list and more specifics about my physical training regimen. I look forward to blogging and hope that you find my writing interesting and informative. Please send comments and include any questions you may have!
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