We All Have an Origin Story
Mine begins in 1990, when I was just ten years old. My father decided that we’d kick off my summer vacation that year by going on a backpacking trip together, on one of the trails on Bear Mountain, New York. As a kid in the suburbs of Connecticut, I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood running around in the woods with my friends, so the idea of spending several days camping with my dad sounded incredible.
We headed to the local REI, got me outfitted with a kid’s sleeping bag and the smallest external-frame pack we could find, and headed for Bear Mountain. We spent three days in those woods, spotted a porcupine, and ate far more dehydrated meals than can possibly be healthy. Each day was full of hard work: cook and eat breakfast, pack out trash, break camp, hike a few miles on my stubby little ten-year-old legs, find a nice campsite reasonably close to a water source, and set up camp again.
Real Live Thru-Hikers
On the morning of the last day, we hiked up to the Bear Mountain Inn to see about getting some real food for breakfast. As we headed into the restaurant, we found ourselves behind another pair of backpackers. They both sported big scruffy beards, well-worn boots, and cutoff jeans that’d definitely seen better days. My father, having a pretty good idea already, gave me a nudge and told me to ask where they’d been hiking. They both grinned at me, and told me about the Appalachian Trail.
My father insisted on covering their tab, while I asked them endless questions about this trail that apparently ran thousands of miles along the Appalachian Mountains. Why they were doing such a long hike, what their best day had been on the trail so far, where they started, where they would finish. On and on, with the kind of boundless enthusiasm only a child can manage. To their credit, they were super patient and kind, answering my questions between bites.
Always in the Back of My Mind
Since then, the trail has been simmering away in the back of my mind. Every time I’d drive past an outfitters, every time I day hiked another trail, it’d be there, quietly occupying my thoughts.
It’s time to make it a reality.
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