What is Wrong With You…?
Is the question my close friends and family are thinking when I tell them of my plan to hike the Appalachian Trail next year…
What comes out in reality though are logical questions, like:
- How long will that take? On average 5 to 7 months
- What about food? I will carry about a weeks worth of food on me at a time and have one of you mail me a prepackaged box out weekly so I can resupply.
- What about your bills? The joys of the internet and technology, all of my bills are on auto pay and come right out of my bank account.
- What if you get hurt? I will call for help… I have a whistle, my cell phone, a flashlight, and will probably pick up a signaling mirror, all of which I can easily signal SOS with if there isn’t somebody nearby and I don’t have cell service.
- Are you going alone? Yes, but on a trail like this you are never really alone, somewhere around 2,000 people attempt to thru-hike it annually.
- Aren’t you worried for your safety? Not really no, I’m more worried about my safety walking around Louisville than I am on the trail.
- But I read that all these people go missing on the trail and murderers hide out there to evade being caught…. At this point I just shake my head and tell them to stop reading into things so much.
- Why would you want to hike 2190 miles? Because I have wanted to since I was a teenager, life distracted me for two decades and now I’m getting back in touch with the person I used to be.
There are more questions, but those are the ones that stand out since they are the most common ones asked of me. I think I have fairly good answers for all of them as I have done my research and learned so much over the last couple of months through Facebook groups, like Appalachian Trails. I find that once I get talking to one of my friends about this adventure next year I tend to get long-winded about how amazing it is going to be – to the point of them being tired of hearing about it I imagine.
With all the basics for others out of the way the real question for me is…
Why I Want to Hike the AT?
I honestly have no idea what else to do with my life right now; this is what I’ve done since I retired from the Army in 2013:
- I attended college full-time for about two years (during which I changed majors three times because I was bored).
- I invested money to be a producer for a local Sci-Fi film company and helped write a few episodes for a new web series coming out next year, Sol Bound Traveller, which I will be the Executive Producer of.
- I ran away and lived on a farm for about five months, just for something new.
- And then finally, I became reacquainted with hiking and Mother Nature over the last couple of months following a relationship ending.
For me I think this hike will help me figure out what direction my life needs to go; whether it is just onto more trails like I am already planning or onto something different I really don’t know just yet. I do know that being in nature I am able to feel more relaxed then anywhere else I have been, my anxiety melts away and my mind becomes clear. When I was in Iraq back in 2006 I found myself in the middle of nowhere for a night at a communications station and even there in the middle of a war I found myself at peace that night when I sat outside and stared at the stars, the same stars my family would be seeing at home in another eight hours when nighttime found them.
How am I preparing for my hike?
Well two months ago when I decided I wanted to do this I really wasn’t in the greatest shape, I had just gotten out of a relationship and was having a hard time dealing with it. I finally started looking inside myself to see if I could figure out what might have gone wrong. What I found was that I had changed so much of myself to be what others wanted that I wasn’t really even someone I recognized anymore. I decided to get back to my roots, as a kid I was camping nearly every month and usually spent entire spring breaks visiting somewhere new to do hiking or rockhounding. I loved that life, and decided I needed to get back to where I was happy again.
So, my dog, Rogue, and I started walking around the neighborhood and were averaging around 2-miles each time we went out. The roads got boring so we moved onto a nearby nature preserve and started doing the trails there. We got to the point that a couple of miles wasn’t cutting it anymore and started looking for even longer hiking trails nearby home. We found a couple places within 30 minutes or so that we could hit trails anywhere from 3 to 13 miles in length. If you mix up trails you can make the overall hike even longer if desired.
While all of this was going on I was buying up gear left and right based off of peer reviews, and I now have a pretty respectable gear inventory and can take on most trails for a full day no problem. I’ve been training with my fully loaded pack weight at around 30 lbs so I can get used to it strapped to my hips and shoulders. This past Saturday I put 13.2 miles in with my pack and I came off the trail dirty, stinky, sore and feeling incredibly alive! My calves still hurt but it is that awesome hurt that you get from an intense workout that you know you are going to be stronger from. I will definitely be doing that hike several more times before my AT hike next year, the entire trail is nothing but PUDs and from what I have read it will be fantastic training.
At this point I know all of those reading are thinking,
“Wow, you’re awesome, what else are you doing?”
A short while back I decided to establish a local group to bring other veterans like myself together that are interested in backpacking and hiking and I plan to organize group events to help others get out there and enjoy the therapy that nature has to offer. For me, this has been a huge help in terms of dealing with anxiety and depression issues that have plagued me since my 2006-07 deployment. I figure if it has been this beneficial for me than surely it can be of help to others out there as well. The group is oriented towards those in the Ohio valley area, and I will be more than happy to provide more information on it if requested.
Apart from that, I blog about my hiking adventures on my other site (which I will share if asked) and am trying to teach my 19 year old to drive so he will have his license while I am gone next year.
I also try to keep busy by taking two online college classes, dehydrating food for my thru-hike stockpile and I geek out doing gear research.
So that is me in a nutshell, I look forward to providing more blog posts for the fans of Appalachian Trials. Thanks for reading!
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Those are the exact questions I get as well. Gets kind of old. I’m doing basically everything you are doing to prepare, but I still feel like I’m missing something.