What’s Your Damage, Dave? And Other Thoughts

The title is (with a name change), a line from the movie Heathers, and there is a good chance some of you dear readers are too young to have heard it or know about it. But that is OK. I will not yell at you to get off my lawn just yet….

Nice to Meet Me?

So, to kick things off, I’m Dave. I will be attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2019, NOBO. I’m Virginia born and bred, which is quite convenient, as I’m only an hour and change from Shenandoah NP (and to those hikers who express a less than enthusiastic opinion of the trail there, I furrow my brow in your direction). SNP #1

I’ve worn many hats in my (cough) years on this earth. I’ve been a sous chef, land surveyor (I really regret not taking advantage of the locations I was sent to), a high-rise window cleaner (best, craziest job ever), and for the last ten years or so, a graphic designer. Through all this, I have always had a love for the outdoors, but to be honest, I only went on my first legit overnight backpacking trip three years ago.

OK, So Why, Why?

Why am I doing this? There are many reasons for this hike, none of which I will go into here. Just kidding. I think as an overarching reason, there is a need for me to reset some buttons and see things through a different lens. Living near DC, you can guess that the climate here in this current time is a bit insane. My trips to the outdoors, whether it be a day hike or an overnight trip, help to ground me and remind me that there are still beauty and peace in this world.

To be honest, and I hate to be cliche, but life is just too short. You never know what tomorrow will bring. I lost my mom 11 years ago to a terminal disease; she was only 56 years old. I lost my stepfather five years ago. They both loved the mountains, and we spread their ashes together on the peak of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, their favorite spot.

I’ve made a lot of life changes. I worked many random jobs just to get by, I graduated college (first in my immediate family), married my best friend (yes, we are still married; more on that later), and thought I’d landed into the perfect setup. Good job, nice apartment, good home and social life… but something has been calling.

What the Flipping Heck Is Wrong?

I got complacent, as so many of us do. I take many days for granted, as many of them are the same from day to day. I got my wife into backpacking (hey, anything can happen!), and we talked about section hiking the AT, very slowly over the years. As an aside, I am a planner. I need to have things mapped out months in advance. Within the last year, I have realized a drastic change was in need, and it wasn’t just job-related, it was soul-related.

I never really traveled as a kid, didn’t fly on a plane until I was in my mid-20s, and didn’t go out of the country until I was almost 40. Now I only want to travel and be on the move.

Leaving a wife and a home (and two Maine Coon cats) for five to six months is kind of crazy. I’m also more than likely not coming back to a job, but for now, let’s say that is TBA. My wife has been very supportive of my decision; she knows this is important to me, as far-fetched as it would be to most people, much less a significant other of a decade-plus. She has listened to me nerd out about gear for many, many months now (she thinks my pack is too light, FYI). At this point, we’ll try to spend as much quality time together as we can. She’s planning on driving me down to Springer and seeing me off, and hopefully she’ll be able to meet me in Virginia, our original home state where we grew up. The goal is to have her summit Katahdin with me. These are all goals, not expectations.

Where’s the Easy Button?

I know this is not going to be a simple adventure. Instagram and YouTube make it look very easy, but in talking with past as well as this most recent class of thru-hikers, I know this is no cakewalk. My gear might be fairly dialed in, but I know that is not the be all and end all of my trip.

My ultralight quilt might get me to Katahdin, but will my mental stability get me past the Smokies?

I hope you guys will follow along in my journey. Instagram is @daveisoutside

Be kind to each other. Happy planning to my fellow AT 2019 prospects, whether you are NOBO or SOBO <3

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 6

  • Emily S. : Dec 13th

    Sounds like one in a long line of adventures! I’m excited to hear about your trip — good luck!

    PS – I grew up near Grandfather Mountain and it’s a lovely place 🙂

    • Dave Mizelle : Dec 14th

      Thanks, Emily!! 🙂

  • Allison DiVerde : Dec 14th

    I’m so excited to follow along on your journey! So I can live vicariously thru you as I go back to my boring desk job! Mental challenge is real… but take friends & strangers encouragement wih open arms & maybe you’ll get to Katahdin ?
    -Flower Power #Sobolivesmatter

    • Dave Mizelle : Dec 14th

      Thank you, pal! You helped motivate me the last few months, don’t forget to come visit me somewhere along the trail lol <3

  • Mark Zaitsoff : Dec 23rd

    My Maine Coon cat has taken to sleeping in one of my resupply boxes for my hike on the northern half of the AT next year. I don’t think that she’d like to accompany me ‘home’ to Maine.

    • Dave Mizelle : Dec 24th

      Hehe, they do love a good box to sleep in 🙂


What Do You Think?