Why I’m Re-hiking 200 Miles
Why I’m Starting Over
In my last post, Why I’m Attempting an Appalachian Trail Thru Hike…Again, I outlined my reasons for hiking again, even after the incredible amount of self-induced suckiness I experienced in last year’s failed attempt. What I didn’t do is describe why I’m Thru-Hiking.
Apart from “Why the heck would you try that again?” the other question I get most often is “Why don’t you just start where you left off?”
The answer is both simple, and complicated. The simple answer is, I really want to be in the exclusive club. The complicated answer probably says something about my mental state.
The Deepest Why
I like doing hard things. If you have more than a passing interest in the Appalachian Trail, then you probably relate to this in some way. I have consistently found that the most desperate struggles in my life have led to the most positive transformation.
People often say with large goals, and with the trail in particular, you need to have a why. The why for me, in almost anything that I do, is that I think I’ll like the person I become.
I imagine sitting down with future Sidetrack in some dingy coffee shop. It’s November 2022 and he’s just turned 26. Small flecks of foam from his cappuccino hang from a scraggly beard that he really ought to have shaved by now.
It’s only been six months since we’ve talked, but he’s quieter, calmer, and more self-assured. He exudes the silent confidence of a man that knows he can handle whatever comes his way and knows that he’s been to the breaking point and survived. He has incredible stories that he and few others can truly understand. He’s experienced life at its simplest, and clearest. He felt highs and lows that I can’t fathom, and he was changed.
I want to meet that man and to become him. Re-doing those 200 miles gives me 200 more miles of change and transformation.
I Like Hiking
Imagine, if you will, your favorite vacation spot. That place you always go, where you know all the little hidden spots, and have a lifetime of memories. You tell your neighbor about the plans you have for your annual seven days of freedom: all the things you’ve never tried and things you can’t wait to do again. Your neighbor looks puzzled and says “Why don’t you just take three days. You’ve already done half that stuff already.” Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Why would you cut short something you love just because you’ve done it before.
I’d like to put it out there for the record…as insane as this might sound: I actually like hiking! It’s really fun when I’m not in agony. if I’m out in the countryside with nothing to do, I hike. I don’t want to spend less time doing it. Once my AT hike is done, it’s done. I go home and back to work until I can make the time and money for another adventure. If it means its harder to get to Katahdin…good.
I spent a few weeks laid up at Above the Clouds Hostel during, and directly after my last attempt. Lucky and Nimrod are two of my favorite trail personalities, and by the time I left the place really felt like home. An extra 160-170 miles of hiking is worth the bliss of that hot shower, cozy bunk, and a bowl of Nimrod’s stew after a few nights in the woods.
Some of the hard-cores would scoff at the idea of leaving the woods so early, but the experience is well worth it, and the men that run it are near and dear to my heart.
I also feel I focused so hard on pushing out miles and ignoring pain that I missed most of the views. I had a tough time enjoying much of anything and would hate for my only experience of Georgia and a significant part of North Carolina to be tarnished by my own stupidity.
A Measuring Stick
I’ve worked incredibly hard to improve myself physically since stepping off the trail last April. Hiking those same 200 miles over will give me an opportunity to gauge how I’m feeling vs the last time around. I can also make sure to intentionally slow myself down.
Starting in the Smokies presents some challenges in that vein as well. It is one of the few places on the trail that requires staying at designated campsites, which would hinder my ability to cut my day short on a whim as I get into full hiking shape.
If I recall from my previous agonizing experience in the Smokies, the terrain isn’t exactly friendly. That isn’t to say Georgia is easy for the green hiker or to belittle the climb out of the N.O.C., but as a flatlander, I would prefer not to start the Smokies without a little warm-up.
I Gotta Have the Last Word
So to everyone who’s suggested I start in the Smokies: I hear you, I appreciate you and I will be ignoring your advice as graciously as I possibly can
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