“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
– John Muir
Why are we thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Every potential thru-hiker knows what it’s like to have a conversation with “sane individuals” about their thru-hike plans. You get through all the questions about bear attack prevention and potential trail psychopaths and it almost always ends with a blank stare and “But WHY?!” You have to admit, it is a valid question. Why on earth would someone want to spend 4-5 months walking thousands of miles up and down mountains while carrying 30 pounds on their back, sleep in a tent with G0d-only-knows-what outside, go days without bathing and eat astronaut food? It is a very simple question, but at least for us, it has a plethora of answers. We felt the need to better explain why we have seemingly lost our minds to our friends and family, so here it goes.
Because Reasons and Stuff…
We have both had the pleasure of reading Appalachian Trials (THE book to read for potential thru-hikers, thanks Zach!) and while reading the book, we made our “I am thru-hiking the A.T. because…”, “When I successfully thru-hike the A.T., I will…” and “If I give up on the A.T., I will…” lists. We put time and effort into completing our lists and we have compiled them to a few main points that are the bedrock of all of our reasons (except for “#6: To have a thru-hiker booty.”).
1. If not now, then when?
We are currently at the point in our lives where there will be no better time than now for the adventure of a lifetime. We are young, able, in relatively good shape, somewhat financially stable (curse you student loans!!), and not tied down by a mortgage or a baby. We both agree that if the A.T. doesn’t happen now, it might never happen. Neither of us are of the mindset that “Well, there’s always retirement!” We do not want to sit and wait for the opportunity to come around again, just to realize that our entire lives have passed us by without doing something this stupid/crazy/adventurous. Cultural norms are telling us “Well, you guys have checked off the married box, now it’s time for a 3 bedroom ranch-style home, a nice career and 2.5 kids!” While all of those things are great, we have the rest of our lives to be “comfortable” and “settled”! Haters gonna hate, right?
2. A new perspective
We have no experience with long distance backpacking, but we’re just going to take a wild guess here and say that living in the woods for months on end gives you a new perspective on life. Although we buy value brand groceries and consider any meal that costs over $17 “crazy expensive”, we live a privileged life. We have more than we need. We have a nice apartment, semi-reliable vehicles, a comfy bed, way too many electronics, and junk food in our pantry. Living from the packs on our back, relying on a stranger’s kindness to give us a ride to town, not being able to shower for days, and sleeping on the ground every night is bound to give us a much better appreciation of the simple things in life. We hope to gain that “thru-hiker gratitude transformation” that happens where a simple candy bar can bring one to tears.
3. Because darn it, WE CAN DO THIS
To say that the A.T. is a daunting undertaking is a vast understatement. It is the largest goal that either of us have ever set for ourselves. Graduating from college? Check. Learning to cook actual meals that didn’t include the use of a microwave? Done-ish. We are both very much goal-oriented individuals. Once we’ve set our sights on a task, it’ll either get done and be flawless or we’ll die trying. Of course we have our doubts sometimes, but we both know in our hearts that we can do this. We want to be able to say “YES, we are a part of the 20% that actually made it to Katahdin! YES, we walked approximately 2,189 miles! YES, we didn’t give up on our dream!” We want to prove to ourselves and to others that we are able and capable of completing this monumental obstacle. We want to feel that rush of pride on Mt. Katahdin’s summit!
4. WHY NOT?
Why not see America through a lens that few have? Why not gain a new understanding and a new appreciation of nature? Why not meet amazing individuals with incredible stories who we would have never otherwise met? Why not learn how to survive on our own in the wilderness? Why not have face-to-face encounters with wild animals? Why not scale mountains, rivers and valleys in a single day? Why not find out what we smell like after 4 days of constant sweating without a shower? Why not grow closer to each other as a couple by walking 2,189 miles hand-in-hand. Why not see some of the most breath-taking views that this side of the country has to offer? Why not get into the best shape of our lives? Why not learn to be less dependent on cell service, Netflix and wifi? Why not find out what it’s like to hike through a thunderstorm? Why not eat different variations of Ramen noodles for dinner every night for months? Why not trade normalcy and routine for adventure and the unknown?
It certainly won’t be something as fragile as stability that holds us back.
Thanks for taking the time to read about our obviously unstable and damaged psyches,
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