Why the AT? Why Now?
On a recent hike in a local conservation area, I started thinking about my upcoming AT hike. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been thinking about this hike since I was a child. It started when I saw my first white blaze near my family’s camp in Andover, Maine. I’m going to take a little time to give you some insight as to “why” I am hiking the AT and how I got to this point, less than six months from taking that first step at mile 0.0.
A Fire was Kindled
Somewhere in my mom’s house is a picture of a little boy sitting in a sink at a camp in Andover, Maine. For what ever reason, that picture has always stuck with me. If you haven’t already guessed, that little boy was me. Friends of ours let us use their camp pretty much when ever we wanted, and I spent a lot of time there over the years. Fishing, hiking, hunting, and growing to love being out in nature more and more with each trip. Every November, my father, uncle, cousin, and I spent a week deer hunting in the woods around the camp. I wasn’t a very good hunter, but for me, it wasn’t about tagging a deer. It was about spending time in the woods. These are some of the best memories from my childhood – fishing and swimming in Black Brook, climbing rocks in Devil’s Den, and exploring the numerous trails around the camp. Just writing this is taking me back to those times, and I’m sitting here smiling at my computer like a fool.
My First White Blaze
One day on a trip to Rangeley, we stopped at the AT trail head where it crosses South Arm Road and hiked a little ways into the woods. I’d never heard of the AT before, but my dad explained that it was a hiking trail that started in Georgia and ended at Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. At that moment, I decided that someday I would hike the trail and visit that exact spot on my way to Mt. Katahdin. I think I remember touching the white blaze on the tree and saying “I’ll see you later.”, corny I know, but I’m a little out there, as anyone who knows me will tell you.
The In-Between Years
I’m not going to bore you with a lot of details about the in-between years. Let’s just say they were the best and the worst all rolled into one. After barely graduating high school, (I was not a very good student) I went on to have a 27-year career as a health service technician in the United States Coast Guard. During my career, there were a few failed marriages (mostly because of me and my faults), children that I wasn’t a very good father to (sorry Miranda, Sean, and Devlin), and constantly running away from God’s plan for my life. I never felt like I was good enough. I felt like I was faking my way through life. On September 1, 2014, my Coast Guard career ended with me feeling lost and like I had never done anything epic in my life. I felt that people would remember me for my failures and not for my accomplishments. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a great life. I know that I’ve accomplished a lot and helped a lot of people in my career, but I tend to focus on the negative. It’s getting better everyday, and I have a wonderful family to help me though the trying times. My faith and my family get me though each day. Sometime in 2016, I decided it was time to start planning my AT hike and that it would happen in 2018, the year I would celebrate half a century on the third rock from the sun. (See what I did there?)
Back to the Present
So while on that hike in the conservation area, I realized that starting in April 2018 this would be my life, for about 5 to 6 months anyway – becoming one with nature and closer to my God, with no schedule, no timelines or deadlines. I’ll wake up in the morning, pack up camp, and walk until I pass that last white blaze. Maybe when I lay my hand on that last white blaze, I’ll finally forgive myself for all the wrongs I’ve done in my life. I will have finally, in my mind at least, completed something epic. Thanks for reading.
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