Why Why Why… a Thru-Hike

Now this is the $64k question!

I don’t quite know when I first became aware of the AT and thru-hiking, it’s not exactly a hot topic in the UK, but definitely in the early 2000s.  I discussed my dream with my then-partner and naturally he thought I was nuts, but he started to come round to the idea, and we even joked about getting matching tattoos (because he had invited himself along apparently!).

I then spoke to my parents about it in the mid 2000s, but being the realists that they are, they reminded me that I had debt to pay off and the small problem of the lack of £6000 to spend on a holiday.

I had the bug and started to read all the books I could find (I don’t need an excuse to buy a book).

Then in 2019 I had some cash in the bank, I had to move out of my flat and I had a job that was sessional so I could take the time off.  I took this opportunity to go walk to Santiago (along the Camino Frances)!  Granted I knew at the time that this really was a poor second best, but it was a long walk where I could go and find myself or something (most likely learn how to deal with blisters).

So what did I learn?

Well, I learnt a bit about myself, after all on a long walk you have a lot of time to think.

I learnt that I could get up every day for 6 weeks and walk!

I learnt that I really don’t like zeros! (It’s kinda boring sitting still when you’re on an adventure to a final destination)

I learnt that there would be times that I missed my mum!

I learnt there are some really good people, some cool people, some interesting people, and some people that I would not get on with.

I learnt I could do it!

And now…  oh yeh, Covid happened!

I remember meeting someone on the Camino to Santiago.  We had a few beers and were talking, and I mentioned that I had wanted to hike the AT!  He had wanted to, so we wasted another hour or so talking about that and other things, but this conversation just fueled the AT fire.

I came back from my Camino really determined to do some more long-distance walking, after all I really did get a lot from it.

I was also aware that walking the Camino was nothing like a back country backpacking experience.

Covid came along and changed the world in one way or another.  I had to go to work every day, but lots of other got the order to stay at home.

It really changed some of my perspective on life, if not now, when?

In 2021 I hike the Portuguese Camino from Lisbon.  I’ve also backpacked The Ridge Way National Trail and the Essex & Suffolk Way’s.

So now I knew I could both hike for multiple weeks and spend a week living out of a backpack, with some of that time being from a tent.

I’d saved some money and paid down my debt.

Planning for the AT!

I walked into my boss’s office and handed him an application for a career break.

You want 7 months off?  In two years’ time?

What are you going to do?

Oh well, you know how I like walking, well I’m going to hike the AT!

What’s that?

A 2,200 mile walk up the US east coast.

Can’t you just hire a car? It will only take 2 weeks!

Anyway, I got my career break.  I applied for a vista and that was granted.  I saved more money.  I brought more gear!

I booked a flight, and a hotel and a shuttle.

I hiked the coast to coast in November!  I really needed to test my gear, but in the back of my mind there was a lingering question.  Can I actually do this?  Can I get up every day, wet and cold and go hiking?  Will I bail out at the first thing that goes wrong?

But you still haven’t answered the dam question!

Well, because it’s there?

They say that you should only hike a thru hike if that is the most important thing you want to do that summer.

They say you need a list of why, because it’s a mental game not a physical one.  And you will need to refer to the list as you go for motivation.

I don’t really know why I want to hike the AT, other than the fact that it’s there.  I suppose the closest reason I have is the sense of achievement you get at the end, having done something that not many others do.

But once you’re at the end, what do you actually do?  Shout, whoop, take some photos?  Go have a beer and some food?

All I can really say is I’ve wanted to do this walk for over 20 years.  I don’t really know why.  I’ve spent since 2019 actually working on the plan to get to the starting line.

I really want that photo from the top of mount Katahdin!  I suppose that’s why I’m hiking North!

Ps. The pic is my mum and I arriving in Santiago after our hike along the Camino this summer.

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