Why Would You Walk From Georgia to Maine?

Good question.  So, why would you walk from Georgia to Maine?  You could fly.  You could drive.  You could even ride the Megabus.  For those of you who aren’t familiar,  the Appalachian Trail starts at Springer Mountain, GA, and ends atop Mt. Katahdin, Maine.  It meanders thru 14 states, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  It’s a little over 2200 miles.  It’s a long way.  It will take a long time, depending on your perspective I guess.

Its About the Journey, Not the Destination

I have always loved the outdoors, done plenty of camping, fishing, snowboarding, mountain biking, even hiking.  Just not a an extended thru hike.  Never really gave it much consideration until the last few years.  Our family has had a lot happen to it over the years, especially the 6 or 7 years that have given me a new perspective on life.  In the last seven years, I have lost my father, my youngest son, my mother-in-law, and in the last month, two brother-in-laws.  So, life can be cut unexpectedly short.  Also, there are some things that might be worse than death.

Luke, Green River Canoe Trip, 2018

My youngest son, Luke died in January 2020.  Turns out he was bipolar.  No one saw it coming. He had a really rough 12 months, with first a deep depression and then a extended manic episode later in the year.  He died by suicide right as he was sinking into another depression almost 12 months to the day the first depression set in.  Obviously, this is the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me.  Luke was a lot like me and loved the outdoors, like all my kids do.  All the things I listed above were favorites of his.

In the spring of 2021, my whole family attended a wedding at Kiawah Island.  Robert, who I mentioned in the previous post and is starting the trail with me this week, it was his oldest sons wedding.  Our families had boys the same ages, and have grown up together and done lots of fun things together over the years.  Best friends ever.  After the wedding was over, we had all returned to the big house we had rented for the whole family and were sitting around talking and having a nightcap.  My son Jake had done a thru hike on the Colorado Trail in 2018.  He talked about what a great experience life on the trail is, living a different kind of life and wanted to get back to it one day, but do a much bigger trail.  The AT.  He also told me how much Luke wanted to do it and that it was a bucket list thing for Luke.  So, that was the first time I had really thought about it, and decided right then and there that I would do it, since Luke wasn’t going to get a chance to do it.  That was my original motivation, but as I have gotten into the research and planning, it has taken on an additional meaning and level of excitement.  Not only do I want to do it for Luke, I want to do for me.

Jake and Grace, Grand Canyon Rafting Trip


Will and Melanie, Grand Canyon Raft Trip

Living that different kind of life for an extended period, is really appealing to me now.  I am looking forward to getting up when the sun comes up, going to bed when the sun goes down, and the primary things you have to think or worry about is do I have enough food, water, and shelter to get from Point A to Point B.  Not having a rigid plan every day, figuring it out on the fly when things pop up, meeting new and random folks and finding out their reasons for going on such a long walk.  Walking is a healing therapy.  Some of my walk is for healing.  Some of it is for adventure.  Some of it is getting out of your comfort zone.

I Know It’s Going to Be Hard

My biggest anxiety about the whole thing is being gone for so long.  All the things that I will miss while I am gone.  My lovely and supportive wife, Sherri, who is not only going along with this whole thing, but really wants me to do it.  Thank you!  You’re the best!

Sherri and Billy Bob, Grand Canyon Raft Trip after a Shower


Nicki, Chris, Josh, Paige, Logan, She She and Pa at Easter

I am now “Pa” to three beautiful grandchildren.  My daughter Nicki and her husband Chris live about 50 minutes from my house and have 4 year old Josh and twins that are 17 months old, Paige and Logan.  How they will change and grow in the 5 to 6 months that I plan to be gone will be really hard to miss.  I am sure there will come a time or times, when I am tired, cold, wet, hungry, dirty, and stinky that I will have to dig deep and remember some of my motivations for doing it in the first place.

  • I am walking where Luke didn’t get a chance to
  • Adventure
  • Living a different kind of life
  • Meeting new people and learning their stories
  • “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose!” (I have young grandchildren, shout out to Dr. Suess)
  • I have told too many people that I am doing it.  So, I have to do it!
  • Many people think that I will finish.  Don’t let them down!
  • Many people probably think that I will not finish.  Prove them wrong!
  • You need to do this before you get too damn old.
  • If Grandma Gatewood can do it, surely you can do it!  I will let you Google Grandma Gatewood if you don’t know who she is.

The Twins and Billy Bob, at Lake Hartwell, 3 Days before AT Start

The Time is Now

If not now, when?  I am not getting any younger and I can’t wait on something else to happen.  If something happens while I am gone, I will roll with it and figure it out.  The sun will come up tomorrow.  So, “Damn the torpedoes!  Full Speed ahead!”

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Comments 5

  • Charles Castelli (aka Firefly) : Apr 7th

    Loved your post.

    I used to live in Vermont and hiked the AT from Mt. Greylock to Mt. Washington.

    I now live in North Carolina close to the AT. Maybe we can hike a few miles near Hot Springs. Good luck.

    • Cary Hannon : Apr 7th

      Thank you! Can’t wait to get started!

  • Marla : Apr 7th

    If there is anyone who can do it….YOU CAN! Can’t wait to watch your progress! You are in our prayers….stay safe and ENJOY.

    • Cary Hannon : Apr 8th

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! Great to hear from you!

  • Wanda Hale : Apr 8th

    So sorry for your loss. You will be hiking with his memory and that will carry you thru. Happy hiking.


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