Yes, I Decided to Thru-Hike After Watching Wild

Two years ago, I watched Reese Witherspoon throw her boot into the abyss as she trekked the Pacific Crest Trail as Cheryl Strayed in the hit movie Wild. Two years later, I still have no shame in admitting that I declared April 2021 as the start date of my northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as the credits were still rolling.

With vivid childhood memories of picking blackberries in my front yard and playing in the crayfish-filled creeks of Virginia, my fascination with nature seemed to fade with age, not by choice but by obligation. My soul felt sucked dry by the time I finished my state-school studies, and as my classmates congratulated me for crossing the graduation stage, I was affirmed that my future was promising for the security a full-time job would bring.

It seemed the stamp of approval bestowed upon me was dependent on me attaching myself to only more responsibilities – the job, the car payment, the apartment – as if life was only expected to be one big ostentation of obligation.

So, when my partner suggested we watch Wild and infiltrated the dialogue with what-ifs, my mind immediately succumbed to the why-nots. Why not thru-hike the world’s oldest mountains – they’re in our backyard after all? Why not re-discover the affinity for nature I suppressed with age? Why not use our bodies, callous our minds, and test our limits? Even better – why not create new limits? Why not explore our radical freedom?

Right around the time we watched Wild, I read a New Yorker article about decision-making that only fueled the flame. It asserted that “we aspire to self-transformation by trying on the values that we hope one day to possess, just as we might strike a pose in the mirror before heading out on a date.” I can assure that a younger version of myself – the one who’d try to outlast the sun playing outside before supper, the one drifting to sleep with scuffed knees and dirt underneath the nails – hoped that the older self would embark on some journey like this. That younger version struck many a pose in the mirror with a hiking stick and ranger hat, hoping my older self would put them to use in the life beyond the fantasyland of my adolescence.

13-year-old-me with a healthy sense of curiosity, exploring lava fields while going cross-country with my uncle and Pappy!

It is beautiful to follow an aspiration into fruition, and if not to fruition: it is powerful to try on versions of yourself to see what fits. My northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this April will be just that: an extended stay in the fitting room graciously provided by mother nature. Whether I love it, hate it, or somewhere in-between, the gratitude I feel for this opportunity is immeasurable because it is a pledge to a former self, and in preparing for the journey physically, mentally, and spiritually, I can confirm that I’ve become a better self already.

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Comments 6

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    Bill : Mar 13th

    Wonderful intro. I look forward to your journey and to more of the literary prowess you have shared with us.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Faith Breads : Mar 13th

      Thanks, Bill! Glad you enjoyed the intro. I look forward to sharing the journey with you all. Cheers!

      Reply
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    Super swoop trail runner! : Mar 15th

    Awesome intro Faith, really good days and nights on your journey. We’ll be rootin for ya! Best of!!

    Reply
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      Faith Breads : Mar 16th

      Thanks so much for the support! To say I’m excited is an understatement :D! Cheers!

      Reply
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    Steven Breads : Mar 18th

    You go Faith!

    Reply
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    Jennifer Cooledge : Apr 4th

    Good luck Faith! I’m excited to read about your journey. I hope to be a thru-hiker someday as well. Your writing is inspiring.

    Reply

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