You Can Do It (Put Your Backpack Into It)

Before I left to thru-hike the trail, countless people told me different renditions of “I wish I could do something like that” or “I almost hiked it years ago, but something came up.” Now that the trail is done and I’m back home, I hear things like “Wow, that’s amazing. I could never do that.” Every time, I want to scream from the rooftops that those types of statements are so wrong.

Anyone who really WANTS to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail can do it. It doesn’t take any special skills and you don’t have to be in amazing shape. It just takes persistence and extreme motivation (and maybe some stubbornness) to complete a goal.

Hiking the trail hurts, smells terribly and takes a long time. It’s scary and most of all it’s risky. But what is a life without a few risks? Gathering up enough courage to take the risk to hike 2,185 miles is the only difference between someone who attempts a thru-hike and someone who sits on the sidelines.

Of course I understand that some people have obligations (children, house payments, etc.) that they can’t just up and leave for six months. But thru-hikers come in all forms. This year, there were at least two families with children hiking together. My friends ranged from age 19 and fresh out of high school to retired and looking for a new adventure.

And successful thru-hikers are even more varied. They are not necessarily the super fit former jock who looks like he can run marathons around you or the Eagle Scout who puts your fire-building skills to shame. Many people I met had never been on a backpacking trip before and some had never even been camping. They just set a goal and learned how to complete that goal as they hiked.

All I’m saying is where there’s a will there’s a way. If you’re one of the crazy people that think spending half a year hiking from Georgia to Maine sounds amazing, well, you’re right. Your fellow crazy people are incredible and it will be the journey of a lifetime.

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