On Choosing a Trail: When You Just Want to Hike
Mother Knows Best
My first thru-hike came about all because my mom, as mothers do, believes I am capable of anything. In the Spring of 2016, confronted with the quickly approaching date of my college graduation, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of all the things I could do, and stifled by my limited job prospects. As I vented to my mom over the phone after receiving a friendly, “we’ve decided to go another route” email from the only job I had applied to, I muttered that maybe I would just hike the Appalachian Trail. As I said those words I was standing a short drive away from the midpoint of the AT in Pennsylvania, not at all thinking that a few months later I would be standing at that spot taking a selfie. I got off the phone and went back to stressing about thesis deadlines, doing my best to not think about post-college life.
A few days later my mom asked me if I was serious about hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Shortly after I asked my mom if she would go to Maine with me to climb Katahdin and hike the 100 mile wilderness.
My First Long-Distance Hike
I fell in love with backpacking long before I passed my first white blaze. Thru-hiking, however, is a different beast. I quickly learned that my experience as a backpacking instructor in no way prepared me for a thru-hike. Even the gear is different! Backpacking a set itinerary for a few days cannot compare to walking through 14 states, a distance that will destroy any itinerary or plan you try to throw at it. And I loved it. I loved waking up and just walking, most days having only a vague idea of where I would sleep. I loved it so much I was envisioning my PCT hike in 2018 before I even reached Springer. Obviously if I was on the AT and wanted to do another thru-hike, I would hike the PCT. Well, in a bitter sweet turn of events, my life accelerated down a path much less wooded. I got into law school, and realized to fit in a PCT hike before August would require an early start, fast hiking, and a logistical nightmare.
Hungry For More
I still wanted to hike. I toyed with the idea of doing a section, or giving myself a hard deadline and just seeing how close to Canada I got, but I was disappointed to have to scrap my plan of thru-hiking. At the same time, I knew I had to get out of my office job and back on the trail for at least a little bit before starting the challenge of law school.
Suddenly I opened my eyes to all of the magnificent trails this country has to offer that don’t require 4-6 months off of work, school, or family life.
Some Shorter Trail Options:
- Superior Hiking Trail
- Oregon Coast Trail
- Sierra High Route
- Finger Lakes Trail
- Long Trail
- Colorado Trail
The Colorado Trail quickly captured my imagination.
Just Pick a Trail and Hike
When I chose to hike the Appalachian Trail, I wasn’t choosing a trail; I was choosing to hike. This time around, I know I am going to hike. I need to escape to a trail to start law school off in the best mental state. Though my first and obvious choice of the Pacific Crest Trail isn’t going to pan out this year, there is no shortage of beautiful trails.
So why the Colorado Trail? I’ve never stepped foot in the state of Colorado, but it’s always been a place I want to be, a place I still hope I might end up in someday. The simplest reason why is I’m craving mountains from my home state of Illinois.
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