Faces of the Appalachian Trail, 2014: Christopher Rodriguez
Trail Name: Neckbone (I’m from Georgia)
Home State: Georgia
Occupation: Real estate
Hike Timeline: March 31 – August 14, 2014
Why did you decide to hike?
For the women, money and glory. But other than that, I’m from the north part of Georgia and everyone knows about the trail. I’ve hiked some sections of it before and just kind of grew up running on it. Hiking the whole way has always been on my mind. My uncle is real close to me and he’s always wanted to do it, but has never done the whole thing at once.
I just quit selling mortgages. If I hiked the trail, I knew my uncle and the rest of my friends and family would think it was really cool, or at least cooler than becoming the best loan guy, and I didn’t have anything stopping me.
All that being said, the night I made the choice to hike, my roommate and I went to eat at a pizza joint in the small town that I was in on New Year’s Eve. Since it was NYE, I asked him, “Well, what are you doing this year; got any goals?” He looked at me and got real excited and proceeded to wildly exclaim that he always wanted to do the trail. I mean, the trail is cool. Lots of towns, a neat community, tons of history, and you can see the best parts of America. So, we thought about doing the trail. And why not? I have no kids, no real job at the time, no bills, and a few years back I met Jennifer Pharr Davis (trail record holder). She was super cool and just made the trail seem cool. And she made me think that people on the trial would not be a bunch of pretentious hippies.
So, I was between real jobs and since I could hike while my uncle could not, and since I kind of dared my roommate to do it, I decided to hike the trail. Over the next few weeks we ended our lease and started buying gear.
What was the most challenging part of the journey?
Physically, some of it is very hard. I know some older folks do it, but don’t let that fool ya – it ain’t no cake walk. Like, once I was rock climbing down a waterfall. Whose idea was that? That sucked. I mean, it’s always hard to get up on a cold, rainy morning and leave your sleeping bag, but hey, I always said that I’m hiking the trail, not selling girl scout cookies.
Mentally, however, the whole not seeing family and friends part was hard. You miss out on life. I missed a summer with my best friends, three weddings, business opportunities, being around those who are important to me. And you don’t really notice this because you’re hiking and want food, until you get to the water that a lot of people stopped to hang out at, or you get to the cool overlook. For me, when that stuff happened, I just missed sharing it with my friends and the people I care about.
What was the most memorable part of the journey?
It’s still so close to me (my hike), that I remember lots of stories and I even have some hiker food left, but I remember the feeling of going to do something that mattered every day (at least to me), and I remember being really satisfied because I just hiked … and that was it. So the most memorable thing was probably being high on life from the awesome life the trail provides.
How did you feel after the hike was over?
The first few days after, I was glad to be just sitting down for a long period of time. I was happy that I was inside, with food. But now, weeks after, I am back at work, getting back into life, and my hiking friends post pictures on Facebook of the trail. Because of that, I miss the AT. Not the hiking part, more like the community that comes from such activities. The groups getting together in a shelter or tent because of bad weather … the trail legends that want to hear your stories, and will tell you some of their own … the other hikers who are just really involved in your life, even though they were strangers just weeks before.
What did you gain from the experience?
I really just worked out all the little life problems I had. What do I want in life with my job; with my family. I also worked out who I am, what I will and won’t do, and how I will treat people and move forward with my life.
What are your goals for the future?
I think outdoors/hiking wise, I would like to train to run a sub-4:20 mile. My current 5K is 15:48 and when your MPH is close to 4:50 (as mine is), you cannot really get much faster than high 15s in the 5K, so mile training for the next three or four years and if I can get down to 4:15 or so, I think I can run a 14-minute 5K. And then, if I can run it, I bet I can turn that into a sub-2:20 marathon. Right now, I have done a few 2:40s. I might be older, but I might try my hand at some longer-than-marathon distances and see what I can do.
Indoor wise, I think I’ll start being a grown up, take a bigger role in the family business, start doing life stuff that I took such a long break from. I worked for others for a long time after college and it was really shitty. They had bad products and worse service, and when I’m the one responsible, I cannot sleep at night. I want to do good work. So now, I sell real estate and do rentals working with the family. And after much thinking (on the trail), I love it. I help people, I do whatever I want. I want to do high-quality work and help people. Doing this helps me sleep at night. I might move the business toward the heart of Atlanta, and I might buy a house and see where life goes. Not really sure right now. After all, I just got back three months ago.
But I take lots of trips, so, no worries. I still have and will have lots of adventures.
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