Hiking the AT an American Pilgrimage

The past seven months, as I’ve readied myself for my pilgrimage, I’ve watched hours upon hours of YouTube videos having to do with thru hiking. I’ve read everything I could lay my hands on including A Walk in the Woods and The Wild, and AWOL on the AT. Blogs, vlogs, posts, ect. I have researched backpacking gear to the Inth degree. And I can honestly say, it’s been a blast!
I’ve joined, subscribed to a few Facebook communities which are solely there for hikers. I guess you could say that I’ve almost totally submerged myself into the world of hiking and backpacking. It’s a wonderful world rife with possibilities and adventures beckoning the person with an undisputable case of wanderlust. That part is in my DNA. When I joined the U.S. Air Force at age 18, one of the requirements was to list all of the places I had ever lived. So I sat down with my mom and we started listing. When we finished the list, to my surprise, I found that I had moved 21 times in my short 18 years. I have two brothers, one lives outside of KC Mo. and the other resides in Heaven. They too are wanderers. They continued to move every year or so for many many years as they raised their families. I went the other way, I wanted my children to have what I hadn’t had. Roots in a community, so they moved only once in their childhood and teenage years. I’m happy I did that, but the wanderlust in me had to be satisfied. I had to find that pilgrimage. My career in the Oil and Gas Industry afforded me just that. I traveled and saw more of North America than a very large percentage of the people in the USA. It was absolutely wonderful. Hard work and difficult to be away so much when my children were young, but a great career in a good field. Now that I’ve retired, my families are raising families of their own and I live alone, the time for my pilgrimage has come. The times I’ve visited the eastern seaboard I was fascinated with the sheer history of the region. This is where our nation was birthed and grew and became independent. I wanted to see more of it and learn of it. I’ve walked the streets of Philadelphia and been in the historic old houses and halls that were the places of so much of the building and founding of our great country. I’ve been border to border and beyond and sea to shining sea. But I wanted more, I wanted to walk the hills where the American Pioneers walked and homesteaded and lived and raised families before the great westward migration. I wanted to walk through the hills and trees of the Smokiest, the Shenandoah, and so many more. All of those longings and wishes and schoolboy books about the history of our nation have instilled within me a deep desire to learn and feel all that I can from the Appalachian Trail, my Pilgrimage.
It’s getting real now, I have my airline ticket, my reservations for my two nights stay in Harpers Ferry before I set out and I only get more excited every day. I hope at least some of the others on the trail this year, and in years to come will have some sense of the history we will be walking on and through! Happy Trails!

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Comments 3

  • Deborah Walker : Mar 22nd

    Wow you have a life that others dream of and now to journey threw the AT Keep a good journal your family will cherish it! I will be following you I start next spring at age 67 We aren’t done yet!!

    • Gary Stell : Mar 22nd

      Thanks Deborah, yes I am indeed blessed and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded. Good luck while you’re planning your hike, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Happy Trails

  • Brenda : Mar 22nd

    Happy Trails–I will be following your journey. Look forward to reading all about it!


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