The AT called and I must return.
Last week a friend I met on the AT in 2012 messaged me a question.
Was I interested in working at a hostel on the AT for free room, board and meals? My cat could come. At first it seemed like a bad idea. I need to make money to pay bills and feed the cat or the cat might eat me (which is only fair if you think about it). Then I realized that when I sell the RV I’ll have a little money, and since my costs of living would be practically nothing, and I don’t actually have a lot of bills, it might be okay. My dog and two of my three cats died since last Christmas, which broke my heart and set me free. I have spent the last year working towards being free enough to go off and hike again so I’m in a decent position to head 2,000 miles across the country and work for practically nothing.
I won’t make money working at a hostel.
I’ll work my ass off. With nearly 3,000 hikers coming through the hostel in March and April alone (based on 2015 numbers) I’ll possibly hate hikers by the time June rolls around and the season is over. I’ll work twelve hour shifts, six days a week, and possibly be called in to work on my day off and during the night. There will be few boundaries and little privacy. I’ll be exhausted and crying or angry at times. I may regret my choice when I can’t afford things because I’m not making money. I don’t care. I can’t say no.
The call of the AT is as strong as it ever was.
The call, the pull, is stronger the longer I am away from Her. Three years since I competed my thru-hike and it only strengthens with time and distance. I can’t describe the feeling of longing, love, and nostalgia I have for the AT. She’s in my soul and that will never change. I can barely look at my AT pictures and blog without crying, without my heart breaking over and over again, without a longing to be there again that is stronger than any other emotion in my life. I want to hike other trails. I want to love other trails out west the same way I love the AT, because then I can stay closer to my family. Still, that hasn’t happened yet and the AT calls like a siren. Once again I choose to follow her call. Nothing can compete with your first love.
The AT needs help.
The movie “A Walk in the Woods” came out this fall and spring 2016 will probably slam the AT with hikers who know even less than I did when I started my thru-hike in 2012. I didn’t do everything perfectly on my thru-hike. I made mistakes that took me longer to learn than necessary. I didn’t understand the trail or trail community and didn’t know about Leave No Trace (LNT) when I started. I can help new hikers learn more quickly than I did.
I want to help.
I can give back to the trail and the trail community. I owe the AT and the AT community so much. I don’t know how I could ever pay it back fully, but this is a step. I want to be a trail angel instead of needing trail angels. I want to be with my tribe. I want to be around hikers and help them have a better, more successful hike, with less damage to the trail. I love gear. I love pack shakedowns. I have lots of advice to give and lots to learn still. I love the AT and I can’t say no to Her.
I hope this choice doesn’t financially prevent me from taking my own Colorado Trail hike in 2016, but even if it does, I won’t regret it. The AT changed my soul, changed my life. Others deserve that opportunity, and the AT deserves to be treated respectfully and cared for. I can help with both and I want to do this. It will be my labor of love, because I can.
I can’t wait to step on the AT again.
So, the new plan is to buy a travel trailer and towing truck with the RV money, and in February my cat and I will head across the country, back to the southern AT. I’m excited. I’ll meet thousands of prospective thru-hikers and interesting people, make many new friends, give a lot and learn a lot. I’m paying back some of what I owe the AT and I’m excited to be part of the trail community in a new role. Of course, I’ll be spending every day and night possible out on the trail when I get a break from work.
Here’s to following the call of the AT or whatever your heart demands. 2016 thru-hikers, maybe I’ll see you out there.
Happy trails to all in 2016!
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