The Adventure Begins
It’s 6:00 PM on January 6, 2018 as I write this, which means only about 36 hours remain until I fly to Florida to begin my adventure. This year, I plan to thru-hike the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT), a series of hiking trails and road walks that lead from Key West, Florida to Cap Gaspé, Quebec. While hiking the ECT, I will also complete thru-hikes of the Florida Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and a few other long-distance trails.
Why am I doing this?
I didn’t make the final decision to hike this year until about a month ago. It was a difficult choice. I’m leaving behind a job I like, and for the next nine months, I won’t see many of my favorite people. Whenever I tell anyone about my upcoming adventure, they ask me, “Why?” Doesn’t it get boring? Isn’t it dangerous? Why would I want to walk so far?
I hike for the adventure.
Every day life can lack excitement at times. When I’m not hiking, a typical day for me includes sitting at a desk for at least eight hours.
Of course, excitement isn’t always a good thing. I’ve tripped and landed face-first while trekking up a mountain, I’ve sprinted through thunder storms, and I’ve made my way down a mountain in the middle of the night.
But the bad moments make the good ones even more special. There’s nothing like pushing myself to the limit to reach the top of a steep climb and finding an incredible view at the top.
I hike for the people.
On past hikes, I’ve experienced a ton of trail magic. For my friends at home who may not know thru-hiking lingo, trail magic is an act of kindness on the trail, and a trail angel is a person who makes trail magic happen. Sometimes trail angels give out delicious food at a road crossing or leave a bin of snacks on the trail for hungry hikers. Other times, trail magic is unplanned. When I hitchhiked near the Appalachian Trail in Maine, the man who picked me up took me to the grocery store and bought me groceries.
On my upcoming hike, I plan to pay it forward as much as possible. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help other hikers out with my own trail magic.
I hike for the sense of accomplishment.
While hiking, every day carries its own challenges: making it to a campsite before sunset, getting to the next water source, climbing a difficult mountain. Achieving these small goals is satisfying, even on the days I’m not rewarded with a view.
But succeeding at these daily goals is nothing like the feeling of reaching hiking milestones. I walked through Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont on the Appalachian Trail in 2016, and I’ll never forget the rush of emotions I felt when I crossed the state line between Maine and New Hampshire. I expect it will be much more emotionally rewarding to complete a thru-hike.
Walking almost 5,000 miles this year won’t be easy. But if it wasn’t a challenge, what would be the point?
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