The Story of Sparky: Why I Hike
There are always plenty of questions when you tell someone you’re setting off to hike a 2,000+ mile trail, but the most common one is pretty simple: why?
Knowing why you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail is even more important for yourself (in moments of pain, struggle and maybe a tinge of regret) than it is to others. So, thru-hikers typically think through a multi-tiered logic to substantiate their hike to themselves and others. I’m no different, and my “why” can be divided into three key areas: healing, clarity and change.
It’s sometimes hard for people to believe that a physically and emotionally demanding event like hiking the Appalachian Trail could be healing, but sometimes removing the material world can be the perfect way to heal from scars.
For me, struggling through loss, grief, and coming-of-age was leading me down a path that didn’t feel right. I needed time to heal from these struggles, to reflect on my life, and find forgiveness in myself and others.
It’s hard to be mindful and present in a world moving at the speed of the digital age, and mindfulness is a crucial part of healing — one that many skip over in favor of distractions. Maybe that’s our fault, or maybe it’s just in our nature.
And it’s easy to claim “time heals all wounds” but a bleeding wound won’t heal properly without bandages. I suppose we are the same way.
What about jobs, college, and money? What about friends, family, and love? Where do I belong and what do I do with this precious time I have?
When you’re young, all of this is still up in the air and it’s easy to get swept up into the commotion. I, like many others, was living my life by what was “right.” But who decided what that even means?
Any measure of success or accomplishment feels empty when you’re living by everyone else’s expectations. So, coming to the trail was an opportunity to remove myself from that and listen only to me (and maybe the trees and the birds too).
People always use the expression “you’ve got your head in the clouds” to describe someone a bit out of touch, but I’d argue putting my head into the clouds has given me some of the best clarity of my life.
Two lovely women were completing their 40th New Hampshire 4,000 ft peak last summer. A feat envied by many experienced hikers. As an inexperienced hiker, they took me under their wing and told me about my “spark” that would make me fit to hike the AT, just has they had before.The origin of my trail name.
I think everyone hiking the AT is looking for some measure of change in their life, or in the world.
I think it’s important to note, however, that seeking change doesn’t mean you don’t love the life you have — it simply means you trust yourself enough to seek something new.
Change is a big word and one that has lingered across America over the last year. I have listened and learned so much in the past year, and I now see the mountain that stands before us. It’s big and scary, but I’ve never been afraid of mountains.
We seek something new not to erase what previously existed, but to grow from the platform of where we were.
In my journey, I hope to share what I’ve learned about environmental justice, learn even more, and have real conversations. We can’t run away from change by running into the woods.
I suppose my story can be boiled down to the fact that I was tired of watching others live my dream, and wishing I was brave enough to show up for the same adventure. I proved myself wrong, simply by making it here.
I’m hiking to spark healing, clarity, and change in my life and connect with the planet and people along the way.
I’m Sparky, and I am going to hike the f*cking Appalachian Trail.
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