Why I want to hike the Appalachian Trail

When I talk to folks about wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) the responses are mixed.  Some folks are surprised, some supportive, some ask how I’d get the time off from work, some think I’m crazy, and still others don’t think I can.  I’ve explained (to varying degrees of success) why I’d like to wander off into the woods for 6 odd months and walk ~2200 miles but it is hard for most people to relate to.  I’ve had a desire to do this hike for many years.  My wife tells me its for as long as I’ve known her (20 years) and I think it’s been longer than that.  Suffice to say it has been the majority of my life.  Over that time, the seriousness of my thinking has varied.  At times, I’m ready to walk out the front door and dive headlong into the woods.  And at other times, I tend to agree with the folks who think I’m crazy.

So why in heck would I want to walk in the woods for so long?

  • The accomplishment – because it’s there and relatively few folks have done it.  I want to do it because it would be a challenge and I would like to overcome it.  However, even typing those words feels a little off… I’m not doing it to brag about it to other people.  Although I want to share my experience, and probably will in the virtual pages of this blog, I’m not doing this for others.
  • For myself – I truly believe I can do this and want to see it through.  I’m blessed to have the possibility of completing something I’ve always dreamed of doing.  Anecdotally, it seems that there are very few people that can realize their dreams.  I’m humbled to be able to even consider it.  It also links to my self worth – I want to prove to myself that I can do this.
  • For my health – a little different than the prior category, but similar.  By the end of this trip I will be in the best shape of my life.  Similarly, I hope, I will be in the best mental state of my life.  As someone who hasn’t always treated his body like a temple (putting it mildly), this will be awesome.
  • For the sheer craziness of it – I’m generally not a risk taker but if I do this, and bail of other parts of my life for 6 months, it will be the craziest thing I’ve ever done.  But in my mind, the craziness of it is the opinion of the rule follower in me.  Hiking the AT in your 40s doesn’t follow the rulebook for how your life is supposed to play out once you’re a “mature adult with real responsibilities”.  For me, it’s becoming more and more sane.
  • For the mental space – the silence, the slowing down, the singular purpose of simply walking each day.  That will be a joy!  As someone who has always lived in his head, an introvert, a thinker – I find the woods to be extremely nourishing.  The freedom to think without the din of people all around me will be renewing.

The plaque pictured above from Springer Mountain in Georgia.  It marks the Southern Terminus of the AT and where I’d likely start from – the vast majority of people hike South to North.  The inscription on it reads:

A footpath for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness

I think that’s pretty much what I’d hope to do and sums up why I want to hike the Appalachian Trail some day.  I’ve lost touch with the wilderness somehow and I want to get back to it.

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