The Appalachian Trail
About two years ago a friend and I did a weeklong, 75.1-mile section of the Appalachian Trail. I had been doing day-hikes and weekenders for a while before that, and even just setting foot on the AT had been a dream. It was my first real backpacking trip, and it became a big part of who I am today.
For those of you who have no clue what the Appalachian Trail is, it is, to state the obvious, a trail. But more specifically, it is a trail that runs through the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Maine, 2,175 miles long. That’s quite a walk. And it’s a walk that I still fully intend to take someday before I die. In the trail lingo, it’s called a thru-hike. The entire trail in one go.
It’s a hell of a leap, and that week was one of many training hikes to prepare for it. My mom was convinced that it would make me change my mind about my thru-hike, and I think she was really hoping for that. Sorry mom, but I want to hike those 2,175 miles even more than before. It was an amazing trip. I’ve told the entire 7 day story so many times that I’m not sure I can type it all out without boring you or hitting myself in the head with a hammer. I think I’ll just list my top 5 favorite things that make me want to do the whole trail.
1. The Scenery - This is probably the most obvious of reasons. Who could get tired of panoramic views of rolling vistas, of waking up and watching the sunrise from a meadow, and beholding distant thunderstorms lashing out over the mountains? Then there’s the corridors of laurel along the trail, the trees sloping down on either side as you walk along the ridgeline, and sweet, life-giving water in the forms of small streams or large forks that are broken by impressive falls. The trail is beautiful.
2. The Excursions - If you break down the hike in its simplest form, it is an act of getting from Point A to Point B. And if you keep that mechanical mentality, you are sure to fail. The “trail experience” is made up of tiny excursions along the massive undertaking of a thru-hike. You can find anything from 50-foot waterfalls to swim under to plane crashes on mountainsides to explore. Then there are trips into town. Taking on the Gallon Challenge (a gallon of ice cream in a certain period of time, it varies). There’s even a nearby train into New York City.
3. A Greater Appreciation - When you spend a week walking through increasingly dry wilderness, responsible for finding and treating your own water, you learn to have a greater appreciation for the little things in life. I angrily think back to me throwing half-full bottles of water away simply because they were too old or too hot as I graciously refill my water supply from a sink in a bathroom of questionable sanitation. I glance up at my food bag hanging from a high branch of a tree that is covered in claw marks from a black bear, thanking God that it’s still there this morning. Resupply is 2 days away. Yeah, you learn to appreciate the little things.
4. Minimalist Living - Believe it or not, living with all of your possessions that add up to only 40 lbs on your back is very liberating. In this country, we’re taught to see how much we can get. On the trail, you learn to see how much you can live without. I’ve always loved the saying “you only truly own what you can carry at a dead run.” That’s quite true on the trail, and there was even a time that I had to live that saying. The less stuff you have, the less worry that comes with it. It can even be quite fun, sifting through your stuff in a hostel, figuring out what you can do without and mail back home.
5. The Friendships - I am willing to admit that I am generally not a sociable person. I do not like large crowds. I prefer a small, tight-knit circle of friends compared to such a wide circle that the lines between friend, buddy, acquaintance, and complete stranger are blurred. But the friendships you make on the trail, even within a short week, are nothing short of magical. You share a common goal, and that common goal instantly creates a bond. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed, so everyone looks out for each other, and pushes each other, when it’s needed. The people I have met on the trail have been levelheaded, down-to-earth good people. It is a different world.
Well, I hope I have inspired someone to pick up and go. If you want to know further details about my trip, my contact info is on this site. If you want to know more about the trail in general, I recommend going here.