By far the most asked question I get is why I’m hiking the trail. Side note, the second most asked question is “Do you realize there’s bears?!” That’s a surprisingly hard question to answer, (the why, not the bears). I have a lot of reasons for doing a through hike l but even I don’t know which ones are truly driving me.
The easy answer is it’ll be fun and I’m in a good spot to do it. I’m really blessed in the fact that I’m in good health, have a skill set that gives me job security, an understanding girlfriend friends and family, and no real attachments (such as pets or a house). That’s a big driver, but heck there’s a lot of fun things I could do. Backpack across Europe. Spend a summer in Alaska. Be a beach bum for a while. So that can’t be the whole answer.
Another big reason I picked the AT is the fact that my friend Brian is also hiking the trail. While that certainly planted the idea in my head, it’s not the full reason. Yes he’s one of my best friends but this isn’t exactly a trip to the bar. Also right now I’d hike the trail even if he didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t care if he goes. Doing this with a great friend will make this whole trip a lot more fun. But it also doesn’t fully explain the “why” question.
I’ve had a couple people assume this was a lifelong dream of mine. They’re wrong. Oh sure I’ve heard about the AT when growing up in Virginia. I even hiked small bits of it. But I never seriously considered doing a through hike until about two years ago.
Getting closer to the truth, I do want to shake things up a bit. I’m very easily content but change is good. It’s not that I don’t like my current situation. My job is great and Cambridge is awesome, but a six month commitment to hiking the trail will force things to change whether I want them to or not. I’ll be working on different projects when I get back, (I’m doing my best to transition all my work to other people before I leave), I’ll need to get a new apartment, and it’ll give me a chance to think about if I want to continue along my current path or change things up even more.
The AT is nice because it has a set goal. Hiking across Europe can be a one month excursion or a three year jaunt. With something else you constantly have to deal with the pressure to cut your trip short, either in the planning stage or while you are on it. With the AT I have a answer ready when people ask if I would reconsider and only take off one month vs. six. I’m going to hike until I hit Katahdin, and that’s that.
I won’t lie, the name recognition and the general macho cred that hiking the AT gives you also helps…
When I think about the “why” though, the memory that keeps popping into my head was about a year and a half ago when I visited my family in Hawaii. I was feeling a bit restless so I decided to do the bunker hike in Lanikai. I’ve done this hike many times growing up, but each time we’d get up to the second bunker and turn around. This time I was on my own, (first time ever for that trail), and decided to keep going. I ended up making a loop all around Lanikai and saw Bellows Air Force base on the other side. I’ve lived in the area for a good chunk of my life and never realized where it was relative to Lanikai. At that point I knew I wanted to hike the AT.