This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) has been on my bucket list for the past few years, but things never seemed to work out to pursue this bucket list item. I’d originally planned to thru-hike the AT in 2018, but in December 2017 I had the opportunity to buy a vehicle, and I did.
Buying the car put my AT aspirations on hold. I don’t regret buying that car as I spent the better part of 2018 crisscrossing New Mexico, Arizona, California, Idaho, and Nevada, living out of my car and backpacking many beautiful locations in those states. So I don’t regret having put off the AT.
Owning a vehicle comes with financial obligations: car payments, insurance, maintenance, registration, taxes, etc., all of which take money. Money is always a limiting factor for most people when it comes to doing a thru-hike, and I am no different. But then something happened; the car died. I found myself freed from all those monthly obligations of owning a car (except the payments, but I made the last payment this month). A thru-hike of the AT was once again back on the table.
I find myself at a crossroads in life and hiking is one of the ways I think things through. Something is missing from my life, but I don’t know what that something is. I find that hiking, walking for hours on end in nature, alone with my thoughts, is one of the best ways to reflect on what is happening in my life.
A thru-hike frees you from many things in life. You get up each morning, eat breakfast, pack up, and walk for hours with only your thoughts; even when hiking with others, you’ll find yourself alone in your thoughts frequently. I plan to use this time alone with my thoughts to figure out just what I want to do with my life. Shoot, I’m 53 and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up!
Life has a way of getting away from us sometimes. When younger, I had the time to pursue pretty much anything I wanted, but life got in the way. Marriage, children, career, and the like quickly expand to fill one’s life. Things like taking six months to thru-hike some long-distance trail gets put off as you simply don’t have the time.
But before you know it, you’re on the other side of 50. The kids are grown and gone; the marriage, in my case, is also gone. After 30 years the career is gone, which is fine as I was burned out anyway. As explained above, my car is gone, which was my largest financial obligation.
So I find myself with plenty of time to pursue a thru-hike of the AT.
I’m No Spring Chicken
Or to put it another way: I’m getting old. While only 53, I am starting to feel old. Yes, I can still hike a 20+ mile day, but I feel it more than I used to. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I want to do these things while I am still healthy enough to do them. This reminds me of a quote from Buddha;
“The trouble is, you think you have time” ~ Buddha
None of us know how long we have and as I’ve gotten older, my bucket list has gotten longer, not shorter. Each year I hear in the news of some celebrity who’s younger than me coming down with some ailment. I’m 53 and still healthy, so I want to do these things while I still can.
The Long-Distance Hiking Bug
In 2017 I thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, and the long-distance hiking bug took hold. While I commonly hiked upward of seven to ten days, I had never attempted a long-distance hike until my CT thru-hike, and I found I loved it. While I faced many challenges on that thru-hike and learning experiences, I loved thru-hiking so much that I left the CT and headed to Arkansas for a thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail.
After finishing these two shorter thru-hikes, I set my sights on doing something longer like the AT. Who knows, after the AT I might decide I love long-distance hiking so much that I will pursue the Triple Crown. Only time will tell!