A decision to hike the Appalachian Trail is not to be taken lightly.
There is a moment, sometime in the planning phase, when you go all in.
Soon you’ll have to tell someone what you’ve resolved to do.
Careful with shouting it from the rooftops, though. It’s a dangerous thing…
telling people what you’re “going to do.”
I was 20 years old when I hiked the Appalachian Trail.
I started in the spring of 2001.
A limited number of backpacking journals were on the internet at that time – no more than a hundred.
Now there’s thousands.
Not long after some tough conversations about… you know… “college,” I posted my first journal entry on the web. Here’s what it said:
January 11, 2001
I had some friends over one night, and mentioned the possibility of hiking the Appalachian Trail. The conversation went a bit like this…
SENSIBLE BUDDY: So, did you decide when you’re going back to school yet?
ME: Well you know guys, I just can’t get this Appalachian Trail idea out my head.
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES: Indeed Jamie, a man’s mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its original dimension.
ME: Yeah, but, it seems crazy, you know? I don’t have a great deal of backpacking experience. Walking up and down mountains with forty pounds on your back for six months isn’t exactly easy. What if I can’t take the rain, can’t handle the cold, get attacked by a bear, get bitten by a poisonous snake, get Lyme Disease, get homesick, or just quit, or… have you ever seen the movie Deliverance? Maybe hitting the books would be the most sensible thing to do after all.
WALT WHITMAN: A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.
MARK TWAIN: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
ME: Now that you phrase it like that…
FERRIS BUELLER: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
MOONLIGHT GRAHAM: At the time you don’t think much of it. You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives as they’re happening to us. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that was the only day.
SENSIBLE BUDDY: But still, why exactly would anybody want to do this? I could just drive from Georgia to Maine in a few days, and look at the mountains along the highway from my car window!
HENRY DAVID THOREAU: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…
ME: Yes! Exactly!
ALBERT EINSTEIN: Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
JOHN MUIR: Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.
FRENCH DUDE: You don’t frighten us, English pig dog! Go and boil your bottoms, son of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so called Arthur king, you and all your silly English kiniggits!
ME: Um, okay French dude. Anyway, the trail is over two thousand miles long. That sure is a long way to walk…
YODA: Judge me by my size, do you, mmmmmm? Size matters not!
FRENCH DUDE: I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal, food trough wiper! I fart in you general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and you father smelt of elderberries!
ARTHUR: If you’re French, then what are doing in England?
FRENCH DUDE: Mind your own business!
ME: Okay, okay, that does it! I don’t want to be taunted a second time. I’m going down to Georgia to try and hike the whole trail, beginning on April 3rd.
YODA: Try? Hmph! Do or do not, there is no try.
My Appalachian Trail Journal:
The Appalachian Trail was where it all started for me.
It’s America’s most classic hiking trail.
Before I’d even dreamed of the concept of long-distance hiking, I’d heard of the Appalachian Trail.
“Remote for detachment
narrow for chosen company
winding for leisure
lonely for contemplation
leads not merely north and south
but upward to the body, mind and soul of man” ~ Harold Allen
1) My Embarrassing First Backpacking Trip was an Idiotic Disaster
2) Alone in the Woods at Night – My First Solo Backpacking Trip
3) Hello World! …this was My First Post on the Internet
4) Master Using it and You Can Have This
5) George McFly Would Say I Found My “Density”
Hiking the Appalachian Trail – 2001
1) Vasque Sundowner Boot Camp
2) I Get a Trail Name
3) Hiking in Flip-Flops
4) Gone to Carolina
5) Old Smoky
6) Wingfoot, Baltimore Jack, and Maximus Patch
8) Trail Daze
9) The Grayson Highlands
10) Sleeping with Cows
11) Fierce Goats with Big Pointy Tongues
12) The Virginia Blues
13) Rusty’s Hard Time Hollow
15) Halfway There
17) North from Home
18) New Jersey
19) Dennytown Road
21) Eyes at Goose Pond
22) September 11, 2001 on the Appalachian Trail
23) Off the Trail
Unfinished Business – 2002
24) Back in Vermont
25) The Inn at the Long Trail
26) Glencliff and Moosilauke
27) The White Mountains
28) The Way Life Should Be
29) The Fixins
30) Sugar Mountain
31) The Deep Breath
32) The Hundred Mile Wilderness
33) Last Days on the Appalachian Trail
35) Descent from Katahdin