I thought I could ignore it. I figured a semi-regular day hike would be enough to satisfy the itch. Hell, I even took my partner on a three-week vacation to Australia and New Zealand based entirely around hiking (and coffee) hoping to relieve the burn. These strategies were akin to scratching a burgeoning case of poison ivy. I have now contracted full-blown thru hiker rash (not to be confused with hiker trash). So here we are. You’re picturing angry hives, and I’m counting down the days until I can start my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in April of 2017. Yes, welcome to yet another hiking blog. If you were hoping for cats vs. cucumbers, go here.
I’m somewhat loathe to create this space because I am plagued by the idea that it’s all been said before, and there are some very opinionated folks out there who would like to say it all again, and again (and again). But it seems wrong to avoid the conversation given how much I have already learned from other people’s writing (shout out to the many writers of Appalachian Trials, Clarity, and members of the 2016 thru hiking class who somehow manage to hike endless hours a day and keep a trail journal). So I’m going to attempt to drown out the noise* and blog my own blog (BMOB) while I navigate this insane experience. Maybe some other thirty-something, mid-career, relatively-content-on-paper, queer individual will find this space and feel like they’re not batshit for making the same decision.
For now, I will leave you with my answers to the three lists recommended by Zach Davis (yes it’s worth it, go buy the book, and no, he didn’t ask me to say that)
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because…
– I can’t stop thinking about it, so why wait?
– It will force me to be flexible in ways I find difficult.
– Experiencing it from the safety and comfort of a screen is no longer enough.
– I thrive on mental and physical challenges and problem solving gives me goosebumps.
– I need a break from running marathons.
– I want distance from my everyday life to remind myself what’s important.
– I want to hear people’s stories.
– I want to share people’s stories.
– I want to take an ass-ton of pictures/make art while sweating my face off.
– I can’t imagine life without having at least tried.
When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail I will…
– Continue to post pictures and stories from the trail until my friends cry uncle.
– Feel more confident in my ability to adapt.
– Revel in the success longer than a day.
– Encourage other people to do it!
– Figure out ways to reduce post-trail depression so I don’t drive my partner bonkers.
– Feel like a total bad-ass (with gnarly feet).
– Have more clarity about how I want to structure my life.
– Be proud of myself for pushing the boundaries of social, emotional, and physical comfort.
– Have a giant set of new skills that I can apply to future adventures.
– Have a huge body of work that will remind me of the challenges I overcame and the people I shared them with.
If I give up on the Appalachian Trail, I will…
– Nurse whatever physical injury caused me to give up because that is the only reason I am allowed to quit.
– TRY AGAIN.
– Be disappointed and sad, but understand that I did the best I could with the resources I had.
I could list shame-inducing responses like public embarrassment or loss of confidence in myself, but I don’t respond to that type of motivation. As with all other physical challenges to date (namely 7 marathons and the many, many training runs involved), quitting isn’t on the table. Injury is the only reason I would give up on the trail. I can do my best to make wise choices to reduce the risks, but a lot of circumstances will be out of my control. Mental state, however, is something I can (and do) work on every day.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your own motivation for whatever adventure you’re planning in the comments or something else of interest (e.g., what you had for breakfast). Or don’t. Be a lurker. I don’t mind. Lurker is my middle name.
*While I am going to attempt to ignore naysayers, I plan to keep an eye out for fellow internetters who are curious, compassionate, experienced or helpful in some other way (e.g., dad humor or Back to the Future quotes).