I don’t remember the first time I heard about the Appalachian Trail; probably way before it meant anything to me. Maybe it was a casual mention in a book or movie that went unnoticed because it didn’t signify anything special. Years later, more than 3000 miles from my hometown of Los Angeles, I was sitting at my tiny little hippie college in Maine when someone came running by and said “Hey! Free food in the parking lot!”
Some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers had reached Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail and, for reasons and logistics I was never quite clear on, had somehow ended up nearly 150 miles away at my college.
But, hey, they were offering free food to college students so none of us questioned it much. We congratulated the hikers, grabbed some veggie burgers, and went on with our day. Everyone had seemed impressed and, going along with the crowd, I cheered for them, too. Then I went back to my room and looked up the AT.
“CHRIST THEY HIKED HOW FAR?” I thought to myself, or perhaps exclaimed to a friend. It was clear that I could never complete such a monumental undertaking. I made the decision that I’d section hike it, maybe over the next ten or so years. I had vague thoughts of hiking parts of it some day with my future partner, maybe taking future kids on idyllic day-trips, even hiking the trail with some future teenage or adult child of mine. “That’s more my speed” I said to myself, “slow and steady.”
I moved to Boston after graduation, took a couple years and then started graduate school and here I am, a year away from completion. And I’m sick to death of slow and steady.
I’m going to graduate, that much is clear. It would be stupid not to graduate at this point and I do eventually want to go in to my chosen career. I’ve decided, though, that first I’m going to do something big. And probably stupid.
So I built a camping stove.
To someday take on the AT, you see.
I’m writing this in the summer of 2014. If all goes according to plan I graduate next spring, complete Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplaincy internship) the summer of 2015, do an internship fall of 2015 through spring of 2016 and then… then I guess I work my butt off as many hours as possible to save money. Assuming I can save the money I’d set out on the trail in early spring of 2017, turning 30 years old that June, and finishing up in Maine in late summer or early fall.
Sure, things could delay or derail this. I could meet that mythical future partner, have those mythical future children. I could lose my physical ability to do this, or decide it’s all stupid. Assuming none of that happens, though… here’s hoping for a 2017 AT thru-hike.