The Crazy Idea

I can’t really tell you when the idea took hold. I think it really started when a friend was posting pictures from his hikes on trails in our area.

I do know that it became a real thought when I watched a National Geographic special about the Appalachian Trail that was on Netflix Instant. I knew that there were people who would hike the entire trail. I grew up next to it, hiking along the trail or bike riding for a day was so commonplace that it sometimes takes me by surprise that people will travel to see it.

To me, the trail is just home. Well, that stretch of it that runs through our sections of the Blue Ridge.

In the documentary, they talk about thru-hikers. These are the people that hike from one end of the trail to the other in a single season, either from Georgia to Maine or from Maine to Georgia.

At first, the idea was crazy. I couldn’t imagine what would possess a person to do that. Spend months hiking this long and sometimes punishing stretch of woods? Why?

But then as I kept watching, I realized why: to accomplish something. Simply to say you had done it.

The idea started to get to me years ago when I read an unproduced screenplay about the first expeditions to Mount Everest. I’ve never in my life been inclined to climb tall mountains like that, but reading this very personal story that captured the intentions and emotions of these men, I felt this drive to do something really monumental. To say I’d done something that most people would realize was an accomplishment.

That was years ago, but watching the documentary it came back and I realized what that something I could accomplish was: I could thru-hike the trail. The trail was already part of my life, already a part of how I grew up and what I love about the world. To see the entire length of it, that would be amazing.

There’s only one problem: I don’t really hike. I do silly little day hikes once in a great while, up well traveled trails that lead to scenic overlooks. But nothing like what this will be like. So I realize I couldn’t leave tomorrow and do this. I needed to build up to it, learn, research, and get there slowly. Step by step, just like it will be to do the actual hike.

I gave myself a deadline: five years. I will take five years to build up stamina, to work hard to overcome some physical limitations like a bad knee. To learn what I need to know to sleep overnight in the woods, to learn how to deal with finding water, bringing food with me, and everything else. To build up endurance for walking for six months straight.

I’ve known quite a few people that have trained from nothing to running marathons, using baby steps that they build on regularly. So I’m going to do that. Right now I’m designing my own program because I don’t know of one that is meant to help somebody get ready for a thru-hike. But part of the plan is to keep this blog updated with the plan, the progress, and generally use it to stay motivated.

I’ll be updating twice a week. Next time, I’ll talk about my first baby steps I’m taking.

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