The Why?

13 Apr

I have spent a lot of time over the past year reading various books and online journals of people who have hiked the AT.  I have read everything from Jennifer Pharr Davis’ blog detailing her speedy record setting thru-hike last year to the hilarious Bill Bryson’s failed thru-hike experience described in “A Walk in the Woods”.  One of the main themes that comes out of these trail journals is The Relentless Slog.  Basically, each day is the same- you eat the same foods, hike all day long and sleep in a tiny tent.  There are variations in terrain, the people you meet and the types of towns you come upon, but in general you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  For 2,200 miles.

So the questions becomes why?  Why do I want to do this?  Other people walk the trail to “find” themselves or because they are between jobs or so they can be closer to nature.  I have a great job that I love, am comfortable in my life and body, and am happy with my relationship with nature.  So…why?

1) Simplicity.  My professional life is very complicated.  There are tubes, drains, life-saving drips, ventilators, IV pumps, medicine calculations, and poop.  Lots of poop.  The rest of my life is less complicated but still  complex in its own ways.  Planning workouts, time to grocery shop, oil changes, doing my taxes, planning trips, etc.   The thought of every day just having to wake up, load my pack and hike/run until I am done is glorious.  And simple.  To Do lists will be thrown out the window and life will come down to eating, sleeping and running south.  It will be a lovely reminder of how little I actually need to survive. 

2) Appreciation.  On the flip side of simplicity is the appreciation of modern amenities.  Nothing helps you appreciate the wonders of hot showers, fresh baked bread or Hulu quite as much as not having access to it for weeks or months at a time.  So far my longest stretch in the backcountry was 4 weeks back in 2002.  By the end I would have sold everything I owned for an ice cold coke and some cheetos.  I was jonesing.  We do forget how easy and plentiful our lives are day to day.  I look forward to being overwhelmed by the prospect of endless amounts of hot water and a bed all to myself instead of taking it for granted.

3)  Accomplishment.  Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is a huge achievement.  It takes dedication, drive, physical fitness, a ton of determination and some luck.  The current success rate of potential thru-hikers is somewhere between 20-25%.  We hope that lots of planning, training and experience will help us be in that small percentage. 

4)  I love to run.  I do.  I actually love it.  I have been a runner since I was 14 years old and have been an avid hiker since I was 18.  I have run most days a week for 16 years now and have spent almost every day off hiking or exploring.  I have pondered for years how I could make a living off my not-so-speedy 9-10min miles (answer: I can’t).  Taking this time off to run/hike everyday is as close as I will get to being a professional athlete.  So I will take it!

5) I’m an outside gal.  Being outside is my passion- it is what I do and a huge part of what defines me.  The opportunity to live outside for 4 months and spend every day making relentless forward progress makes me giddy inside.  I’m not an idiot- I know it isn’t going to be tiny bunnies serving me breakfast while bluebirds place my pack on my shoulders.  It will rain, it will hurt and it will also be just boring at times.  But given the choice between living for my weekends or actually living a 4-month “weekend”, I will take my 4-month weekend!


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