On a recent call, my mom tried to tell me to go on an African safari instead of hiking the AT. I understand her feelings. It’s hard to imagine your only daughter lugging a pack over 2000+ miles of mountains. But that’s precisely what drew me to the AT. I want to hike this trail, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. I want to hike it because so many people fail to reach Katahdin in a single year. Will I make it?? I crave a really epic, life-altering, butt-kicking kind of challenge. Life has gotten to be too easy.. college, the real world, jobs, love… I feel like I’ve been handed most things in life and I’ve just been cruising on auto-pilot. That worries me.
I crave something that will shake me to my core… something that will scare me. I know there will be rough days ahead on the trail. In fact, I fully expect to find myself curled up in the fetal position on the trail crying at some point (hopefully not in Georgia!). If humans never tried anything hard, we would still be cavemen. Instead, humans go to the tops of mountains.. to the depths of the sea.. to the moon. It’s what makes us human: our thirst for adventure.
I feel the magnetic pull to Katahdin.. to this weather-beaten sign on an isolated mountaintop in Maine:
And mom? …. I still want that African safari, but maybe when I’m 50. 😉
[Photo used with permission from jsstylos.com. Thank You!]
Last summer, I bought a lottery ticket when the jackpot grew to an obscene amount of money. I glanced at my newly purchased ticket and dreamed of bags and bags of money. “What will you do first?” my brain pondered. My reply was pure and immediate. I’ll toss the millions in the bank.. then I’ll strap a pack on my back and start hiking the AT.
After the drawing, I sat there holding my worthless ticket. Yes, I lost the lottery, but I gained the dream. Hiking the AT was my far-fetched “crazy” dream.. But the more I thought about it, the more it just… fit.
The story below is one of my favorites. I hope it makes you smile and realize what really matters in life.
The Story of the Mexican Fisherman
The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.
The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years, if you work hard at it.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
There are many different approaches that hikers take in planning their thru-hike. Some will carefully plan their mileage per day on a spreadsheet and prepare dehydrated meals in mail drops. In contrast, other hikers will make no plans at all. There is no “right” way to hike the trail.
Throughout my life, I have always been a planner. But not now- not for this. The trail is freedom. No guilt about sticking to a pre-made hiking schedule. No rush to get to a post office before it closes. The trail is the rare moment in life where we can be completely free, and not be tied to a schedule.
Instead, here are my hiking plans:
Yep. That’s it.
How many miles will I hike everyday?
dunno- until I’m tired
What will I eat?
dunno- whatever looks good at the grocery store in town that week
Where will I be on a certain date?
dunno, somewhere on the AT 🙂
To me, this is the beauty of the trail. I plan to not plan. I have no deadline except October 15, 2013. On that date, Mount Katahdin, the northern terminal of the AT, will close for the winter. I just have to keep hiking north and go with the flow.
Freedom…. I can almost feel it.
“What would you try if you knew you could not fail?”
The idea of freshly baked muffins and cornbread on the trail makes my head dizzy from excitement. Warm, moist, fluffy blueberry muffins in the evening after a long hike?? Bliss! I turned to my trusty companion, Google, and quickly found Youtube videos showing hikers baking muffins with alcohol stoves. A-Hah! It COULD be done! I knew I had to try it!
I wiped the drool from my chin and gathered my supplies.
Backcountry Baking Attempt #1: Failure
[water in pot + small plastic cup containing cornbread mix/water]
Sooo… needless to say, the plastic cup melted and chaos soon followed
Not so easily deterred, I tried again:
Backcountry Baking Attempt #2: Success?
[water in pot+ ziplock bag containing cornbread mix/water]
It was delicious cornbread, but not worth 30 minutes of cooking time and 3 oz of fuel. If I still have energy at the end of the day to bake muffins, then I didn’t hike enough miles. I’m going to try a few other experiments…. but I’m afraid there will be no baking for me on the trail. *single tear*