The Appalachian Trail: A Monster Goal and a Book Review

Since few people in my life know about this blog, I’m going to start telling you about my plans for the next year in lieu of going to graduate school. It’s a safe place to start, and will help me organize my thoughts.

My partner, Christina AKA Tunafish, and I are going to hike the Appalachian Trail.

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The Appalachian Mountains. Mars Hill, NC. September 2016.

Ideally Tunafish will finish up her short contract with an online ESL tutoring company at the beginning of February, and then we can head out in March

(And even more ideally, they also give me a job this week- send me good vibes, guys. That would push our leaving date to the end of March, but that’s okay.)

It sounds slightly ridiculous to me, since I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last year and am currently in the worst shape of my life. However, when my dream to hike this 2,200 monster came to fruition, I was definitely in better shape (the best of my life). I was a Senior in college. It was October. We were going for what I thought was a little hike. It was not a little hike. After unexpectedly walking this monster for a few hours in Hot Springs, NC without any water, I was inspired. The views were beautiful. I felt like I was dying. I could have sworn I might not make it back to camp. And the prospect of going the full 2,200 miles seemed all too good.

Originally it was my plan to come back to America from China after one year, save money for 10 months, and then hike the AT starting in March. I added a year to my East Asian travels, but its essentially the same thing, right? I also figured I would go at it alone, since I knew I would be slower than most of my friends that might have join me. Luckily for me I’ve found someone who’s more my pace, and she’s my girlfriend!

So, I’ll be posting our research here as we figure this monster trip out.

To start, let me tell you about a book I’ve just finished reading.

Appalachian Trials: A Psychological and Emotional Guide To Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail (Volume 1) by Zach Davis (Here’s the Amazon Link)

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Tunafish found this book one night and suggested I give it a read, since I struggle with depression off the trail already. The book helped us to realize the importance of really preparing for this trail beyond simply sending boxes of food ahead of time, or hiking to prepare our bodies.

While there are some typos, and I think the beginning of the book has some unnecessary rambling, it gives good tidbits of advice when it comes to preparing yourself all around for the trail– Davis gives advice for emotional preparation, gear lists, nutritional information to prevent weight gain after the trail, and more.

For anyone planning to hike a long trail, definitely give it a shot. It’ll certainly make you think about your hike in a way that is much fuller than simply picking out the best gear, and what snacks to send yourself along the way.

Advice to Zach Davis: Give your book another read through. You did a great thing! And I’m so glad that someone did actually think about the emotional trials this kind of adventure can give you. Simply put though, the book just needs a bit of polishing.

My Emotional Preparation, Inspired by Appalachian Trials

This isn’t perfect or even considered complete, but it’s a start!

Why am I Hiking the Appalachian Trail?

  1. I love these mountains. They never cease to take my breathe away. Growing up in South Carolina, they were a common sight for me on road trips, or vacations. I want to keep experiencing them. I want to see as much of them as I can, especially after Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail mentions they might not exist in a few decades!
  2. Adventure. As someone that loves Dungeons and Dragons, how can I not go on an epic journey?
  3. Time to think.
    • The world can really choke you. Even in China, with a massive firewall keeping me from Facebook, I can get on Facebook with a VPN. Even here, half way around the world, I’m burdened by the news, the latest trends, and more. Being away from technology for awhile in a greater capacity than I’ve experienced sounds spectacular.
    • I don’t know what I want. I doubt this walk will change that, but I suspect it will help me to realize if I want nature to be a bigger part of my life than it has been in my life history.
    • People say this is one of those life changing things that puts a lot into perspective. Believe it or not, but I could still use that. I realize that no matter where I am, I’m really good at keeping myself busy. I don’t make myself think as much as I used to. I don’t think I can escape my thoughts on this journey.
  4. Exercise. I love walking. I really love walking!
  5. Planning. There’s something really enjoyable about planning such a big endeavor from start to finish- and then seeing if your plans worked!
  6. It’s a goal. If nothing else, I think the prospect of having a goal and being able to achieve it is therapeutic. Most of my goals can be so fuzzy: make art, be healthier, etc. These are not finite, and they’re constantly evolving goals, even when you have more specific milestones to reach. Being able to just say, “I did this.” would be awesome.
  7. Proof to myself that I’m powerful. There are a lot of days that I think negatively of myself: I’ll never be anything, I’ll never do this, I’ll never do that. Perhaps with an achievement like this, I’ll have those thoughts less.
  8. Be healthier. These two years in China have left me feeling wrecked and uninspired. I think this will be good for my mind and body health. At least my aches will have a reason that’s legitimate.

After I Finish the Trail, I’ll…

  1. I’ll be on a healthier path (aha) in life, physically. Of course there’s issues of diet on the trail, but I don’t like pasta or pop tarts that much!
  2. I’ll be more certain. With six months to think, I imagine I’ll have more defined goals, ideas, and desires in my life.
  3. I’ll be cool. Seriously, who wouldn’t think I was cool?
  4. I’ll think highly of myself. Even on days where I think lowly of myself, I can cite things I’ve done that should impress anyone. This is on a whole other level, and will help me to believe more in myself.
  5. I’ll have seen a lot of the Appalachian Mountains, like I’ve wanted! In other words, I’ve set a goal and actually gone through with it. I love those mountains. What a gift to myself to spend six months with them.
  6. I’ll have something to put on my resume that shows my determination, planning skills, and strength.
  7. Tunafish and I will have experienced another grand adventure together. There’s nothing I love more than spending my days with her. This is six months of (possibly sometimes torturous) time spent with her.
  8. We can inspire the generations born after us. We both have young ones in our lives that we adore, and want to give the world. I believe we will give them part of the world by letting them know they can achieve great things, like us.
  9. We can inspire our own generation, and the generations before us. People can be so complacent. I know when I do things that are uncomfortable or scary, someone usually ends up inspired as a result. In other words, contributing to my life can also contribute to other people’s lives.
  10. I’ll feel like not going to graduate school this year was totally worth it.

What if I Fail?

  1. You wont. If you can’t do the whole thing, you can do it in segments. You can take all the breaks in the world. You can rest for long periods. But quitting is not what you want, so unless you’re terribly sick or hurt, you wont.
  2. You’ll feel crappy. These days it feels like you can’t keep to your goals. This would be a pretty epic goal fail. This is too finite of a goal to quit!
  3. You’ll have to find a job and join that possibly fictitious “real world” everyone keeps mentioning sooner. Ew. You’ll do anything to keep from that, so I can’t imagine you’d quit.
  4. Even more so, people wont believe you when you say you’re going to do something big.

Post Trail Plans

  1. Rest for a month! (this is part of my budget savings goal)
  2. Plan my next hiking excursion.
  3. Write a book, comic, or blog series about my experiences on the trail. Possibly a short film? Who knows, you’re creative.

Thanks for reading guys. Let me know what you think.

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