“On the street of by-and-by, one arrives at the house of never.” – Cervantes
The pressure is strong; the urge unrelenting. The demands of life – work, earning a living, plus a thousand other things – quickly jam into each nanosecond of our existence, leaving little time to catch our breath, plan meaningful futures, or nurture things which matter most, such as relationships and finding a life purpose to fully commit to.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a leap of faith. You have to simply put all other things aside and go; even if you don’t know how you’ll get there or what will happen when your backpacking boots move beyond the starting line at Springer Mountain, Georgia.
You just know: “I’ve simply got to do this. Now!”
Somehow you just know. The food that will fuel your soul, the sustenance which will galvanize you into going inside and giving yourself time to think and get to know who you are – lies in the glory of nature. Yes, there will be a price to pay in pain and hardship, loneliness and ache. But if you cross the zone along the trail (for me it was about the fifty mile mark) where it feels something has shifted and that you’ve somehow “broken through” the majority of your resistance and second-guessing, you will know you can achieve what you set out to do. Hike from Georgia to Maine!
That’s when things will get really interesting.
Backpacking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (or in any other configuration you choose) will always be a benchmark for the rest of your life. Even if you should not succeed in completing the entire trail, you will discover your outlook is brighter, your spirit bolder, your boundaries of possibility expanded.
My advice is not to fuss too much about which gear to use or whether or not you should saw the handle off your toothbrush. Not if it delays your setting out too long. I spent a year in research, gathering equipment, and planning. Even then, I hit the footpath with a pack weighing 55 pounds to start with. By the end of my trip that weight had drastically dropped to about 30 pounds. The thing to remember is that is plenty of room to learn as you go. Stick with the basics and set out.
Treat the land as if it were your own back yard. In recent years I’ve been dismayed to learn the trails has suffered from littering and graffiti. If you care about stewarding the world you live in, leave shelters and campsites better than you found them. You will be amazed at how good you will feel when you spend a few extra minutes sweeping out a shelter with a broom!
Take time to – as the old saw goes – “hike your own hike.” Leave high-daily-mileage setting to those who feel the need for such accomplishments and focus on your own; the pace that enriches your soul and makes your spirits fly when you unload your pack at the end of the day.
Whatever date on the calendar you mark to begin your journey, remember that the dare out there will bring out everything that is within you, both good and bad. And that’s OK. You are about to grow in ways you could never imagine before.