Category Archives: Goals

“Who Will You Be?”

IMG_2558It’s a question I’ve heard more than once lately.  Usually, it’s in reference to the struggles people might be having dealing with the isolation precipitated from the Coronavirus “lockdown.”  Now, with things “easing up,” I’ve heard, or seen written, the question — “Who will you be on the other side of the pandemic?”  Or some variation thereof.

It’s a good question, and one which can foster deep reflection and personal growth if we each let it.

It also applies to backpacking the Appalachian Trail.

“Who will you be?  Who will you be when you step off the trail?”  And not just at Katahdin in Maine, but anywhere you choose or need to stop hiking.

I even still ask myself that question to this day: “Who did I become when I stepped from the trail in Maine?  What came next?  What have I accomplished?  What’s been positive in my life?  What do I regret?  What would I do different?  What can to achieve now?  What does my future hold?”

In the brief post, I commend that question to you.  You can ask it even if you’ve not hiked the trail!

Wishing you productive thinking!  Timothy

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Filed under Achievements, Adversity, Appalachian Trail, attitude, Backpacking, challenge, Courage, Dreams, Goals, Life direction

Vertical space

Feeling daring, feeling brave? Got phobias? Here’s an experience I had dealing with a lifelong fear of heights and how I pushed to overcome my anxiety and succeed!

Write in Front of Me

English: Warren Wilson College's Ropes Course ...

The tower was a medieval-looking structure – a tripod constructed of massive timbers which looked like over-sized telephone poles.  Wrapped with ropes the thickness of my upper arm, the structure rose into the grey afternoon sky.  There were climbing holds stapled along the legs at various points, and climbing ropes draped from its height.  There was a platform on top where one could stand and look out over the Connecticut countryside.  My first impression was that it looked like a siege weapon from a Lord of the Rings movie, only missing a few attendant orcs.  It was at once challenging and forbidding.  And the closer I walked toward it the more uncomfortable I felt.

It was the afternoon break during a conference.  Participants could snooze, chat, read, play ball or –as was my case — check out the “ropes course.”  But this was unlike any challenge course I had seen. …

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Filed under Adventure, Anxiety, attitude, challenge, Courage, danger, Decision making, Fear, Fear of heights, Goals

How anchors can help you along the Appalachian Trail


Days come when motivation is hard won on the Appalachian Trail.

Heat, humidity, incessant bugs, clogged springs, sunburn, boring food, sprained ankles…need I go on?  These are among the many factors that can have you slumped beside the trail, while a pesky voice in your head says, “Whatever were you thinking?  You? Hike the Appalachian Trail?!”  That voice is often followed by a cackling laughter.  I call it a “trail devil,” a  malevolent voice which will do all it can to sabotage your through hike.

But, what to do about it?

Some get off the trail and into town to rest, resupply, and refocus.  Others simply quit, dogged along their way home with regret.

I suggest pausing long enough to make a list in your journal of ready weaponry in the form of what I call “anchors.”

In a past blog entry I touched on this strategy.  It simply consists of using your mental powers to “pull” yourself along the trail by reaching one goals at a time by the use of “anchors.”

Look at the photograph above.

Do you see the “anchor” in it?

It’s the simple patch of light.

Now, you might be viewing it some yards away, sitting on a log and feeling discouraged.  The light is inviting and beautiful.  The quality of it is enthereal and it has something which you find compelling.

So, let’s take the observation further.  Let’s view that light as an “anchor” point; a spot to attain.  A goal.

So, you say to yourself, “I don’t have to do five miles on this sweltering day.  I just need to get to that patch of light.”

So, you lift your pack and intentionally take the necessary steps to reach that beam of light.    Then, you stand in it for a moment, letting the warmth bathe you.  You appreciate the light.  You allow yourself to feel grateful for making it to this one small goal, even if it only took twenty paces to reach.

There.  You’ve done it!  You’ve chosen an “anchor” and you’ve reached it.

Next, you consider what another “anchor” might be.  Maybe you check the trail guide and see a waterfall is only a quarter mile away.  So you choose to make that your next “anchor” and your walk to it.  You put aside the total miles you expected to hike in favor of a more appealing choice…a refreshing waterfall.  You reach that “anchor,” and you rest a while.  Then you select another “anchor.”

In this way, day by day, you motivate yourself to continue your hike.  Failure ceases to be a concern.  Instead, you’re focused on reaching specific, short-term goals, which will add up to miles, which collect into states hiked through, which lead to Katahdin in Maine.

Take a page in your journal and record the “anchors” you reached and those you have plotted to attain in the days ahead.  You’ll no longer be daunted by unfurling miles; you’ll be happily exploring the A.T. and ticking off “anchor” points along the way.

Using the power of your intention and thought, you have a new tool in your arsenal to transform your hike from the mundane to the magnificent.  May each “anchor” you choose lead you to greater adventure!


Filed under anchors, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, challenge, Decision making, Goals, Hiking, outdoors, Persistence, thinking

Obvious Lostness

railway-2439189_1920If I had kept my eyes lifted and looked straight ahead of me, I would never have become lost. But since the sweltering blaze of a blistering midsummer afternoon in August on the A.T. in Pennsylvania kept my head down — literally — I must have missed the turn.

Time has wilted with my motivation. A long roadwork through a dusty valley seemed at first an easy endeavor. An early start to beat the rising sun, to outrun its zenith, was the intention. Never made it. Lots of “cameling up” kept me alive, but pouring sweat and drenching humidity did their evil best to sap my energy. Despite many stops to rest in what shade I could find, I ended up in a late afternoon slog. The white blazes had directed me through some newly sown fields and alongside a two-lane asphalt road, now redolent with the smell of cooked tar clogging my nostrils.

Over an hour I had stashed my topographic map. Who needed in on flat roads which were well blazed and a route which was obvious?

Parched, I dipped my bandana in a trickle of dirty brown water and situated in on my neck to cool down. My breath was labored in the thick air. I wiped sweat from my brown, the bill of my ball cap soaked through. I noticed another clear turn and ended up on a shady unused railroad grade. I felt a bit more energetic and my pace quickened. Before I realized it I had covered another mile or two at least. But what tipped me off to trouble was the time; by now I should be leaving the valley to climb to a ridgeline where I would descend the other side to a cool, shaded campsite.

I stopped along the graded path and fetched my map. Nothing indicated rail line, used or not. I had decided a compass was unnecessary. My keen sense of direction said I was a fool headed East. I paid attention.

That’s when my newly recaptured attention noticed something else. I looked ahead and turned to look back. No white blazes on tree or stone. I walked ahead five minutes; no blaze. I headed back. No blazes.

I was lost.

Frustration settled in. I had never, ever become lost before. Not in the wilds of Vermont of upper Maine, not in the southern Appalachians. Nowhere. But here, where one would least expect it, it had happened. I had not been paying attention and had become mislocated.

Long story short; by the time I followed the railway grade to a road and hiked another few hours, I rediscovered the Appalachian Trail crossing.

mountain-727449_1280A long, tough, hot climb — already exhausted — I fell into the campsite nearly at sunset and had just enough energy to pitch my tent before a late summer storm deluged me with thunder, lightning, and plenty of warm rain.

Later, after the storm blew itself out, I calculated my day. I should have ended up backpacking only nine miles. I had completed…twenty-two! It was the longest day of backpacking I had ever undertaken. Unintentionally, of course.

Simple lesson learned through misery: always keep your head up! Never assume you won’t require a compass check. And don’t assume that walking such a well-blazed trail as the A.T. means you can’t get lost!
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Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Decision making, Goals, Hiking, lost, Outdoor skills, outdoors, risk

Appalachian Trail Lessons: Of reading, planning, and logistics

A pathway into the wilderness.


It began with Ed Garvey’s book “Appalachian Hiker II,” which I discovered at a backpacking outfitter.  I read it to enjoy a first-person account of walking the legendary footpath which runs from Georgia to Maine.  I didn’t realize I would find myself tracing Ed’s footsteps just over a year later.

Finishing my read, I considered what sort of preparation it must take to complete  the 2,000-mile trip.  Curious to find out, I purchased one in a series of Appalachian Trail Conference guidebooks.  The “North Carolina/Tennessee” guide came with colorful but serious topographic maps.  The chapters showed mileage, road crossings, resupply info, reliable water sources, local history, as well as the flora and fauna a hiker might expect to see.  This was intensive logistical and planning material!  I was amazed by the necessity of planning and preparation required of anyone heading out to hike.  Walking the Appalachian Trail would not be a matter of simply shouldering a pack and hitching a ride to the trailhead.  A successful hike meant planning and answering a lot of questions:

  • how much money would it take to hike the entire Trail?
  • how far could one expect to hike in a given day?
  • what sort of food would a hiker need to eat to sustain their energy?
  • what physical preparation was required?
  • what risks/dangers were involved?
  • what if it rains? snows?
  • how much weight could a hiker carry?
  • how big should a pack be?

The list of considerations seemed endless, and overwhelming at times.  Priorities would need to be set.  Decisions weighed.  As if on autopilot, I found myself awash in the details involved in making preparations, which was where my own personal journey on the A.T. began.

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Filed under A.T., Achievements, Anxiety, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Backpacking, Climbing, Competitiveness, Consequences, Courage, Decision making, Earl Shaffer, Fear of falling, Fear of heights, Foot travel, Goals, Hiking, Life changes, Living, The Appalachian Trail

Factoring in fear

3617957829_ecd0b3916f_bIt seemed like a bit of retro viewing when I noticed “Fear Factor” was back on television.  Contestants competed for money by escaping from cars submerged in water, diving into gallons of cow blood for cow hearts (you heard right!), and engaging in an Indian-Jones-like stunt involving a bus, helicopter, and boat in an attempt to “blow up” a floating barge.

Clearly, fear may not have been a factor for winning contestants, but the point that reality shows dealing with fear are still prime-time viewing choices.

Juxtapose that with the previous post and story about endurance athlete Gerry Duffy, certainly a man who overcame resistance and fear.  I found the piece to be challenging and inspiring and intimidating all at once.  I also wanted to become Gerry Duffy, and to achieve what he has.  And, having finished the piece I came to two conclusions:  I did, and I can.

First, on the next section, let’s deal with the “I did” part, the lessons I learned from it, and where I am with the entire fear issue right now.


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Filed under Achievements, Anxiety, Apprehension, Camp, Climbing, Climbing tower, Competitiveness, Consequences, Courage, Decision making, Fear of falling, Fear of heights, Goals, Life changes, Living, Outdoor safety, Outdoor skills, Outdoor sports, Rope climbing, Timothy J. Hodges