My enchantment with the Appalachian Mountains began at a young age. As a child, I lived in middle Tennessee but my father’s family was from East Tennessee in an area around Lafollette. I think it is in my DNA to be drawn to the Appalachian Trail.
My first “aha moment” came in the 1980s when I saw a picture of the Appalachian Trail on a TV news program. I thought to myself at the time that it would be a great experience to do a thru-hike (thru-hiking is hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end). The AT usually takes 4 to 6 months to complete. During my career, I really didn’t have that kind time to take all at once.
The siren song of the AT lay dormant in the back of my mind for many years. Even after I retired I was busy for the first 10 years and didn’t have the time. In 2014, I mustered up enough courage to suggest to my wife that I might possibly do a thru-hike on the AT. I told her I thought it would be a “neat thing” to do (obviously that thought only existed in my mind.)
The very first thing that she wanted to know is “who’s going with you?” I proceeded to explain to her that it would be a “solo hike.” That is when she proceeded to explain to me that wasn’t such a good idea. 🙂 However, she did say “if you can get someone to go with you, you will have my blessing.” (I believe that she was quite sure I would be unable to find anyone crazy enough to do something like this and that would be the end of the story.) True to my nature, I didn’t let that deter me and proceeded to search for a hiking partner. I first approached a running buddy of mine who is getting close to retirement. Even though he has hiked portions of the AT, his wife didn’t think much of the idea and so my AT hike looked like it was over before I even took one step on the trail.
After the disappointing discussion with my buddy about hiking the trail, I was back to square one. Several months later while visiting with my wife’s cousin, Tim, and other family members, I told them of my desire to hike the AT. Tim and I began discussing the concept of a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail and what that would look like. Out of the blue (and much to my delight), Tim said that he “might” be interested in a hike after he retired in February 2016.
Tim and I share a love of marathon running and have both been sidelined after years of competing and feeling the thrill of the race. As we talked I felt a kinship of spirit and a compatibility that we may just be matched to walk in the woods together.
After our discussion last summer, time passed. I thought reality probably set in and he was not interested in the 2,176-mile journey after all. Another dead-end. Even now I get excited thinking back to the day last September when he called and said: “I’m in.”
l was excited although l wasn’t sure about my wife. But she has been very supportive beyond my expectations. As the plan came together and spring and summer 2016 looked like “a go”, it has become apparent that I will be hiking and gone from home on our 25th wedding anniversary. She said to me, “I don’t think I can give you a better anniversary present than to say, “go, be safe and God Bless.”
Let the journey begin, one step at a time!