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By a troubled man who learned to be the writer of his own story in the Appalachian Mountains.
What could make a semi-neurotic wannabe author with big dreams and big self-esteem issues want to travel the Appalachian countryside? A deal with his best friend, of course.
I hiked the Appalachian Trail mostly because I shook on it, as much as I doubted I would be able to. Of course, some part of me must have wanted to prove I could, or I never would have stuck with it. Maybe a documentary and the idea of one last blow out before we had to grow up gave me reason to start the walk, but I had to dig deeper than that to finish what so many have tried. I had to dig deeper than I ever have before, and I ended up doing a whole lot more growing up than I did escaping it.
I wanted to do it to change me, to fix me. I've always had body issues, and learning to believe I can achieve my dreams is something I struggle with every day. To make myself better, I had to take a hard look at myself and admit the things I'd built my life around were things I was afraid of. Never pursuing my seemingly impossible dream. Living with the scars of bullying.
A lot can go wrong when two post-grads decide to hoof it in the mountains for five months. Trees fall on hammocks. Feet fall entirely to pieces. Unexpected swims pop up with every missed step. But so, too can dark memories full of hate burn away by the light of a fire. You can fight until your body gives out, and then fight some more with the help of high doses of painkillers. Simple appliances like a shower or washing machine become mystic artifacts of a life you no longer recognize. Lifelong friends can appear in the least expected ways and places.
I tried thru hiking the Appalachian Trail because I thought doing something great would make me great. What I found was that things are never that simple. The near 2200 mile road to change only showed me that there is no decisive change in life. Its too long to be defined by one accomplishment. Our every day choices make us who we are, and I'm still figuring out who that is.
Check out pictures from the Appalachian Trail
When my friends and I completed the Appalachian Trail, it extended 2189.2 miles from Mt. Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia over forested mountains, across rivers, and through swamps. The Trail changes a little year to year, but it never fails to attract a fair crowd of daring adventurers eager to take on one of nature's greatest challenges. It was never like that for me. I just wanted to see if I was capable of doing something so big.