Road to the Appalachian Trail

Mar 22nd, 2016 in Adventure

Tomorrow, I leave for the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile hiking journey through the Appalachian mountains. The meandering route starts in Georgia and culminates in Maine, at Mount Katahdin. Much of this land I haven’t been to before and overall, it’s a grand adventure to be had for those seeking a natural endurance challenge to both body and mind. I’m pretty thrilled to be embarking on such a unique experience. Let me elaborate further below on the hows and whys.

I’m on this quest because I’ve been struck with a thirst for exploration in my life that New York City alone hasn’t been able to quench; the AT fell into my lap as my resolution to that. It is a concrete, mostly-linear goal with a general set of rules: Follow the white blazes up, down and all around, plan your strategy (shelter, gear and resupplies) to enable that, and don’t be an asshole to the environment in the process (Leave No Trace). I’m someone with little backpacking and camping experience who is planning on learning much of it as I go, and the AT intersects with civilization regularly, often offering opportunities to fix issues and enjoy the comforts of civilization. And yes, I read A Walk in the Woods.

Should this trip be wildly successful, I may pursue similar ventures in the future, possibly with a stronger bend towards photography. This journey is one of personal exploration for me in where I want my life to go; if I want to stay in NYC and continue the path of contract web development that has proved lucrative and creatively stimulating. Perhaps, there will be an awakening or a serendipitous crossing that will pull me elsewhere. If not, I’m happy to return here. I won’t know for sure though if I don’t try and radically push myself.

To enable my freedom to tackle the AT, I’ve spent much of my twenties paying down my once-egregious student loans to a palatable monthly sum and, in the past year as my focus narrowed, downsizing and removing much of the material permanence from my life. I have lived leaseless in a furnished sublet in Queens for the past six months while I amassed a ransom in lightweight hiking gear to enable living out of a pack. Eventually, I’ll make a post justifying all my purchases, but at this point it’s looking like it will be for the trip’s debriefing.

When I think about the wanderlust that’s struck me and brought me to this point, I reach to an unorthodox place to explain it; World of Warcraft. I played the game obsessively in its heyday (I don’t recommend it now, justifying that digression is a separate article), and was fascinated by the colorful, breathing world that Blizzard created. I didn’t have the means or desire to travel much, but that virtual experience left its impression in me as I found my confidence in the real world.

In terms of the confidence to take on a daunting goal like the AT, I’ve pushed my endurance multiple times. My list of accomplishments includes two NYC marathons, a quest for the ultimate weapon in WoW that involved playing it as a fulltime job, and depending on your sense of humor, Catholic high school. My last bit of preparation involved a difficult overnight hike on the AT alone. Physically, I’m ready. Mentally, I’m ready. To the AT, I say, “Bring it on!”.

While I will be updating periodically here, I recommend following my Instagram, and Snapchat (+harrisonfm) for more frequent content. The photograph is from Harriman State Park along the AT in New York on a practice hike.