Longitudes on the Appalachian Trail

I guess it was a matter of time.

Last Sunday evening I was cozied up to the fire pit in our backyard, enjoying a cold Yuengling and warming myself with one of the best conflagrations I’ve ever fashioned.  As often happens when the flames are dancing and wood smoke caresses my olfactory receptors, my mind drifted to the trail.

“How nice it would be to be transported to the mountains right now,” I thought.

Well, one musing led to another.  I thought about how Lynn and I had flight credits with Delta, accrued from somewhere back in the early COVID days, and which we would soon lose unless we used them.  Then about how I’ve been unemployed since last summer (with a couple disconcerting stabs at galley-slave work).  And about how, based on our recent discussion with our financial adviser Mandy, I could probably join Lynn in retirement or semi-retirement if I really want to.  And about how I feel fully healthy right now—lower back stiffness notwithstanding.

I realized I’m tired of chirpy recruiters asking me “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and managers telling me “Pete, you’re driving the bus on this project,” when I’d rather be puffing a Romeo y Julieta cigar under a full moon in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The only perceivable obstacle might be Lynn.  But when I proffered my idea to her, I was flabbergasted when she replied “You should!  It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, and right now is the perfect time!” (Her response has a lot to do with our daughter’s family moving only a few miles away, so she now has a support system while I abandon her for five or six months.)  Thanks, dear!

So—after multiple section hikes over the last eight years—I decided to finally thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

If you’ve read my memoir Evergreen Dreaming, you know a little about the A.T. and its colorful subculture of thru-hikers: those who walk the entire 2,189 miles between Maine and Georgia.  And about how I marvel at this feat, while telling myself “No way could I ever do that!”  Supposedly only twenty percent of those who start a thru-hike ever finishes.

It remains to be seen how successful I am at this nutty endeavor.  But you’ll never realize your potential until you try.

My launch date from Amicalola State Park in northern Georgia is May 2, so I have time to prepare.  A new tent, cookstove, extra pair of boots, and rain poncho will be necessary.  Guess I’ll have to join the 21st century and get one of them thar fancy filtration devices instead of using iodine pills for my water.  Need to decide on some good books for headlamp reading in my tent.  For starters, I’m thinking of Walden and War and Peace.

Until May 2 I’ll be updating you loyal readers with how I’m progressing.  After that, there will be only brief computer activity, since I’m carrying a flip-phone and will be jumping online only during occasional motel respites.

Since this is kind of a marathon endeavor, I thought I’d try to raise some funds for a good cause.  The organization I chose is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  I’m aiming to raise a buck for every mile of the trail…$2,189 total.  If you’d like to help out, please visit my Facebook fundraising page by clicking here.

A hundred percent of your donations go to this organization, which uses its funds to help survivors of suicide loss and for mental health and suicide prevention policies.  I realize COVID-era is a difficult time to ask people for money.  But whether it’s $5 or $500 (and whether or not my thru-hike stunt is successful), your generosity will not go unrecognized.

Finally, anyone who wants to swing by to say hello, or even hike a few miles with me, is more than welcome to.  I enjoy peace and solitude, but it can get terribly lonely out there.  As launch date approaches I’ll give more details concerning my estimated whereabouts and contact info.

Thor Heyerdahl, John Muir, Roald Amundsen, Meriwether Lewis…here I come!

28 thoughts on “Longitudes on the Appalachian Trail

  1. After reading Black Jacknife, I wouldn’t attempt this without my trusty Sig Sauer P365. I will definitely try to meet up with you somewhere on the line, perhaps in southern PA.

    • It’s a plan, Tad. Yeah, my brother Steve told me I need to let Montaigne know my plans, just in case. I plan to revisit The Hollow when I get to Addis Gap. Should be weird! (And thanks again for your generous donation to AFSP.)

    • Hi Leah…I think I’m all written out when it comes to hiking, but you never know. Will try to have fun, but I’m sure I’ll be “pitching a few hissies,” especially when it rains.

  2. Pete this is most definitely fantastic! ‘Way excited for your dream come true hike and will support this super-effort through the noble and charitable cause stated. I’d love to meet up with you in the G Wash. Nat. Forest up on McAfee Knob! Maybe when you get it planned out a bit, please share a rough possible timing on such a meeting. Woo Hoo! Go forth and walk in the woods mon…

  3. Oh, this makes me so happy! Plan well and may this dream come true for you. I don’t like to add my own shit, but my marathon dreams were crushed this week with a stress fracture. BUT, reading this post really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Stay safe and be well, Pete.

  4. Attaboy Peter! “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than those that you did. So throw off the bowline. Haul in the anchor. Leave the harbor. Sail. Dream. Discover!” ~~Mark Twain

    • Twain is always good for a spot-on quote, so I will keep these sage words in mind when I’m plodding through those inevitable rainstorms, Phil. And again, Thank You so much for contributing to AFSP!

  5. Pick a place somewhere on the southern AT and I’ll pick you up for a trip into town. , a good meal, and some lie trading. I’ll be offended if you don’t take me up on this!

    • It’s a deal, David. I think you live in NC, so maybe there or TN? Best place will probably be after a long stretch without a trail town, so I’ll let you name the specifics. Thanks much!

  6. You are the man. Some people talk and others do the do. I am going to be tagging along with you and feeling part of from here. Hats off fella. Enjoy every second of this adventure. Nothing but admiration from me.

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