Something amazing has happened.

I have been contemplating a very big adventure: thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). The other day, I approached my boss about it – and he was supportive, and told me I could have my job back when I return. He reached out to HR to see what they could do about leave and (potentially) insurance, or if I need to buy my own temporarily, or get on my parent’s. I am not hiking the AT without health insurance!

For some people, the AT is totally foreign. So let me fill you in:

ATThe AT is a National Scenic Trail maintained by lots of volunteer organizations as well as the National Park Service. It is 2,184 miles long, spanning from Georgia to Maine. The end points are Springer Mountain (south) and Mount Katahdin (north). Most people do the hike northbound, but some people do southbound, or flip-flop halfway through. Typically, hikers plan on being on the Trail for 6 months. That would put you at about 12 miles per day, but many people get their “hiking legs” and start working past that in the first month of hiking.

Why are you doing this?

If you don’t enjoy hiking in general, there’s no way I could convey what this adventure means to me. There is something magical about being in nature, in the woods. With this big adventure happening next year, it’s beyond that. It’s taking a closer look at the things both inside and outside yourself. The way the trees sway, the way your thoughts melt, moving, swirling, taking things in. The beauty of a rock formation. The views. Seeing that shelter at the end of a long day.

For years – probably since I first saw a thru-hiker walking down the street my house was on – I have thought about what it would be like to hike the whole AT. In my senior year of college, I hiked the Maryland section with some friends. It wasn’t really a big dream, just something that would be neat to do. Now I’m truly considering it. With inspiration from friends of mine who hiked it, and recently completing “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail,”  it’s been digging into me more and more. There is a whole lot to consider – budget, job, planning, 5-6 months in the relative middle of nowhere, etc. – and I am considering it all. I must be nuts, right? I know – but so do you. But this is such a good time to do it – single, young, excited. I figured, once the idea really started bugging me, that I either needed to embrace it fully or let it go. But I also know me well enough that there is no way I’d let it go, now that it’s there. But it’s a huge change, a huge undertaking. It’s on my mind now, specifically, because it will likely be next year – most thru-hikers start sometime in early March or April.Sunrise on the AT

What now?

In what I like to think of as a fairly bold stroke, last week I spontaneously decided to talk to my boss about doing this crazy thing called thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. While I had to correct him on the time it takes (“Yeah, two weeks, right?”), by genius, pure luck, or persuasive powers I should use more often, he supported me and told me I could go back there when I finished. Whoa. Now, as time goes on, I’d like to get this in writing and signed, but his permission at all is pretty amazing. So, now I plan. I buy maps, I plan the miles for each day, plan on which towns I will stop at, where to mail food, and how much I’ll eat for several days. I will test out and buy a bunch of gear. Go on hikes, get used to my pack and boots, purifying water, making food and packing up quickly in the mornings to get going.