Morgan and I both currently work for a local outdoors store in Birmingham, Alabama. I am the store manager for one of our locations and Morgan works in the ecommerce department. We spend 40-50 a week around outdoor gear, apparel, and people.
When we are not exploring the big outdoors, we spend our lives selling others the gear and clothing they need to enjoy the big outdoors.
Yet, a flickering thought haunts my mind when I try to sleep at night: are we even capable of finishing the Appalachian Trail?
Statistically speaking, the odds are not in our favor…or anybody’s for that matter! According to the ATC, only 25% of folks that start a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail actually finish. Due to injuries, lack of mental and/or physical preparation, or simply running out of money, many that zealously pursue an AT thru-hike cannot finish it. This is not to say, however, that finishing your thru-hike is the end goal of existence, but stopping short for preventable reasons must be disheartening.
To conflate the issue, we have never even attempted a thru-hike as individuals or as a couple. We have no clue what a thru-hike entails beyond reading blogs.
The question at hand, then, is what makes Morgan and I so confident in our ability to not only embark on our thru-hike, but to join the 25% and actually hike the whole darn thing? I think I have three realistic reasons why we will finish the AT:
Mere knowledge of outdoor gear and apparel does not qualify somebody as ‘trail ready.’ In fact, you could know absolutely everything there is to know about proper layering, different types of Gore-Tex, how to cut grams off of your base-weight, and still have absolutely no idea what a thru-hike entails. How could anybody know what thru-hiking is like before actually thru-hiking?
Nonetheless, having more experience in the backcountry must better equip you for a thru-hike than having zero experience. After all, people don’t come out of the womb as thru-hikers; they must become thru-hikers via lived experience. And Morgan and I do have some of this so-called “lived experience.”
As mentioned, we both have jobs that require extensive knowledge on the subject of backpacking and hiking. In the summer of 2014, I was a backpacking guide out in Durango, Colorado. This job taught me numerous skills: Wilderness First Aid, planning and guiding multi-day backpacking trips for large groups, gear maintenance (I cannot begin to tell you the number of MSR WhisperLites I have completely disassembled and reassembled), foraging, tying knots, and the list goes on. While thru-hiking remains a different monster than guiding first-timers in the Colorado mountains, I believe this experience will help us in more ways we can know. Additionally, we are spending January of 2017 training and taking shake-down trips before officially embarking on our thru-hike in February. All of this leads me to assume that our past experience will serve as adequate preparation for our thru-hike.
But, we need more than experience and knowledge to finish the AT.
If you know Morgan and I in any capacity, you may notice that we are somewhat recklessly, hopelessly, and dramatically overcommitted to our hobbies and passions. Morgan spends countless hours in the art studio perfecting her ceramics. Often times, she will throw dozens of objects only to destroy them because they were “not up to her standards.” In a similar way, I worked tirelessly in college attempting to write the perfect papers. Page requirements were never an issue for my long winded fingers (page limits, contrarily, are the bane of my existence)! Our over commitment to our passions has me convinced that completing the AT will soon move from a potential dream to an actuality.
Above all else, the main reason why I know we will actually complete the entirety of the Appalachian Trail is because of all of the incredible people supporting our trip (aka YOU!).
Firstly, our families have offered so much love and encouragement in our adventures. They will be the ones that keep us going through words of encouragement, coming and slack-packing for us, or sending us mail drops. They are our backbones.
We also have our sponsors hooking us up with gear, advice, social media support, and super fun phone calls. Companies like Big Outdoors, Grab the Gold, Hydrapak, Alabama Outdoors, and others are fueling our trip in so many tangible ways it is hard to not have success! Our sponsors are our feet, arms, and legs.
And then we have our heart: all of our fans, followers, and readers. These are the anonymous strangers liking our photos, readings our blog posts, retweeting out tweets, buying our mugs and t-shirts, donating to our GoFundMe, and liking our Facebook posts. There are so many people that we know and do not know that are standing with us and cheering us on. With a support system like the one we have been given, we are utterly confident in our ability to hike the whole distance.
Thanks for reading and thank you for supporting our adventure!