Why would I do such a thing?

My name is Carey Belcher, I am 37 years old, and I am planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012.  The AT runs from Georgia to Maine and is nearly 2200 miles long.  It takes an average of six months to complete.  I have spent all of 2011 researching, reading and dreaming about this journey, and now I’ve taken some definite actions to make it a reality, so it seems a good time to start my journal.  I plan to hike for charity, to raise money for the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Guardian Angel Program, in honor of Rhubarb, a dog who could not walk but that program gave him a chance and found him the perfect home.  Obviously, I planned to hike for my own reasons in the first place, and I have nurtured this little seed of a dream for almost 10 years since I read Bill Bryson’s funny account of his thru-hike attempt, “A Walk in the Woods.”  It wasn’t until I read “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” and then “Becoming Odyssa” and “The Barefoot Sisters Southbound” that I became truly obsessed with doing it myself.

When people ask my reasons for wanting to do this hike, I don’t know what to say.  It’s complicated and simple.  I am a nomad at heart, having moved and lived all over the United States.  The last six years I spent in one place, in the same job, are the longest I’ve been in one place.  It runs in my family as well, with my grandparents also moving regularly and my Mormon pioneer ancestors who immigrated to America and then pulled handcarts across the country.  I won’t have to work as hard as they did, but I will have to work hard to complete this intended journey before winter shuts me down.  That is a challenge and I’m excited to meet it.  I see this hike as a chance to reconnect with nature, and also as a 6 month photo shoot (a hobby I am passionate about).  I think of it as an adventure and also a time-out from the intensity of modern life and politics, though I will bring my Smartphone to keep in touch (sorry, I can’t go cold turkey).  I need a change in my life, to refresh and reset my perspective.  I want to give up most of my possessions in order to really understand and appreciate how little I truly need to survive and even thrive.  I want to test myself and see how tough I am.  I want to see if I can do it.  I want to get in shape and move my body and see new sights and have special moments.  I want solitude and I want to meet the other misfits like myself, who don’t really fit into the modern world very well.  I want to learn more about myself and what I’m capable of.  I want to make memories that will last my whole life.  I can't think about anything else.  That's the biggest reason why.  I just can't get it out of my head.  I have to go and I don't know why.  Maybe I'll find out while I'm out there.

I have stalked whiteblaze.net and I have been very lucky to get connected with several people who have already thru-hiked the AT.  Footnote, The Good Badger, The Dusty Camel and Jackie and all the fine staff at REI in SLC, Utah have been incredibly helpful in different ways.  Footnote asked me some very astute and revealing questions like “Have you ever slept alone in the wilderness?”  Ummmm, no.  “What is your longest backpacking trip?”  Two days, one night.  “What is the greatest distance you’ve traveled with a fully loaded backpack?”  Sixteen miles.    Those were pretty obvious questions, but I had never thought of them before.  The Dusty Camel actually emailed me while they were hiking the PCT (I still can’t believe that!) to talk about gear, and they helped me set up this online journal and find discounted gear.  The Good Badger inspired me as I read his trail journal and then I coincidentally hiked my first miles on the AT when I climbed Mount Katahdin on the day he completed his thru-hike on Katahdin.

I have already had amazing support and help and I haven’t even started my hike yet.  I know that the better prepared I am before I go, the better my chances of completing my thru-hike, and I’m truly loving the research phase.  I am about to make some gear purchases and I’ll write about that process on my next entry.  Happy Trails!