For the vast majority of outdoor enthusiasts, the idea of through-hiking the Appalachian Trail is just that, an idea; something to think about abstractly on long winter nights or talk about after a beer or two with friends. Ultimately, most of us find the idea of 2,200 miles and six months of our lives (not to mention 100+ miles of elevation change) too strong a deterrent to consider actually doing anything about it. Last night, however, I sat in a room at REI-Charlotte with 30 other people, among whom — I strongly suspect — I was the only one who either hadn’t already hiked some significant portion of the Appalachian Trail or who wasn’t seriously considering doing so.
Truth be told, I have hiked a very small section of the AT near the Nantahala Outdoor Center in western North Carolina; by my calculations about .13% of the total distance. And last spring, I hiked more than 300 miles in various locations over a 3 month period preparing for the 28-miles-in-one-day CureSearch Ultimate Hike. That brief glimpse into endurance trekking brought me to an understanding about just how difficult it really is… and how poorly suited I am for it. While I found the physical rigors challenging, it was the mental aspect of hiking mile after mile after mile that wore on me the most, and that is why I attended the REI event. Continue reading