Why I No Longer Want to Hike the Appalachian Trail
One of my favorite things to do during my summers is read as many books as I can get my hands on. I absolutely love reading books that allow me to dream, make me think, or lead me down a path to bettering myself. At the end of the summer, I will put together a blog with all the books I read this summer, including reviews, but there was one book I couldn't wait until the end of the summer to share.
The 2nd book I read this summer was called "A Walk In The Woods" by Bill Bryson. This book is a true story about a middle-aged man who decided to walk the Appalachian trail on a whim. He had a less-than-ideal hiking partner which made the story even more interesting and hilarious. I found myself laughing and smiling the entire way through the book.
Hiking a long trail like the Appalachian trail has been something I have always longed to do. I have listened to countless podcasts of people talking about their experiences. I have searched hashtags on instagram just to see photos of those that are making the trek. And even watched movies that included stories of people who were through hikers. All of these things had kept building up my desire to do a through hike of my own. And it continually made me feel like my small 1-hour hikes at home just weren't enough; that I should be doing more.
So I picked up this book as just another resource and account of something I so desired to do. However something unexpected happened and it actually changed me in a way that I didn't imagine.
The story started as expected with Bill preparing for the trip by purchasing appropriate gear, reading up on safety concerns, and gathering necessary food - all things I so wanted to plan and be a part of! But as the hike starts out, and the pair goes on about their way, Bill recounts an extremely honest view of what it actually means to through hike the Appalachian trail. And as I continued to read page after page I realized what I had been doing recently was romanticizing the IDEA of hiking the A.T.
Up to this point, I had only been reading and listening to things that made this type of long hike seem like the only way to feel as if I was doing something epic enough. The honesty in his book changed how I viewed the Appalachian trail and actually made me realize this isn't what I have really been searching for all this time. He recounted the way this amount of hiking affected your feet and the rest of your body. He discussed the types of people (both good and bad) he met along the way. He discussed the food, the feeling of having all that weight on your back, the desire to sleep in a regular bed or take a shower and what amenities and facilities are available along the trial, etc. All of these things that are often glamorized in much of the media I had been consuming up to this point. All of these things that many will lead you to believe are what made a "bad ass" hiker. And I believed them too - that was my first mistake.
<spoiler alert> Eventually the book goes on and the pair decide to stop hiking the A.T. for various reasons and instead Bill does smaller chunks on his own (a simple overnight, or just day trips), going home intermittently, which ended up making his experience much more joyful for him in the end.
What this book has made me realize is that meaningful experiences can come in 1-hour hikes just 30 minutes from home. I do not have to find 6 months of time where I have nothing going on (LOL), save all my money, and fly across the United States to have an incredible experience. Longer does not equal better. (read that again if you have to) Finding joy and happiness in the beauty that is right here surrounding me on the east side of South Dakota is ENOUGH. What I am currently doing to enjoy the outdoors is ENOUGH. I don't have to do more, or be more, in order to get what my soul desires each time I head out on a hike near home.
This book has given me the permission - that I didn't really even need - to find joy in even the simplest of walks around my neighborhood, because being outside is really what matters most. Connecting with nature, being alone with my thoughts, that is what I am actually searching for. And I can continue to do that just by simply stepping out my front door.
I want to encourage you to do the same. Walk around the block, head down the bike path, or to the nearest state park - anything that you can get to in the time frame you have available. Not sure where to go? I love using the All Trails app on my phone to find hiking trails near me, wherever I am.
Are you someone who desires to get out and hike but just aren't sure how to get started? Or do you want to go hiking, but just don't want to go alone? I'd love to help or be your hiking partner! Please reach out and let's adventure together!