Many people have asked me why I wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. And why, once I was out there, I wanted to see it through despite lots of lousy weather, rough terrain, and loss of family and friends for six months. For me, the main reason was the "sense of adventure."
This "sense of adventure" is how I lead off with my The Trail's protagonist. Just as Karl Bergman felt in the novel, I had that sense of adventure when I stepped off in Georgia to begin my thru-hike to Maine. Perhaps you've felt the same way when you first moved away to college, or joined the military, or flew off to a brand new career. For me, those moments are palpable and they don't happen in life often enough.
There were times when I had a bad day out on the trail, and I couldn't find my hiking rhythm. And there were days of torrential rains when I was completely soaked from sweat and rain that seeped into ventilated areas. During those times, it was the accumulation of miles that motivated me. It was always a good feeling to add up my miles at the end of a hiking day and arrive at a new total.
I found that those fellow-hikers who complained the most were the ones who eventually left the trail. I also met several hikers who were tentative about finishing. For some younger ones, it might be the lack of funds; for others, it could have been a lack of confidence. It may sound arrogant, but I always knew I would finish. I enjoyed my time out on the trail. The sense of adventure into new areas stayed with me, and the more miles I accumulated, the more determined I became to finish.
I'd love to be able to thru-hike the A.T. again. Alas, fond memories are the next best thing.