Why thru-hike the National Trails System?
To honor the 50th year of our National Scenic Trails System, I am planning a 20,000-mile, 2.5-year thru-hike, connecting an otherwise fragmented system. It's a massive idea, and I am going to attempt it in my own unique style. I don't even know if I can do this hike, but I'm damn sure going to try.
But why attempt such an unforgiving task? In short, I fell in love with walking.
In the summer of 2014, I had completed the wildest journey of my life thus far: a thru-hike along the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail. It challenged me in ways I never expected, and over my 53-day journey I felt a new sense of peace, clarity, and belonging in the world.
With backpacking role models such as Justin Lichter (who has over 40,000 miles of hiking underfoot and recently completed a winter traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail) and Andrew Skurka (who claimed such thru-hiking firsts as the 7,800-mile Sea-to-Sea Route and 6,875-mile Great Western Loop), the immensity of my dreams surprised me. It was clear that the next big thing in backpacking was going to be a colossal undertaking. I wanted a piece of what these brave individuals accomplished: to add my own journey to the backpacking story.
Thus, a vision of hiking the National Trails System in its entirety came into view. Currently our National Trails System is a fragmented patchwork of long trails that lacks the continuity originally envisioned in the National Trails System Act of 1968. Such visionaries as Ron Strickland (Sea-to-Sea Route conceptualist and creator of the Pacific Northwest Trail) have dreamed of a connected system, and I intend to further advance the realization of a truly unified trails system with a continuous walk connecting these links.
The idea is to connect the National Trails System in one continuous thru-hike: a 20,000-mile, two-and-a-half year journey on foot. Furthermore, I intend to begin my hike in January of 2018 to honor the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act.
I am chasing my dream, for I believe if I do not at least attempt to, I will regret it for the rest of my life.
Some questions race through my head daily, and repetitively . . .
· Will I still have the desire to continue hiking after the first 6 months? 12 months? 24 months?
· Can my body physically stand up to the task?
· Can I endure the mental hardships of hiking through two winters on top of all the rest?
· Can I maintain a healthy and sustainable diet along the trail?
· How will I fit into society after the hike?
· Will the climate’s changing weather patterns prevent me from completing the hike?
Although the list is long, prodding, and ever growing, I remain resolved to attempt to complete the hike. I refuse to defer my dream, continuing onward as long as I am able.
In contrast to the feed of negative thoughts, I have had as many, if not more, with positive intent. For this reason, I believe I will be able to overcome the hardships that lie ahead. A few of these thoughts are as such:
· I wish to do something great that has the power to inspire.
· Human powered transportation is pure and free; long-distance hiking is an extraordinary way to experience America’s wild places.
· I know not what will become of these beautiful lands in the future and wish to see their beauty before it is changed forever.
· This journey will allow me to capture America’s beauty as it currently is, and share its wonders with people from around the world.
· Being outdoors for long periods of time gives me a sense of freedom and inner peace. I feel at home in the natural world.
· The efforts of pioneering individuals are what influence others to overcome hardships and become their best self. More rewarding than achieving my dream would be influencing others to achieve theirs.