As the leaves begin to change and gradually fall from the trees, with each passing day there’s a little piece of me that is also slowly changing. As I sit on the soft pine needles that carpet the trail, I listen to the wind gently blowing through the trees. I feel at peace watching the birds, busy at work foraging for that last bit of summer’s bounty, and observing the squirrels gathering the acorns & walnuts that have fallen from the trees, I feel different. As I breathe in the fresh crisp coolness of the fall air and notice that the flowers have now all faded away, and the once lush green blanket carpet of the forest has begun to retreat for a winter’s rest, I feel a change in me. I sit with a calm nervousness, excitement, curiosity, and peacefulness while taking in all of the rays and warmth of the sun as it shows itself through the thinning canopy. I feel content. As I sit, I ponder, if this grand adventure of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail will be everything that I’ve been building it up in my mind to be? Will it satisfy my wanderlust, will I find peace, will I find my purpose, will I find more? And I feel alive.
My trip planning, for the most part, is complete. Calendars and schedules have been cleared, logistical plans and lodging have been finalized to arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park, GA on March 21st. My return date home at this time, unknown. I will depart NOBO on the A.T. from the Springer Mountain Trailhead and plan to forgo the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park so my wife can be there with me as I take step one of the white-blazed path. The date will be 3-22, which ironically is two of my lucky numbers, as my wife pointed out. A sign? It seems fitting for these numbers to appear since I had chosen these two numbers as a kid, unknowing at the time the powerful message they would reveal. The number 3 represents your past, present, and future. If something from your past is steering your present, it’s time to take control to create a better future for yourself. A message that I’m now open to receive, to unlearn what I’ve learned. The number 3 also has the power of kindness, joy, creativity, and imagination while representing inspiration, creation, of manifestation to seek personal growth by connecting a link of your body, mind, and spirit, to delicately align with spirit energy. 22, simply put, is linked with all-powerful energy in changing huge dreams and desires into realities. Need I say more?
I’ve now registered my starting details with the A.T.C. – Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which collects the unofficial, official thru hiker stats. The. A.T.C., and its numerous volunteers and clubs, from end to end, have been preserving the A.T.’s heritage since 1921. Without these trail angels, this journey wouldn’t even be possible today or for future hikers. The voluntary registration includes my direction, start date, start location, and at a minimum, the first 3 camping areas that I intend to stay in order to help others to plan accordingly and prevent overcrowding of the trail in the beginning. For voluntarily registering my hike, I will receive an official starting hiker number and super cool Thru-hiker identification bag tag when I arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park. There will be additional checkpoints along the trail to Katahdin were my hiker number will change, as hikers willingly and unwillingly leave the trail.
Many accomplished thru-hikers will say that thru-hiking the Appalachian trail is 80% mental and 20% physical. Am I ready? I know I’m ready, but yet there is a tiny wee bit of underlying fear, nervous of the unknown that still awaits my first step. However, this feeling is unlike any fear that I’ve felt in a long time. It’s more like butterflies, and these butterflies will not stop me from showing up, nor will they cloud my thoughts, or add a “Bull Shit Story” to my life. As an amateur marathoner and triathlete in my 40’s, I was always nervous with excitement on race day, but the “what-ifs” and “should-haves” never stopped me before when that gun went off. I’m ready. I will, and I can, harness this uneasy energy and craft it into the positive motivation that I will need as I move forward in my journey and head toward my final destination of Mt. Katahdin.
As I watch the colorful fall leaves drift softly and slowly to the ground, giving way to the changing of the seasons, I’m growing more at peace with myself, I’m changing. The journey doesn’t start on 3-22, it has already begun, and with each passing day, the excitement for the trail is growing. I can feel it, I can smell it, I can touch it, and I for damn sure can taste it…as I wiped the tears of joy from my eyes, I rose up with a huge smile and a warm heart and soul; I hiked on. Be_again.