Want to document and share your hike with friends and family?
Quick updates: I took a week for myself to visit with friends, relax, and get used to my new reality. I was doing great on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday of last week some restless anxiety started to hit me. Up until that point it simply felt like a long weekend. I need to develop a new routine to add some structure to my days. I feel adrift as I wait for the start of my hike at the end of the month. If I had to do it over again I think two weeks off would be plenty instead of four. Thankfully, working out with my pack has been an excellent way to stay focused while ensuring I shower and put on real clothes every day.
In my introduction, I mentioned I was going to lay out how I got from day dreaming to actually making this hike happen. I am going to break it down into five big categories (Foundation, Budget, Big Details, Final Steps, Gear). I will approach this from the mindset that you are planning to hike in 5 to 10 years, but hopefully this will be useful for all time tables. The first major category is what I call 'Laying the foundation'.
Note: If you are only here to see my actual hike, that will begin at the end of the March and you can ignore/skip ahead until then.
1) Hiking as a hobby:
At some point you need to figure out if you like the 'idea' of hiking or the actual 'activity'. You might as well sort it out now while still early in the process. Grab a small backpack, pack a lunch and a bottle of water, toss in a flashlight just in case, and then find a short hike about 3-5 miles long nearby. The National Park service runs a website with a search by state feature at: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm A quick google search will provide you find some reviews, where to park, etc. I hope you enjoy the walk and the fresh air because it can instantly change your perspective of the world.
My sales pitch to Echo at this step was easy, "This weekend I am going to pack up the fur babies and get out of your hair for most of the day for some exercise. You should plan for and enjoy your free time this weekend."
2) Plant the Seed:
Hiking has a romantic allure, low barrier to entry, and most people have done a small hike or backpacking trip at some point in their lives. "I like hiking" is probably the most common hobby people list without actually participating in it regularly. Hiking is one of those safe topics you can bring up with almost anyone (like the weather) and have a shared experience to discuss. I point this out so you realize how easy it will be to start talking to friends, co-workers, and family about your new hobby. They need to begin to associate 'you' with 'hiker' so when you actually leave for your thru hike they will understand. There are a hundred other good reasons to share your passion for hiking (without being 'that guy'), but the one that really sticks out to me is holidays. Everyone struggles with giving gifts that you will enjoy. Holidays like Father's Day, Mother's Day, Birthdays, etc have an expectation of gift giving which is difficult when you are shopping for an adult. Make it easy for them and talk about how much you enjoyed your recent hikes. Invite them to join you on a later hike and follow up with them. The more people who like to hike the better. Also, make it clear you are trying to collect gear and ask for "REI gift cards" (or the equivalent hiking store near you) for all future holiday gifts. Many people will have a box of gear in their garage they are not even using which you can borrow. I cannot tell you how much money this saved me over the past five years. I will talk more about gear in another post, but for now just remember that you need to start spreading the word casually.
My general sales pitch was, "I finally got out of the city to do some real hiking. It was amazing. You ever hike?"
When you finally announce your actual hike... no one should be surprised (see the previous step). However, you need to tell your significant other the extent of your actual plan years in advance. In my house we usually operate on a "first you, then me" mindset. That is not to suggest we solely operate on a quid pro quo basis, but I like to spoil and support Echo first when I can. Give your partner the opportunity to pursue something on their bucket list and maybe one day they can return the favor. When you are gone that long it will place a real burden on them and you need to respect their concerns while working to resolve them years in advance. You have time to overcome any obstacles they point out. It will make them feel included and valued.
My sales pitch to Echo went something like this, "I want to discuss hiking the Appalachian Trail with you again. It will take 5-6 months, cost roughly X dollars, and there are a couple of other big hurdles to deal with along the way. You know how important this is to me, so I have been working on putting a plan together. I would like to start to share it with you now, get your input, and see if it we can find a way to make this happen."