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Dirk's Rambles

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Our journey begins in a few days, on March 7th. If you don't know anything about thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, it is 2,190 miles long. A person can either start at Springer Mountain in Georgia or at Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Or any place in between, as long as you the complete the entire trail. There is no wrong way to start. We will be starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia. We anticipate that the trip will take us from 5 to 6 months or more.

Why thru hike the AT? Three people dear to me have completed the trail and have influenced my decision- my son Brett, Rachael Schultz and Jim Antoniono. I have listened to them talk about it at great length. I have heard what they learned about themselves and how their journey influenced their life for the better. What I have learned is that in the moment of hiking the trail the challenge is quite difficult- the physical pain, the weather, the tyranny of miles to walk each day, hunger, thirst, putrid smell. They each have said, in one way or another, that when they were done and the daily pain has gone away, they appreciated their experience even greater. Their appreciation of the things they saw, the people they met, and experiencing on foot the beauty of a world that most of us drive past at 70 miles per hour, grew once time gave them perspective. They advise me to enjoy every day on the trail, and that when I am finished if I am that fortunate, I will think about my experiences every day for the rest of my life. My hope is that my experience comes somewhere close to theirs. Thank you to Brett, Rachael, and Jim for setting the bar high and influencing me to take this on.

I am hiking much of it with an old friend, Brad Servey. Yes he is old. My age. Brad and I have known each other since we were 11 years old when his family moved to Ligonier. We were in the same graduating class, played sports together, lost touch, then reconnected about 12 years ago. We have many things in common like hunting, fishing and certainly hiking. Generally a love of the outdoors. We have hiked Idaho, Colorado, and a part of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Our plan is to hike together thru Georgia and the Smokies in North Carolina. Since we have different commitments which will take me off the trail twice and that we hike at a different pace, we will reconnect in Maine for me to finish the trail if Brad doesn't get there first. It will be an adventure.

Joe Freeman, a mutual friend of Brad and mine from high school, and a guy we hiked with in Colorado, suggested in a gracious note that our journey is like the journey of Ulysses, immortalized by Homer and Tennyson. Joe is a brilliant guy (Harvard grad) and an even nicer person, so it wasn't surprising that he made such a literary comparison. Ulysses was an aging (a little too close to home for me) warrior and decided to pursue another adventure in his advanced age despite his ailing wife at home (no, Theresa is fine!). He left mostly for the sake of the adventure which he missed so much. So off he goes.

Despite not knowing how many more adventures we have, Brad and I both feel lucky to be able to start this one. We'll take it one day at a time and do our best to enjoy it in the moment. We both are fortunate to have wives who support us fully in this trip. Thanks, Jenn and Theresa! You are both the best!

Not sure how often I will update this blog. It will very likely be one to three weeks in between updates. I will be keeping a handwritten journal every day and will up date it when we take a zero (trail slang for taking a day off with zero miles, usually in a town) and I have access to a computer with a keyboard.

Hope you enjoy the journey with us!
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