AT Thru-Hike #2 – Gear Up!

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”   – Sir Rannulph Fiennes

As previously mentioned, compiling my AT thru-hike gear and clothing has been a magnificent obsession. Facing 6 months in the wilderness in all types of weather, I must carefully and deliberately choose what I wear and carry on my back. The consequences of poor choices include hunger, hypothermia, injury, chronic discomfort, and possibly quitting the trail. Given the many times I’ve already been asked, “What’s in the backpack?” I thought I’d go ahead and answer that.

There are many different philosophies and variables to consider when deciding on backpacking clothes and gear. There are those on a tight budget, whose main consideration is cost. They will sometimes sacrifice quality or functionality in search of the good deal and saving money. They also tend to pride themselves on homemade, old school solutions, like using an old dog food can as a cooking stove, or tree branches as hiking poles. For other hikers, the main consideration is weight, and they will invest in usually more expensive ultra-light gear. They may also go without a stove or sleeping pad, or cut a toothbrush in half, in order to travel as light as possible. Every fraction of an ounce counts and the lighter the load, the more likely you are to make it to the other end. Just as the cost cutters might boast on how little they spent, the ultra-lighters might boast about how little their pack weighs. At the other extreme, there are those who over-pack with too many luxury items or duplicate items. Some falsely assume that what works on a weekend camping trip with the family will work on a 2200-mile journey. Many of them end up sending stuff home or quitting altogether.

My approach was to get mostly high quality, lightweight gear, but to bring enough of it for a little more comfort and functionality than what a pure minimalist would have. Yes, I could have gone lighter and I could have gone cheaper. But if I fail, I don’t want it to be because I had insufficient or crappy gear. Here, then, is a breakdown, along with some insights on my rationale. I’ve gone into some detail for the benefit of those who may plan a hike and because I appreciated previous thru-hikers who did the same.

The Big Three

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2, with footprint – 34.4 ounces; ultra light, 3-season, freestanding, double wall tent. Technically a 2-person tent, but better suited for a solo hiker + gear (especially a 6’ 2” hiker). Sets up quickly and kept me dry overnight in a recent torrential downpour. Ideally, the vestibule would be a tad larger, especially when entering/exiting the tent in the rain. I prefer the privacy and quiet of a tent to a shelter unless rough weather dictates otherwise. Also, while I find hammocks a tad more comfortable, I still prefer the privacy, weather protection, and ability to spread out gear and clothing in a tent.

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2

ULA Circuit Backpack with pack cover – 41 ounces; 4200 cubic inches (68 liters) in total volume; lightweight, durable, very comfortable. Love the large side and belt pockets. In fact, I love everything about this pack. Designed by a successful thru-hiker and he clearly put a lot of thought into every ounce of it.

Western Mountaineering Alpinlite – 33 ounces; 20-degree, 850-fill down sleeping bag; roomy, breathable, and compressible. The most expensive and comfortable piece of outdoor gear I’ve ever owned. The days may be brutal, but I should be warm and comfortable at night.

Other Gear & Stuff

Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner – polyester, insulated sleeping bag liner will add up to 15 degrees of warmth to my sleeping bag and help keep it clean. It can also be used on its own as a warm weather sleeping bag.

Therma-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad – inflatable, soft, warm, and comfortable. Only complaint is that it’s noisy when you move on it. The upside: when people hear “noises” in my tent I can blame it on the sleeping pad.

Leki Corklight Trekking Poles – adjustable, sturdy; anti-shock system; comfortable cork handles. Can be used to spear trout.

Duct Tape – Tim DeBoef, a friend of mine, once told me that success in life is mostly a result of “duct tape and prayer”. I believe him. I’ll have a few feet worth wrapped around my trekking poles.

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp – lightweight, very bright, dimmable, multiple modes. Bring on the night hiking! A gift from my friend, John Walsh. Thanks, John!

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – light, compact, easy to use.

Platypus Water Bladder (2 Liter) – water reservoir, primarily for use in camp.

Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets – Plan B in case water filter fails. Plan C involves an airdrop from a Charleston C-17.

MSR Pocket Rocket with MSR IsoPro fuel – simple, compact, and lightweight canister stove. Boils a liter of water in less than 4 minutes.

Fire Starters – Bic lighter, 24 matches in waterproof case, and a UST Mini-Flint Sparker. May be overkill, but I like having multiple ways of making fire that don’t involve rubbing sticks together.

Snowpeak Trek 900 Titanium Cookset – set includes a 30 fl. oz. titanium pot, a small titanium fry pan and a nylon mesh storage sack; fry pan doubles as a pot lid. Store stove and fuel inside it. Only complaint is that the pot lid/fry pan doesn’t fit securely on the pot.

Snowpeak Titanium Cup – a man has got to have his coffee.

Snowpeak Titanium Spork – for eating; can also be used as a shank to kill wolverines.

Classic SD Swiss Army Knife – I resisted the urge to buy a big, cool, unnecessary hunting knife. This small, 7-function, lightweight knife has all that I’ll need, including scissors. I can also use it to skin the wolverine that I shank with my spork.

Rechargeable Stun Gun Flashlight – Backup light source. Also, mess with me and I’ll put 1 million volts of pure electricity through your veins. (Or, if used incorrectly, through my own veins…which might reverse my sterilization procedure.)

Glasses and sunglasses (both prescription) – can hike without them, but prefer the 20/20 vision with them…and not falling off a mountain. Will also bring some contact lenses and solution, although I suspect I will prefer the glasses or going with nothing.

Triple-A Batteries – extra for headlamp and flashlight.

Shammy – multi-use towel…clean pots, wipe off tent, dry tears, etc.

AWOL’s Guide to the AT, by David Miller – full of useful information on shelters, elevations, towns, water sources, etc. I have this in hard copy and another guide downloaded on my phone.

Pen w/ small pen light – for note-taking, writing in shelter journals, and writing sentimental heartfelt letters to my wife.

50’ Utility Cord + Small Stuffsack + Carabiner – used together, with a rock, to hang food bag (OPSAK Barrier Bag inside Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 20L Drysack,) on a high enough tree branch so bears won’t get it.

Trash Compactor Bag – lines the backpack, providing an extra layer of water protection.

Gold Bond!
Gold Bond!

Gold Bond Extra Strength Medicated Body Lotion – this gets its own entry because I fear chafing more than I fear bears. This is a result of psychological trauma from literally chafing my nipples off during the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon. At the finish line, a young Marine handed me a medal and two Band-Aids. Fortunately, they regenerated like salamander legs. By that, I mean both processes involve regeneration…not that salamander legs grew where my nipples once were. I’ll move on.

Toiletries – small toothbrush and toothpaste, wet wipes, sanitizer, earplugs, toenail clippers, Chap Stick w/ SPF. In lieu of toilet paper, I’ll be using wet wipes in conjunction with sage leaves and pinecones, a technique recommended by my friend Larry Alexander. He said I must learn this technique on my own, preferably in a quiet, wooded area far from camp, while listening to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. As for rookies prone to select the wrong type of pinecone, well, that’s where the medicated Gold Bond comes in.

First-Aid & Medicine – Band-Aids, gauze pads, sterile bandage, moleskin, blister pads, athletic tape, Neosporin, DEET Insect Repellent, razor blade, needle (to pop blisters), tweezers (tic removal), Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), Tums, Imodium, antihistamine, sting and bite pad, acetaminophen, and Nexium (to be taken in Pennsylvania during the Half Gallon Ice Cream Challenge at Pine Grove Furnace General Store).

ULA Circuit
ULA Circuit

Clothing & Shoes (worn or placed inside REI 15L Drysack)

Columbia Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt – super-cooling tech tee, polyester wicking fabric, UPF 30 sun protection, antimicrobial treatment.

ExOfficio Triflex Hybrid Long Sleeve Shirt – durable, comfortable, quick drying.

Patagonia Capilene 2 Lightweight Crew Top & Capilene 2 Lightweight Bottoms – quick drying, highly breathable, moisture-wicking polyester; synthetic base layer top & bottom; 20-UPF sun protection. Ideally, these will remain dry and used at camp/as pajamas. Could also be used as an added layer of insulation in extremely cold weather.

Patagonia G1 III Zip Off Pants – tough, lightweight, nylon-taslan pants with zip-off legs; durable water repellent finish and 50+ UPF sun protection.

Northface Paramount II Cargo Shorts – abrasion-resistant midweight nylon; large cargo pockets with secure Velcro closures.

Marmot Essence Rain Jacket – waterproof, breathable; attached hood, integrated cooling vents; chest pocket. Good in rain and wind; wear alone or in combination with any of the above shirts, depending on conditions.

Northface Venture Full-Zip Rain Pants – waterproof, breathable, full-zip pants. Good in rain and wind; wear alone or in combination with any of the above shorts/pants, depending on conditions.

Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer – ultralight (2.1 ounces) nylon insulating jacket; wind and water-resistant.

Darn Tough Vermont Men’s Merino Wool Socks (2 pair) – Comfortable, well cushioned, moisture wicking.

REI Smartwool Merino Wool Sock Liners (2 pairs) – soft, silky merino wool blended with stretch nylon for durability and a good fit; helps prevent blistering.

Smartwool Hunting Heavy Crew Socks (1 pair) – Warm, comfortable, cushioned. Mainly for use at camp. Can also be worn as mittens on particularly cold days.

ExOfficio Underwear (2 pair) – soft, durable, breathable, moisture wicking; 1 for hiking; 1 for camp. Or keep both in backpack.

REI Smartwool Balaclava – soft, snuggly, pure merino wool. Keep the head/face warm while hiking or at camp. It makes me look like a cross between a stealth ninja warrior and a dry erase marker.

REI Buff – helps keep sweat off face and prevent sunburn.

Outdoor Research Versaliner Gloves – Breathable, 100-weight fleece insulating liner and removable waterproof ripstop fabric shell. The zippered back-of-hand shell-storage pocket doubles as a heat pack pocket when conditions turn unexpectedly icy.

Oboz Sawtooth Mid Hiking Boots – lightweight, waterproof, comfortable out of the box. These boots have served me well hiking, on mission trips, Habitat projects, etc. Provide some extra ankle protection in the early GA/NC Mountains. Will wear these for the first 1/4 to 1/3 of the hike.

Oboz Sawtooth Mid Hiking Boot
Oboz Sawtooth Mid Hiking Boot

Salomon XA Pro 3D Trail-Running Shoes – will switch to these for the second 1/4 to 1/3 of the trail. Synthetic mesh uppers/lining, EVA midsole, rubber outsole. Comfortable, durable, quick drying. These things are beasts. May go with a new pair of these for the last portion of the trail or may go back to the Sawtooths.

Salomon XA Pro 3D
Salamon XA Pro 3D

Spenco PolySorb Walker/Runner Insoles – probably unnecessary, given the quality Sawtooth insoles. But thought I’d give them a try. Increases shock absorption and helps prevent blisters.

Crocs – lightweight camp shoes. Important to make a fashion statement at Laundromats.

Under Armour Fishhook Cap – helps prevent sunburn and keep rain off eyeglasses.

Coghlans Mosquito Head Net – worn over ball cap in heavy bug traffic areas. Can also be used to strain pasta noodles.

Chums Surfshorts Wallet – lightweight, durable ripstop nylon.

Food and Water

1-Liter Smartwater Bottles – durable, fit nicely in backpack side pockets, easily replaceable. I’ll typically start with 2 full ones, although I could adjust that depending on the projected distance/reliability of the next water source.

Food – although a bit more expensive, I will re-supply food in the towns I come to, rather than send multiple mailings to post offices along the way. I like not being tied to a post office schedule, i.e., needing to hike 25 miles in the rain today to get to the post office before it closes for the weekend. I also like the flexibility of buying whatever type of food I’m hungry for in that town, versus the Ramon noodles in a package I sent 2 months ago. Thus, I’ll pay a bit more for food, but that’s offset some by not having the cost of mailing multiple packages. Having said that, I may have Lil Jan mail me just a few food packages (with love notes) at locations which are notoriously expensive or lacking in food options.

Loksak Garbage Bag – to pack out garbage.

Western Mountaineering Alpinlite
Western Mountaineering Alpinlite

Electronics

iPhone 6 w/ charger – use as phone & camera; read i-Books, listen to music, takes notes, blog, etc. I also have the 2016 AT Thru-Hikers Companion downloaded on it.

Mophie 3X Powerstation – external battery, 2.4 amp, 6000mAh; provides 3 full charges for the iPhone.

Yurbuds Ironman Earphones – because not everyone wants to hear my playlist.

Casio ProTrek Titanium Solar Watch – among other functions, has a compass, altimeter, thermometer, & barometer. And check this out…it will also tell you what time it is. Mind blown.

So there you have it! All that checks in at 21 lbs. of base weight, and another 7-12 lbs. of food and water depending on how far to the next resupply town. I don’t believe this constitutes the “best gear” or the “right gear” for anyone else…it’s just what I think will work best for me. If I’m wrong, I’ll adapt and adjust along the way.

Only 44 days til launch!

Big Steve


Questions for Miss Walsh’s/Mrs. Wilkinson’s and Mr. Reeve’s 5th/6th Grade Classes:

  1. What do you think is the most important item on the list? What is the least important? Why?
  2. If you had to hike the Appalachian Trail with only 10 things on this list, which ten would you choose? Why?
  3. Why is it important to not bring too much stuff with you while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail? What are the possible consequences of over-packing?
  4. If you were hiking the AT and could bring one luxury item with you, just for fun, what would it be?
  5. Why do you think they call your tent, backpack, and sleeping bag the “Big Three”?
  6. Some experts say that for long-distance hiking, the “Big Three” should weigh no more than 3 lbs. each, or 9 lbs. total. How much do Big Steve’s Big Three weigh?
  7. Research the pros and cons of having a down sleeping bag versus a synthetic sleeping bag.
  8. If you could regenerate any part of your body with the body part of an insect, which body part and which insect would you choose? Why?

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Campground Review: Ft Benning Destin Rec Area, Destin FL

Dates: December 26-31, 2015

Campsite: 2108

Overall Score: 4.58 (out of 5)

Summary: This military campground features full hookups and is located in Destin, one of the top vacation destinations in the Southeast. We made it ground zero for an 18-person Christmas family reunion. At 4.58, this is our highest scoring campground to date.

Recreation/Amenities: 4.5

  • A marina where you can rent pontoons, wave-runners and kayaks, or launch your own boat
  • Charter fishing, harbor tours, and dolphin watching tours
  • Fishing/crabbing pier
  • Swimming pool, playground, picnic facilities, and a 2,500 square foot splash park
  • Fitness facilities and recreation equipment, including treadmills, TVs, kayaks, and paddle boards
View from the Tuna Villa
View from the Tuna Villa

Hookups & Connectivity: 4.9 – Finally, a campground that has it all! Electricity, water, sewer, free Wi-Fi, cable TV, and laundry facilities. Minor deduction because the cable reception wasn’t consistent, although that may have been due to the weather. Also, our 30-amp box had an issue, so we went with the 50-amp box, using a dog bone converter, gauze pads, and the valve off an old flux capacitor.

Local Vicinity Things to Do: 4.8 – Destin offers something for everyone. In addition to the sugar sand beaches and emerald green waters, you’ll find several golf courses, deep sea fishing, the Destin Commons open air mall, an outlet mall, water parks, miniature golf, laser tag, etc. For a more complete list, here’s the link… http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g34182-Activities-Destin_Florida.html

Among the two hundred plus restaurants, we especially like Dewey Destin Seafood, Harry T’s, The Shrimp Basket, Landshark’s Pizza, The Back Porch and late night key lime pie at the Donut Hole Bakery.

Cleanliness: 4.5 – Solid. No major issues.

Rec Area Pool
Rec Area Pool

Intangibles: 4.2

Pros

  • Lots of nostalgia associated with this place, as we have enjoyed several extended family reunions at this rec area, especially in the 90s and 00s.
  • Wide range of lodging options, all non-smoking, including RV sites, 1-bedroom suites, 2- and 3-bedroom villas, hotels and studios. The spacious Tuna Villa is available for colonels and above and is a good gathering point for family reunions.
  • Most lodging units have a water view of Choctawhatchee Bay
  • Pleasantly surprised to run into the Bagwell family at Destin Commons…good friends we worshipped with during our two years in Germany. Small world.
  • Good security—gated with code entrance at night.
  • Affordable…especially the RV sites, at $21/night.
  • Shout out to the office staff at the Destin Church of Christ for mailing me my Bible (with 20 years worth of notes) that I inadvertently left on a pew during a worship service.

Cons

  • Rained much of the week, although that’s not the fault of the campground. Rain has never stopped our family from having fun and finding things to do.
  • RV sites are packed in pretty tight with no water view.
  • Traffic jams, especially on Destin’s main strip, are pretty commonplace
  • Limited traditional hiking options, although beach hikes are fun
  • Our day trip to the normally really cool town of Seaside was mostly a bust due to a red tide outbreak. Specifically, some Karenia brevis bloomed causing ophthalmalgia and tussis for our group and the other tourists and residents trying to enjoy the town and beach. Embrace my medical terminology swag.

Bottom line: We had a wonderful Christmas week at the Fort Benning Rec Area! For the first time, our holiday gathering featured both our daughter and daughter-to-be…the incomparable Rachel and Laci. Rachel’s awesome parents, Ron and Jackie Swift, also joined us which made the week even more special.

Big Steve

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AT Thru-Hike #1 – Why in the World?

“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.”

– Bruce Barton

“While adventure reading is thrilling and adventure watching is exciting, nothing compares to living your own adventure and having your own story to tell.”

– Big Steve

On March 12, 2016, I will depart Springer Mountain, Georgia, and attempt to thru-hike the 2189.2-mile Appalachian Trail. During a family visit, my dear mother-in-law inquired about my plans and motivations for hiking the AT. I spent a solid ten minutes explaining my rationale to her. I made a thorough and compelling case. It was so convincing that, upon finishing, I was certain she would not only heartily endorse my trek, but might even join me. Instead, she looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Now why in the world would you want to go and do something like that?”

Why in the world? That’s a fair question…one that all aspiring thru-hikers should try to answer at some point. Here then, in no particular order, are my Top 10 reasons…

1. I love adventure. In my mind I have traveled across the continent with Lewis and Clark, thanks to the novel Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. I have mentally journeyed into space with the crew of Apollo 13, battled snakes and Nazis with Indiana Jones, and scored the winning goal in Quidditch with Harry Potter. I have imagined picking up giant-slaying stones with David in a hundred Bible classes, and floating with Rose on the raft as Jack sank to the bottom of the ocean in Titanic. In my mind’s eye, I have hiked the AT a thousand times through countless movies, journals, YouTube clips, and books. In fact, the original seed was planted while reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and later Through Hiker’s Eyes, Volumes I and II, by Larry Alexander. While adventure reading is thrilling and adventure watching is exciting, nothing compares to living your own adventure and having your own story to tell. Whether my story will be a tragedy or comedy, featuring a devastating injury or a thrilling final summit, remains to be seen. Either way, it will be an adventure.

Training Hike, Oak Mountain State Park
Training Hike with the Genrys, Oak Mountain State Park

2. I love the outdoors. Nothing lifts my spirits, gets my blood pumping, and connects me more with my Creator than a good hike. Lil Jan and I have hiked some impressive trails this year and each time have been amazed at God’s handiwork. His presence is whispered to me throughout the day in all sorts of ways, but God seems to shout his awesomeness when I’m out hiking and thinking in nature. I know I will live to regret this next statement but…I even enjoy hiking in the rain. I will walk two thousand miles in all sorts of conditions. I will get wet and dirty, and will carry a stench like none other. But I’ll be outdoors, staring at countless stars from a mountaintop on a clear night, hanging out with wild ponies and squirrels…and it will be amazing.

3.  I love a challenge. Thru-hiking the AT is really, really difficult. It ranks somewhere between running 83 marathons and clothes shopping with your wife while your favorite football team is playing. The total elevation change on the trail is the equivalent of hiking Mount Everest 16 times! Of the 2000 or so crazies who attempt an AT thru-hike each year, about 75-80% fail. Those are bad odds. It has to be difficult in order for the eventual summit at Maine’s Mount Katahdin to mean something. There’s little joy in accomplishing the “Easy” Sudoku puzzle or beating a 5-year-old in chess. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As my friend, Terry Reeves, once said about mission trips to 3rd world countries, “If it were easy, everybody would be over here doing it. There’s a reason why most people haven’t done it.” Or as a hiker in the movie Everest said, “You suffer for a few days. But for the rest of your life you’re a guy who got to the top of Everest.”

4. I love meeting new people, seeing new places, and then writing about them. What will I find around the next bend? Can I run faster than the approaching bear (no), or at least faster than the person hiking next to me (maybe)? Who will I meet at the campfire tonight? What’s their story? What can I learn from them? Can I encourage them in some way, or will I be the one needing encouragement? Will the shower be hot at the next trail town, and will there be an all-you-can-eat buffet to devour? I look forward to the unexpected twists and turns on this journey as much as the expected ones.

Training Hike with the Diamonds
Training Hike with the Diamonds

5. I love planning. I don’t know if this is my military background or what, but I love “assessing variables” and making or revising a plan. In fact, I’m pretty geeky about it. If you want to get the most out of 24 hours in Paris, or 3 days in Italy, I’m your guy. My AT prep has been an obsession…a truly magnificent obsession. I spent over 3 months researching sleeping bags and over 3 hours researching sporks. That’s right…3 hours on sporks. The very thought that I have to get from Point A to Point B, in the forecasted weather, with the projected elevation changes and terrain, using nothing but prayer and what I can carry on my own back…and that my survival depends on it…well, I find that all rather intriguing.

6. I love getting in shape. I hope to lose at least 20 pounds on the trail and get a resting heart rate in the 50s. The AT will do that to a person. It’s one of the few activities where you literally can’t eat enough to replenish the 5,000-6,000 calories burned each day. Six months of pigging out and losing weight? Sign me up!

7. I want to help Amber and Julio Colon adopt a child. I hope my hike and blog will raise awareness, and some money, to help a really awesome Christian couple fulfill their dream of having a child. More on that later.

Training in Marshall, Texas
Training in Marshall, Texas

8. I hope to inspire some 5th and 6th grade students at Foundation Christian Academy. Yes, two Florida classrooms full of students will be tracking my journey and completing some related geography and history assignments. With each hundred miles trekked and each state traversed, they’ll get to move a thumbtack on an AT map on the wall of their classroom. More than that, I really hope that in some small way, I can encourage them to dream big dreams and then go after them. In the Everest movie, Jon Krakauer asks Doug Hansen, “It hurts. It’s dangerous. I gotta ask the question, you know I do. Why?” Hansen responds, “I have kids. They see a regular guy can follow impossible dreams, maybe they’ll do the same.” I hope that’s what at least a few of the FCA students will see in me. Perhaps their first assignment should be to answer the question, “What is a really big dream that you’d like to achieve some day?”

9. The timing is right. Carpe diem, folks. It’s time to seize the day. My wife has lovingly and graciously given me the green light. I will embark on this journey less than one month after turning 50. The body and mind aren’t getting any younger. I need to do this before the urge to lie down and grab the balance beam, click on “safe mode”, and coast to the end of my life kicks in. On my deathbed, I want to be able to look back on my life and know that I took some risks and didn’t always play it safe.

Beach Training, featuring chest hair, Freeport, Bahamas
Beach Training, featuring chest hair, Freeport, Bahamas

10. I told my mom I would do it. I don’t know if people can watch things from heaven, but I will hike as if she can. For this hike, and for my life in general, she is among my “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) I doubt she would be all that concerned whether or not I finish, but I think she would be disappointed if I didn’t follow my dream and make an attempt. As added incentive, my dad has agreed to let me take a teaspoon of her ashes with me, which I will spread at the final summit. I hope some day one or both of my sons will thru-hike the AT and do the same thing with my ashes. (No pressure, fellas.)

So there you have it…my reasons for attempting a thru-hike of the AT. I’m not a recently graduated guy in his early 20s trying to figure out what he wants to do in life. I’m not a guy in his 50s facing a mid-life crisis or trying to escape something. I have a great life and, hands down, the greatest wife. And yet, I have my reasons. This is something I must do. I must find out if there is something inside of me superior to circumstance. I must learn to rely on God like never before.

Some of you will identify with one or more of my reasons. A few of you will identify with enough of them to join me on the hike…in 2016 or perhaps some day in the future. As for my mother-in-law, I suspect she will read this blog, shake her head, and say, “Now why in the world would you want to go and do something like that?”

Big Steve

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